Sustainable Aquaculture Interview with Fishmonger and Gastronomy Student Noel Bielaczyc

New Deal Fish Market

This week I met up with fishmonger and fellow Gastronomy student Noel Bielaczyc at his place of work, New Deal Fish Market (622 Cambridge St). Noel gave me the inside scoop on sustainable aquaculture, and also expanded my knowledge on the different varieties of fish available. Check out the interview below…

New Deal Fish Market

Kelly: How did you first get interested in seafood and aquaculture?

Noel: When I moved to Ann Arbor for college, I saw a fish market and I knew I wanted to work there. I love fishing and the water, so it’s a natural mix of interests.

K: Can you tell me a bit about organic seafood certification and how valuable that is?

N: I’m kind of skeptical about the organic seafood label. It only applies to farm raised fish and just means that plant portion of their feed (soybeans, corn, etc.) was organically raised. But fish like salmon are primarily carnivores, so how can you say that the fishmeal (wild anchovies, sardines, etc.) component of their diet is organic? This label only makes sense for fish that can be raised on an entirely vegetarian diet, like tilapia and catfish. Your best bet is to look for wild, domestic seafood.

K: Can fish be farmed sustainably, and if so, how would we know?

N: I have heard of a few cases of fish being farmed sustainably, but that is not the majority of the farmed fish on the market. It can be done well, but it’s not enough to feed the world.  Because salmon are carnivores, you must catch fish to grow fish, which leads to a net loss. [Salmon farms] are not really doing anything to increase supply.

K: How can consumers help support a sustainable aquaculture system?

N: If the only fish you eat are shrimp, cod, and salmon, you’re missing the point. If you want to be a responsible seafood consumer, you’ve got to branch out. Additionally, shellfish is some of the best stuff you can get. Shellfish aquaculture (like clams, mussels, or oysters) is almost like planting seeds, and it’s not nearly as intensive as salmon farming.

K: A February 2013 New York Times article reported that approximately 1/3 of the fish on the market are mislabeled. How can consumers avoid getting duped? Is there anything that should raise red flags?

N: You are most likely to run into that [deception] at a restaurant, because there’s less seafood expertise, the supply chain is longer, and there’s lots of pressure to control costs. If you are eating an $8.99 platter of scallops, snapper, and haddock, there’s a good chance it might not be what you think it is. [In order to avoid getting duped,] find a fish market you trust and fishmongers you can develop a relationship with. Over 80% of our seafood is imported, so one of the safest things you can do is buy domestic seafood whenever possible.

K: Do you know of any restaurants in Boston that source fish responsibly?

N: Bergamont gets their fish from us, and they do a really great job. East by Northeast buys from us as well. I’m sure Legal Seafoods is doing something right, but I’m not really sure what their practices are. Smaller, independent places are going to be your best bet.

K: Many home cooks are intimidated by the prospect of cooking fish. Any tips?

N: The most important thing to remember is that it’s actually quicker than cooking almost anything else. Let your fishmonger do the dirty work (scaling, gutting, filleting…)! My favorite way to eat fish in the summer is actually raw. Just throw together some dry scallops, good olive oil, onions, and grapefruit juice, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful crudo. If you are unsure about which fish can be eaten raw, you have to ask, and not all fish markets are like that.

New Deal Fish Market

Looking for the best catch in Boston? Then visit the team at New Deal Seafood! Noel helped me pick out some excellent Striped Bass from right here in Massachusetts. Do you have a favorite type of seafood to cook? Do tell!

– Kelly

Food Adventures in Toronto

One of the best things about living in the Northeast is that there are so many unique cities within reach. This weekend I took advantage of the close proximity and met my dad in Toronto (less than a 90 minute flight) while he was there for a business conference.

St. Lawrence Market

The first thing on my Toronto must do list was to check out St. Lawrence Market. I originally read about St. Lawrence Market on the Design Sponge Toronto city guide (my go-to website for city guides when traveling). The vintage warehouse vibe and abundance of artisanal food purveyors somewhat reminded me of Chelsea Market in NYC. I was tempted to buy Canadian maple syrup, but I still have syrup leftover from my maple sugaring field trip in February. Maybe next time!

