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Salmon: Two Ways ‘Til Sunday

July 17, 2012

You’ve got until the end of the day Saturday. By Sunday, it’s over.

Hold your moaning and groaning for just a minute, because this isn’t just another restaurant week. I know, I know, I thought it was too. In fact last night I was poring over the menus for Guilderland’s summer restaurant week and I was beside myself with boredom.

In the past I’ve measured the collective shame of restaurant week menus based on how much farmed Atlantic salmon they have included. The good news is that I’ve seen a decline. The better news is that in this go around there are two decidedly different and really exciting salmon options. And the best news is that you can try either of them as part of a three course meal for just twenty bucks.

Both of these are from restaurants that have seen some drastic change in their kitchens. And neither are typically on the short list of places that I would typically recommend. Maybe this is a sign of change, and potentially more good things to come.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let me tell you about the fish.

MezzaNotte is relatively straightforward. Their restaurant week menu lists pan-seared Copper River salmon with Italian tabouli style farro. This is the good stuff I’ve been calling on restaurants to offer on their menu. It’s wild and it’s Alaskan. More importantly, in July, it’s actually in season.

Yes, salmon has a season. Here’s the blurb from wikipedia:

The river’s commercial salmon season is short: chinook (king) salmon are available mid-May to mid-June, sockeye (red) salmon mid-May to mid-August, and coho (silver) salmon mid-August to late-September.

On the other side of the spectrum is Sage Bistro. Their restaurant week menu has a Mediterranean salmon entree which is described as “Marinated and grilled Jail Island salmon filet topped with our homemade Mediterranean salsa.”

Which left me scratching my head. Jail Island?

Well, do you remember how Hannaford was talking about sustainable Atlantic salmon farms? This seems to be one of them. Jail Island isn’t a place as much as it is a brand of Atlantic farmed salmon from the Canadian firm Cooke Aquaculture.

From the looks of it, they are doing a lot of things right. Here are some statements they’ve made about their aquaculture practices:

We follow a unique, 3-bay management system of crop rotation and fallowing on our ocean farms. This is a more costly way of farming the seas but allows the Atlantic marine environment to be maintained in its natural, pristine condition.

Our ocean sites are carefully located where deep, cold Atlantic waters and good tidal movement ensures that fish thrive and enhance sustainability.

To promote a balanced ocean environment, we are pioneering the use of a practise
called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA), where complementary species are cultivated in the same marine ecosystem.

Low average stocking densities of 2-3% allow our fish to stay healthy and give them the freedom to swim free from hunger and discomfort in their natural environment.

I also plucked from the interwebs that the fish are never given preventative antibiotics.

It’s hard to tell the marketing-speak from the truth, and on the other side it’s hard to tell the skeptics from the ideologues. But there are some who are critical of Cooke’s Aquaculture Seafood Trust Eco-Salmon.

As you know, I’m a big fan of incremental improvement, and I recall the good folks from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute being really excited about integrated multi-trophic aquaculture. But it seems that many of my concerns with farmed Atlantic salmon are addressed in this company’s production practices.

Now we can taste it. And during Restaurant Week, it can be had as part of a three course meal for just about twenty bucks.

If you were so inclined, you could even do a mini Guilderland Tour de Salmon over the course of a couple of nights. Maybe you prefer the more-sustainably farmed stuff to what comes out of the Copper River in Alaska.

Speaking of tours, I’m dreadfully delinquent in planning the next one. Maybe I can pull it together when I’m in Pennsylvania next week. Stay tuned.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 10:54 am

    New World Bistro had some Copper River salmon on their menu a week or so ago. It was delicious.

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