Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Salmon Showdown

Photo Courtesy of Equinox / Chef Todd Gray

You may remember from DC Gastronome’s post earlier this month that October was Wild Alaskan Salmon month and members from Trout Unlimited was going to host several salmon events in DC. As part of the festivities, Lorena asked me to cover a salmon tasting event while she was away circling the globe. You don’t have to ask me twice to attend any food event. I’m in! She left me instructions to take note of the taste, color, and texture, and the type of things that foodies pay attention to. Okay, so I am coming clean here and letting you know up front that this was my first assignment and I didn’t want to disappoint.

Hosted by Equinox Restaurant, I knew ahead of time that head Chef Todd Gray, a long time advocate for sustainable seafood, was going was to prepare a salmon showdown: Wild Alaskan Salmon vs. Farm Raised. After identifying that I was there for the tasting event, I was guided to the private dining room at Equinox. It was an intimate setting. Okay, let’s pause here for a second. I know I am a rookie at this, but I honestly thought I was going to attend a crowded happy hour where I would bump into other tasters while chasing down the salmon filled platters. Then I would reminisce with fellow tasters about the Coke vs. Pepsi taste tests that were so popular during our childhoods. Instead it was an elegant family style table setting for 9 and there were only 5 tasters! The rest were members from Trout Unlimited (3 from Alaska). I quickly caught on that I wasn’t going to just stand around and hum and haw over the color, taste and texture of salmon.

The Alaskans first started talking about salmon specifically from Bristol Bay Alaska, where salmon not only sustains commercial and sport fishing industries, it also supports the way of life there. Now with books from Michael Pollen and movies like Food Inc. there is a push to know where your food is coming from. People are now telling stories through food and food production. Trout Unlimited was in DC to lobby and educate the Hill about Wild Alaskan Salmon specifically from Bristol Bay and to spread the story about salmon to interested folks like you. Why should you care? Bristol Bay is the home of the largest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs; however it is under serious threat from a proposed copper and gold mine. The story can best be told from through the documentary, Red Gold, where it’s the people from the Bristol Bay community who convince you of Wild Alaskan salmon’s importance. Following this educational discussion, it was back to my original assignment - the taste, color and texture. As prepared by Chef Gray, both farm raised and wild salmon were pan seared with salt and pepper so as to really showcase the salmon flavor. Side by side I immediately noticed that the brilliant deep red of the wild salmon made the farm raised pink salmon look plain and gray. The wild salmon was hearty, meaty and almost a bit sweet tasting. As I ate the farm raised, I could tell how the segments were separating as I pulled it with my fork and the segments oddly shined and shimmered a bit, but the taste was fishy and dull.

The consensus was, as you can imagine, that the wild Alaskan salmon was far superior to the farm raised. Salmon should taste like salmon right? Why mask it? No wonder places overload farmed raised with teriyaki or soy sauce. So, as Trout Unlimited says, vote with your fork. It’s about basic supply and demand and giving people the option to choose for themselves. Ask where your salmon is coming from the next time you go to a restaurant or buy it in the market. Turns out you can get Bristol Bay salmon from Whole Foods at the Georgetown and DuPont locations and at Giant Food Supermarkets under the Ahold private label. For more information you can go to the Save Bristol Bay website, and to the Trout Unlimited website.

There will also be another small viewing of the film Red Gold coming up. If you would like to know more please email me

1 comment:

minidowtrader said...

Great post. Thanks for the salmon breakdown. I'll "grill" them next time on the whereabouts of my meal be it farm or wilderness.