St. Lawrence Market

One of the optional activities for my dad’s conference was a Foodies on Foot walking tour around the upscale district of Yorkville. Much to the delight of his gastronomy student daughter, he signed us both up. I have been on walking food tours before, but never could I have envisioned the amount of food that we would accumulate in a quick 2 hour period. These were not tastings. These were full-on American sized servings. Six stops, four full portioned desserts, and one seated luncheon. And all of this came only 2 hours after (a thankfully light) lunch. Gulp. I’m sure you can see that predicament that I faced as a Dietitian. I wanted to enjoy the food, but I also wanted to be comfortable and healthy. My plan of attack went as follows: When I had the option to get the food to-go, I jumped on it. Otherwise, I would stick to tasting. Food tastes the same whether you have one bite or ten, and devouring four large desserts in 2 hours would not be enjoyable for anyone.

foodies on foot

  • The chocolate brownie cheesecake from Carole’s Cheesecake was rich and decadent without being overly sweet, a fine line for desserts to straddle. The selection rivaled that of The Cheesecake Factory, but in a quaint and homemade atmosphere. And thanks to the hotel mini fridge, I was able to give the dessert my full attention once my stomach was ready 🙂
  • The gelato at the end of the tour was creamy and authentic with an impressive selection of flavors, at least from what I remember of my study abroad experience two years ago. Can’t go wrong with Pistachio!
  • The Cookbook Store was a charming little shop selling books and magazines related to food and cooking, and was a welcome relief from the food fest.
  • And of course, no modern food tour would be complete without an obligatory nod to the cupcake trend (in this case, at Dlish).

Crepes a go go

Although the cheesecake was heavenly, my favorite stop on the tour was Crepes a GoGo. The energetic owner generously led us around the counter and while she demonstrated her craft. Although some creperies smother their product in an abundance of toppings, we were treated to simple crepes flavored only with cinnamon and sugar. They were thin, fluffy, and delicious, all at the same time, proving that simplicity is a true testament to a good recipe.

 

Healthy Panda Express

Lastly, because this post was extremely dessert heavy, here is another dose of healthy airport food (at Logan terminal A). Peppercorn shrimp + 2 servings of steamed veggies from Panda Express. Stuffed at the sight of it all? Some non-food highlights included the Royal Ontario Museum, the CN tower, a winning Blue Jays game, and a trip to Niagra Falls.

What are some of your Toronto favorites? How do you manage portion control when facing an overwhelming amount of food?

– Kelly

Behind the Scenes: New England Maple Syrup Production

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Maple syrup is an iconic product of New England foodways, so I was especially excited to go on the BU sustainability field trip to Mass Audubon Ipswich River Nature Reserve last weekend. This FREE field trip was open to all BU students and included a guided tour of the maple sugaring process, followed by a pancake breakfast on the property. The tour was entirely outdoors, so we did some hiking through the snow as our guide showed us how to get from sap to syrup. Ever wonder how maple syrup is made? It’s a fairly straightforward process, but extremely labor intensive.

Maple Forest

How Maple Syrup is Made:

The first step is to tap the tree, which simply means drilling a hole and attaching a spout for the sap to drip and collect into a bucket. The number of taps in a tree depends upon its size, and even the oldest, largest trees at Ipswich River Reserve do not have more than 4 taps, so as not to compromise the tree or sap production. Trees have to have reached a certain size before they can be tapped (about 10 inches in diameter) and are often at least 40 years old. The metal buckets that collect the sap are emptied about every 6-8 hours, depending on weather conditions.

Maple Tree Tap

The sap itself looks and tastes like water (yes, we tasted it!), and is only about 1% sugar. It takes about 86 gallons of sap (at a 1% sugar concentration) to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. No wonder it is so expensive! But how does the sap get turned into delicious maple syrup? All you need is heat.

Heating up the maple sap in the sugar shack

After the buckets of sap are collected, they are brought to the “sugar shack” to be heated up. As you can probably tell, the sugar shack is a steamy little cabin that houses the machinery. The sap is simply poured into a tank where it is heated up to just above boiling, so that the water evaporates out. Nothing is added to the sap. It is simply a matter of evaporation. Once the liquid reaches the desired temperature, you have maple syrup! No additives needed.

