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Salmon Patrol

August 6, 2009

I die a little bit every time I see salmon on the menu.  Because when a menu just says salmon, without any qualifiers, ninety-nine out of a hundred times it will be farmed Atlantic salmon.

Wouldn’t you happen to know it that I choose that one outlier in my first attempt at being the salmon police.

You mean you haven’t heard about the salmon police?  It’s probably a very bad idea.  But I figured that if fine dining restaurants are going to put farmed Atlantic salmon on their menu, someone should call them on it.

So here I am.
Frankly I never expected this story to have a happy ending.  But ultimately the restaurant surprised me.  And this experience left me with a warm cozy feeling towards them that I felt like sharing.

I can’t quite recall exactly who directed my attention to the Red Barn Restaurant in Ghent, NY.  But I found myself on their website looking at the menu.  They had a wonderful blurb at the top of the menu that read:

“Our food is made on premises with local ingredients when available and has no transfats. Some items are available only as we can purvey the best ingredients. This menu is representative and changes with availability of ingredients.”

How promising.  That is until I ran across the salmon entrée.  It read, “Grilled Atlantic Salmon, French Lentils, Baby Bok Choy 18.00.”

What what WHAT?!  Let’s be clear on one thing, Atlantic salmon is not a best ingredient.  It’s not even a better ingredient.  It’s among the worst.  Is it below deli meat?  That answer may have to wait for another post.

Aghast, I decided to write a very polite email.  After noting a few of the above facts, this is what I wrote:

“I was under the impression from the New York Times, seafoodwatch.org and the environmental defense fund that Atlantic salmon was best avoided for those concerned with taste, preserving the natural fisheries, and their high levels of contaminants.
Do you really feel this menu item fits with the philosophy of your restaurant?
I look forward to your reply, and learning more about the Red Barn.”

Looking back on the email, it could have used some copyediting.  But for better or worse, that is what I wrote.

And amazingly, surprisingly, I got a satisfactory response from Chris Jones.

“I’m afraid I’m guilty of ‘old website detritus’ and have not changed the site for too long… The salmon is no longer from the Atlantic for the reasons you mention. We are serving sustainable raised Scottish Salmon and get it from a reliable purveyor who delivers it to top restaurants in NYC who also are using sustainable practices.  I hope that you’ll come to dinner now that we’ve met in this email exchange.  Please be sure to let me know you’re coming so we can continue our conversation.”

Well, color me Carophyll Pink #23.  I have yet to take a good close look into Scottish Salmon, but any incremental improvement is still improvement.

It may take me a while to get down to Ghent, so I will do one better.  I will highlight the Red Barn Restaurant as one of the rare shining beacons in the night where the proprietors have made an effort to serve sustainably raised salmon.

And if you go, please let Chris know that you read about her good works on the FUSSYlittleBLOG, and thank her for me.

Now I am off to California.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jerry permalink
    August 6, 2009 11:46 am

    Virtually all fish, farmed or wild, has become too expensive for ordinary mortals. The health police’s nags to “eat more fish” ring hollow, especially for ordinary working people.

    • August 6, 2009 12:01 pm

      This is not necessarily true. Did you know that much of the canned salmon available at supermarkets nationwide is wild Alaskan salmon? Yes it is processed. And yes it has to travel a far way. But from the perspective of cost, contamination, and preservation of the fisheries, it fits the bill.

      I would also recommend for additional reading my list of uber-clean fish.

  2. Jerry permalink
    August 6, 2009 3:41 pm

    Daniel B., I was referring of course to fresh fish only, not processed, canned, or even frozen. Mackerel is too oily for me and really stinks up the apt.; the others on your fussy fish list are, as I said, very expensive. This seems to me to be just undeniable as a stroll through the fish section of any supermarket will show. (I’m comparing it to chicken, turkey, or pork).

  3. August 13, 2009 8:29 pm

    Danial B., may I ask you when you visited The Red Barn?

    I have worked at this restaurant since I was fifteen [that was nine years ago], and I’m very pleased that you enjoyed your dining experience. I think the salmon is one of the chef’s best dishes. Did you have any other dishes?

    Hoep to you see you there on your next visit.

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