The 2nd Annual Sustainable Seafood Week, produced by Village Fishmonger NYC, put the spotlight on locally produced and sourced seafood in conversations and in creations. From restaurant specials to celeb chef tastings, intimate supper clubs to industry lectures, here's a look at what went down this year.

The Sustainable Seafood Shindig

An all-star celebrity chef seafood tasting hosted by Tom Colicchio & Sisha Ortúzar at Riverpark

To kick-off this year’s Sustainable Seafood Week NYC, produced by Village Fishmonger NYC, Chefs Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortúzar hosted an amazing celebrity chef-studded speed-dining extravaganza at Riverpark ,benefiting the NY/NJ Baykeepers. The fast-paced station-hopping format encouraged diners to engage in various conversations with chefs, producers, and industry experts while sampling spectacular sustainable seafood dishes by April Bloomfield, Marco Canora, David Chang, Kerry Heffernan, Anita Lo, Rick Moonen, Dave Pasternack and Bill Telepan and signature cocktails by Evelyn Drinkery.

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Riverpark provided the perfect setting for The Sustainable Seafood Shindig. Airy, light, and right by the water.

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Unseated guests also plucked at tasty passed hors d’oeuvres, Crab Island oysters and littleneck clams.

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Getting a breath of fresh air was a breeze — Riverpark boasts a gorgeous private patio overlooking the East River.

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A team of mixologists working swiftly to create tasty concoctions for guests.

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Delicious plates of sashimi (don’t know exactly what that was) and cocktails being served all around.

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Chef Tom Colicchio giving an introductory speech.

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Paul Greenberg (author of Four Fish) reading a provocative excerpt from his upcoming book, American Catch: The Fight For Our Local Seafood to help set the mood.

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Chef April Bloomfield getting ready for the first tasting seating.

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Chefs David Chang and Bill Telepan plating their creations. Chef Kerry Heffernan #photobombs.

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Chef Anita Lo delicately plating the smoked salmon at my first station.

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Super friendly and energetic Chef Rick Moonen grilling up some delectable Atlantic Salmon. He beams a smile and then jokes about showing his “Moonen” pose, which his wife Roni (and I) promptly vetoed.

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Chef Moonen plating the second salmon course.

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Straight from the Sea – An Interactive Supper Club

An intimate 5-course dinner taking place at the exclusive Magnises townhouse in Greenwich Village, hosted by events company Inward Point and Chef Linda Sarris from Kitchensurfing.

I dashed from Riverpark to arrive just in time for the Straight from the Sea dinner at the unassuming, but totally sick Magnises townhouse on Greenwich Avenue. Chef Linda Sarris (aka The Cheeky Chef) was busy in the kitchen prepping raw oysters with Adam from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. Chris Quartuccio from Blue Island Oyster Company made an appearance to promote his signature Naked Cowboy oysters, and talk about the differences between wild and farmed oysters.

The Menu

First Course: Local Oak Beach Oysters, accompanied by radish and mignonette

Second Course: Wild Long Island Bluefish Crudo with sea beans, sicilian caper mayo, mint, microgreens, olive oil

Third Course: Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew featuring wild pacific hake, chorizo, kale, potato

Fourth Course: Spaghetti Alle Vongole with Taylor Shellfish manila clams, peperoncini, garlic, parsley

Fifth Course: Local Golden Tilefish from Barnegat Light, with spring snap peas, pancella, grilled zucchini

Dessert: Butterscotch Cookie with rhubarb puree, vanilla, mint

 

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Nearly ready to dine on delicious seafood at the exclusive Magnises Townhouse!

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First course: freshly shucked oysters over a fun little bed of black beans!

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Chef Linda taking a moment to smile for the camera during a shucking frenzy. A diner approaches his first raw oyster (ever!) with curiosity.

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Oak Beach Oysters from Long Island, grown by Blue Island Oyster. Petite and lean meat, ultra briny, classic BluePoint-esque flavor.

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Adam from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. shucking more oysters in the kitchen.

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Industry Day

An exclusive ​day long industry session hosted by Future of Fish to address topics in sustainable seafood critical to food industry professionals.

Leading national sustainable seafood advocates, food service consultants, distributors and chefs, together with keystone hospitality buyers from NYC have come together to explore major issues in sustainable seafood on a misty Thursday morning at Riverpark. The panels covered the gamut — ranging from Traceability to Local Sourcing, Storytelling to Aquaculture.

As a relative outsider to the seafood business, the discussion provided interesting new insight into the big picture issues that few diners actually see and think about. Below are some topline thoughts and ideas that I took away from the day. I’ve noticed that regardless of the topic, the greatest challenge seems to be finding that right balance between what’s ideal and what’s practical (and profitable).
Here are some highlight thoughts:

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Did you know that roughly 80-90% of the seafood we eat in the US is imported? And did you also know that only 2% are inspected, while 20-30% come from illegal, unregulated fisheries?

“If you don’t know where your fish is from there’s a 90% chance it is coming from the wrong place.” – Michael Dimin from Sea2Table

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“What exactly are we trying to sustain? We’re trying to sustain ourselves.”
– Chef, author, advocate Barton Seaver

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“It’s not about finding the next fish. It’s about all fish.”
– Barton Seaver

“Not only is the source of where a fish comes from important but its also how it’s treated.”
– Chef Kerry Heffernan

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“The aquaculture industry is still very young, and is just now in a period of growing up and cleaning up its act.” – Oistein Thorsen

A look at three different aquaculture scenarios: True North Atlantic Salmon, OKO Farms, and Bell Aquaculture.