Maple Syrup: How its made!

After leaving the sugar shack, we were greeted with a sample cup of freshly made maple syrup. Things got even sweeter as we went into the barn for all you care to eat pancake breakfast. It was the perfect way to warm up and refuel after a chilly hike through the maple forest on a cold February day. Before leaving, I was sure to purchase my own bottle of locally produced maple syrup from the gift shop. After learning about how much work it is to produce, I have a much greater appreciation for it!

Flapjack Fling

Different Grades of Maple Syrup:

You may be wondering what the difference is between the different grades of maple syrup. The lighter syrups (Grade A: light and medium amber) are made earlier in the season, and the darker syrups (dark amber and Grade B) are made later in the season. The difference is simply due to the temperature outside. Before my field trip, I always assumed that Grade A was superior. After all, that is how it works at school, as well as in the grading of other food products, such as eggs. But in the world of maple syrup, that is not always the case. Grade B maple syrup has a more distinctively “maple” flavor, and is often called cooking syrup for this reason. So the grading scale is purely a matter of taste preference.

Maple Grading Regulations

For those of you that would like to learn more:

– Kelly

January in Boston

I have officially made it through my first month of winter in Boston… we’ll see how the next two go! Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot more to do than sit inside and drink tea (although I admit, there has been a lot of that going on in our apartment). Here is how I have been staying busy (& warm!)…

Ice Skating at Frog Pond

Ice Skating at Frog Pond

Ice skating is one of the few outdoor activities that is made for winter, so I made sure to not miss this opportunity. It’s chilly at first, but once you start moving around get the hang of it you warm up. We chose a day that was about 40 degrees- not 10!

Touring the Taza Chocolate Factory

Taza

Taza Chocolate Factory

Taza Chocolate

During the winter months, indoor activities (such as museums) are a great way to have fun while escaping the cold. As a gastronomy student, I’m partial to food related factory tours. The Taza Chocolate Tour was only $5, and well worth it! We learned about the chocolate making process from bean to bar, and because we were the only 2 that showed up for the tour, we got to ask plenty of questions along the way. The tour was much more fun and informative than I was expecting because we got to see every step of the chocolate making process up close and personal… not to mention the endless supply of chocolate samples! 🙂

Touring the Sam Adams Brewery

Sam Adams Boston

What can I say… I love food and beverage related tours! The Sam Adams Brewery Tour appears on many Boston Bucket Lists, and for a good reason. The factory tour portion was a tad shorter than expected, but we still got to see different parts of the brewing process, as well as get our hands on various hops (to smell) and malted barley (to taste) to see how they affect the profile of the beer. The second part of the tour was the tasting room. We tried 3 different types of beer (including the original Boston Lager), and even got to keep the glass as a souvenir. This tour was FREE, with a suggested $2 donation. Proceeds go to local charities.

Doing work out DVD’s

Winter Exercise on a budget

Let’s be real. All of these food factory tours, while educational, aren’t exactly easy on the waistline. But going for a jog isn’t an option in winter weather (at least not for me). So that’s where exercise DVD’s come into play. My brothers got me the Jillian Michaels Yoga DVD for Christmas, and that is definitely my current favorite. But when I am looking for something a little more intense, I do the kickboxing segment of the top DVD. Check out my last post to read more about my exercise routine, plus tips for morning workouts.

Tasting Authentic New England Seafood

Summer Shack

Last week I joined the Gastronomy Student Association for a seafood bake at Summer Shack. Although clam bakes and the like seem like decidedly summertime affairs, our group dinner was a huge success. My classmates showed me how to properly tackle King Crab legs and Lobster tails, and the paper lined tables and bibs left us no reason to worry about making a mess. With sides of corn on the cob and red new potatoes, the whole experience reminded me very much of a crawfish boil. This experience was definitely a must-do for my New England food education!

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow yesterday, so spring could be here sooner rather than later. How are you going to spend your remaining days of winter?

