Last week, I got to do something very cool. I was invited to a Seafood Themed Community Dinner organized by Paul Sippil. The dinner was a part of the farm-to-table themed club Sippil started last year, in an effort to connect people through responsibly sourced meals.
As Chicago’s only seafood blogger and as someone who is passionate about sustainable seafood, I was naturally overjoyed to learn about this initiative, as well as attend a dinner dedicated to bringing awareness to conscious fishing practices.
The dinner was sponsored by Giftie, a company enabling food enthusiasts a unique way of experiencing new restaurants. The dinner featured Sitka Salmon Shares, an Alaskan based boat-to-doorstep seafood company that lines up the delivery of sustainable fishermen’s catch directly to local farmers and restaurants.
HandCut Foods also present at the event, provides onsite food programs throughout Chicago procuring fresh, wholesome ingredients from another Chicago based distributor Local Foods, to build the best quality menus using responsible cooking practices.
The space at Local Foods couldn’t have been more perfect to augment the entire dining experience and underlying objective of this dinner. All guests I met and mingled with shared a similar philosophy and definitions of sustainable food and food practices. I’ve never been to a food event where I felt so unified with fellow guests.
The dinner was prepared by Chef Steven Obendorf, who is also the President of HandCutFoods. He and both owners of Sitka Salmon addressed the group about their companies and also provided valuable details about the food we were about the consume. Simply having all the information about where my dinner came from and how it was prepared, felt empowering to me as a diner. How often does that happen to consumers at restaurants or events? And what would people do if they really knew how their food was sourced and cooked, were the questions swimming in my head.
On to the food itself, we were first greeted with some delicious appetizers and a seasonal cocktail mixer, which that day was, the Strawberry Rhubarb Aqua Fresca. Absolutely refreshing and paired wonderfully with the Pacific Halibut Ceviche, Coho Salmon Rilette and my favorite from the evening, the Spot Prawns in a Cherry Bomb Chile Sauce. The freshest fish cooked in the most delectable sauce; the ceviche and rilette were equally tasty.
Our dinner was multi course, starting with the Alaskan Quillback Chowder. Now quillback may not be a beautiful looking fish, but its tender flavor will remind you that looks aren’t’ everything. The chowder served was the perfect temperature and creaminess, and light enough to enhance your appetite.
For greens, we had the Fiddleheads with Pickled Rhubarb and zesty microgreens, which was delicious and a nice precursor to the Sockeye served on a sharing plate. The salmon was drizzled with Chile Black Currant Aigre Dolce. The color of the salmon spoke for itself; fish like I’ve never had before! The accompaniments were also well thought of and carefully cooked. The potatoes came dressed in a creamy ramp salsa cruda, and the chard was lightly salted and sautéed. Everything tasted great and also looked so colorful that my plate looked more like an artist’s palette.
The Baked Alaska was fitting for dessert and was served with a little twist; Elderflower liqueur. Yet another dish incorporating seasonal ingredients from Alaska and familiarizing us to their flora. Guests also received special offers to Chapin Coffee, which was served with dessert, as well as a voucher to Local Foods.
The dinner while well worth the money and you could tell that it left guests with great satisfaction. How rewarding it is to have a great meal and know that you made some impact on the environment and the fisheries.
Community Organizer Paul Sippil is dedicated to bringing awareness to such topics in a manner where people can still socialize and enjoy a relaxing evening. For details on the next dinner or to learn more, you can visit: http://communitydining.com, or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a pescetarian, I’ve felt lately that seafood has been lagging behind in the discussion on sustainable food. And the reason for that in my opinion is, that it is harder to measure and quantify it. By attending and participating in this dinner, I learned that there are many others who care just as much as I do about our marine life and the quality of our fish. It gave me the impetus to continue exploring and keep writing about it. I’m so glad I went!
Pooja Naik grew up in the coastal city of Mumbai, India, where she lived until her teens before moving to the U.S. Her fondest childhood memories were taking Sunday morning walks to the beach with her grandfather to pick out the fresh fish that fishermen had just brought back from the sea. Her favorite was when they went crab picking. The crabs would live in her kitchen sink for a few hours before her grandmother dumped them into a pot of boiling water, ready to be cooked into some delicious Crab Curry. Thus began her relationship with fish and her love for seafood. Fish was a staple growing up for this foodie, and every week, her family tried a new seafood restaurant.
“Mumbai is the perfect city to cultivate the inner seafood lover in anyone, and in the depths of its cuisine exist some irresistible seafood restaurants,” says Pooja. Since fresh fish is so readily available there, it was easy to develop and appreciate her love for seafood.
When Pooja moved to Chicago seven years ago, it wasn’t hard to see what a thriving food culture the city had to offer. She quickly became involved in the city’s food scene, attending food events and restaurant openings, reading popular food blogs and frequently guest-blogging for them. As her passion for food grew, Pooja became increasingly disappointed at the lack of a focused discussion on seafood. So she decided to launch Chicago’s very first pescetarian blog and share her love for seafood.
As a food enthusiast, Pooja also wanted provide a platform for other interested seafood lovers to get in a conversation about sustainable seafood. Because she believes that it represents a healthy relationship not just with our oceans but also with our bodies. When Pooja is not devouring a bowl of clam chowder, she is selling homes, organizing for clients or painting. All in the midst of her globetrotting adventures!
*And for those interested in cooking, check out this great salmon recipe and preparation instructions below!