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“What is value for fishers? It’s selling less seafood for more money.”
– Steve Vilnit from Maryland Dept of Natural Resources

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Lunch break: A hearty and eclectic buffet of sustainable seafoods prepared in many different (and delicious) ways.

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Naturally, I went straight to the oysters. Maxwell Shellfish’s Crab Islands were surprisingly different from what I experienced last year. Although they were super plump, they lacked the same beautiful brininess and sweetness as they had before. It surprised me just how different the environment can change from one year to the next. The water salinity can greatly vary if there’s heavy rain or snow.

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There’s no doubt that opportunity is out there to create positive change, and many examples have come up during the discussions to prove that good things can happen, even when they start small. The first step is to become aware. It’s not enough to just eat the seafood, but the stories behind the seafood really need to be told and shared. This is essentially at the crux of turning sustainable seafood from a concept into a culture.

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Ship To Shore: a Sea-to-Table Tasting Cruise

Getting intimate with New York’s waterways: cruisers learn about the secret lives of the fish, birds, plants that co-exist with residents of The Big Apple

A double decker tour boat set sail on a sunny Friday afternoon with Tim Dillingham, Sean Dixon, Sam Janis, Don Riepe and Susan Elbin to learn more about the local wildlife and edibles. But before the lectures could take place, all of the guests needed to be fed. Ticket holders lined up around the insider perimeter of the boat for oysters, clams, scallops, nuts, berries, beer and wine (all sourced from within 150 miles of New York City, by the way).

In the first 30-45 minutes, the bulk of the heartier foods had run out. After the three-hour ride, I tallied up my intake: two oysters, two pieces of bread, and one glass of wine. Part of it was my own fault. I was spending more energy taking photos than waiting in line for eats. Although the purpose of the cruise is a brilliant one, the execution made it difficult to fully enjoy. I suggest multiple food stations next time — and more food in general! Grumbling stomach and schizophrenic weather aside, I really enjoyed the overall conversations and cool company.
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Jeremy and Graham speed-shucking Fishers Island oysters for guests.
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Tara Mei Smith introducing the panel of naturalists.

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Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society (left) and Sam Janis from Billion Oyster Project (right) giving their talks.

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Dr. Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science at New York City Audubon, first polls the room for “birders.” Then does a quick show and tell of some waterbirds that we might come across on the tour.

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Sean Dixon, co-founder of The Village Fishmonger NYC talks about the potential of local seafood.

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Finally, Don Riepe, the Northeast Chapter Director of the American Littoral Society closes the lectures with a fun chat about seaweed and the Littoral Society.

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We got to put our new waterbird knowledge to use! A small colony of Double-crested Cormorants spotted on U Thant Island! And when folks weren’t looking outside, they were staring down whoever took more than their fair share of oysters.

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Shuckin’ Awesome: A Sustainable Oyster Throwdown

To wrap up a fantastic week of sustainable seafood-ness, I was invited to play “Master of Twitter Ceremonies” for the SUSHISAMBA West Village’s #SHUCKINAWESOME Oyster Throwdown. The event featured raw oyster creations from three acclaimed New York City chefs and #naked oysters from Open Oyster.

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Graham from Open Oyster shucking more Fishers Islands. Don’t think I could ever get sick of these!

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Chef Pedro Duarte from SUSHISAMBA creating an exotic slurp: “Drunken Kaki” shooter made with Portón pisco, fresh Meyer lemon, rocoto, shiso. Perhaps the most beautiful of the creations! The flavors were marvelous, but the crushed ice at the bottom of the shot was a little disruptive.

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Judges Bao Ong and Michelle Park meandered through the party, critically evaluating the contestants’ entries.

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Celebrity Chef Anton Testino causes a commotion with his smoky, BBQ bacon and green apple-topped “Oyster Carnegie” creation.

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Last, but not least, the judge’s winner of #SHUCKINAWESOME 2014 is… Chef Fernando Navas! His clean and crisp Torrontés gelée & pear-ginger mignonette (aka ‘O’ to the OYSTER) really complemented the Fishers Island well. Although each oyster was topped with a hearty dollop, the acidity of the pear and rice wine vinegar didn’t overpower the oyster completely. Chef Navas is scheduled to open Balvanera, an Argentine restaurant & wine bar, in the LES later this summer. I hope that this dish will be on the menu!

But no need to wait to enjoy yourself. The Chef graciously supplied his recipe to In A Half Shell readers! Enjoy, and see you next year at Sustainable Seafood Week 2015!

‘O’ to the OYSTER
Torrontés gelée & pear-ginger mignonette

By Chef Fernando Navas

Pear-Ginger Mignonette

6 oz Pear Vinegar
2 oz Rice Wine Vinegar
1 oz Mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 oz Shallots, minced
2 oz Red pear, small diced
1 tsp Ginger, finely grated
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Salt to taste

Direction:

Prepare all the ingredients as stated in the list.
Mix together.
Let it sit in the fridge 6 hours before serving.

Torrontés Wine Gelee

5 fl oz Torrontes wine
2 fl oz Mirin
3 Sheets of Gelatin

Direction:

Bring the Torrontes wine to boil to evaporate the alcohol.
Add mirin. Set aside.
Bloom 3 sheets of gelatin in ice cold water. Add it to the wine.
Pour it into a shallow container and set it in the fridge.
Cut into small dices.

Serving instruction:

Shuck a fresh, cold oyster.
Add a teaspoon of the mignonette.
Topped with a few dices of the torrontes wine gelee.

Enjoy!