– Kelly

Hands-on Educational Highlights of the Fall Semester

Jacques Pepin

My first semester of graduate school has come to a close. Despite the wealth of knowledge that I gained from my courses, some of my favorite educational experiences occurred outside of the classroom. Between special lectures at BU, trips for work, and events hosted by the Gastronomy Students Association and the Massachusetts Dietetic Association, I have been able to get a well-rounded understanding of food and nutrition. So without further ado, here is a list of my favorite hands-on educational experiences from this past semester.

AD Makepeace Cranberry Bog

  • Getting oriented to my food studies program by taking a GPS tour of Boston’s foodie hotspots (including the Fenway Victory Gardens and a vegetarian food truck), followed by beers and appetizers at Meadhall
  • Learning about local New England foodways by touring a cranberry bog and visiting an apple orchard (see this post)
  • Attending a panel on the Dietitians role in sustainability, which included a presentation by Barton Seaver (National Geographic Fellow and Washington DC Chef), as well as a representative from Farm Aid, a hospital sustainability coordinator, and a chef/Dietitian at Johnson and Wales University.
  • Taking a trip to Sysco for work, and getting to taste-test new vegetarian recipes for the dining halls. Getting paid to eat? Yes, please!
  • Attending a workshop at Harvard Common Press on food writing, where I got to mingle with the editor of Edible Boston, as well as learn about the ins and outs of cookbook publishing. Did I mention that the brunch spread was from Flour Bakery? Yum! (read here to learn more about the event)
  • Getting to see Jaques Pepin, the co-founder of my program, speak at BU. He also signed my cookbook! To learn more about the event, read here and here.
  • Taking the Cheese 101 Class at Formaggio Kitchen with the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. The class included 8 cheese and condiment pairings, 4 wine tastings, and a cave tour!

Cheese 101 at Formaggio Kitchen

Cheese 101 at Formaggio Kitchen

– Kelly

Gastronomy in New York City

On Friday my roommate and I took a day trip to New York City as an early birthday celebration. Although seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and holiday decorations was the main motivation for the trip, I also got to experience food and culture in the city.

Our Global Kitchen, NYC

The American Museum of Natural History has a special exhibit through August 12, 2013 called Our Global Kitchen. I first read about it on Marion Nestle’s blog last week, and was very excited that this exhibit would coincide with my trip! The exhibit was perfect to see after finishing my first semester in the BU Gastronomy program, but even my roommate was fascinated by the displays. The topics were very relevant to my Food Culture and Food Systems class, and included information on: the pro’s and con’s of biotechnology, the issue of world hunger, the external costs of meat consumption, monoculture vs. biodiversity, organics and integrated pest management, eating patterns from around the world, obesity and nutrition, food waste, the history of foodways, the science of cooking, and so much more! I highly recommend this exhibit, whether you are a gastronome or not. It is great information to help consumers make educated choices, and to learn about where our food comes from.

Our Global Kitchen, NYC

I also couldn’t help buying this cute T shirt!

Other Gastronomy related highlights included a grilled chicken curry sandwich with cranberry harissa chutney from Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park, as well as cupcakes from the Plaza Food Hall. Also, even though the majority of my NYC dining experiences aren’t at chain restaurants, the calorie counts on chain restaurant menus (such as Le Pain Quotidien) are great at helping make an informed purchase!

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Are any other foodies heading to NYC anytime soon? While I didn’t go during this trip, I highly recommend checking out the Chelsea Market (see below) and Eataly. Where are your favorite places to go in New York?

Chelsea Market

– Kelly

BU Sustainablility Cranberry Bog and Apple Field Trip

Today marks the first day of autumn, and I was lucky enough to spend my first autumn in New England on a field trip to a local cranberry bog and apple orchard! After browsing the BU events calendar online, I discovered this awesome (and FREE) field trip arranged by the Sustainability Coordinator of BU Dining.  Being a lover of local food and guided tours, this excursion sounded right up my alley! My roommate joined me, as she has a strong affinity for cranberries and has always wanted to visit a cranberry bog.

This FREE field trip included:

  • Pumpkin Muffins and Coffee at the George Sherman Union
  • A tour of the various cranberry bogs at A.D. Makepeace
  • A yummy box lunch from BU
  • A trip to Keith’s Farm to pick our own apples

And now for the tour…

The cranberry bog tour was even more impressive than I imagined! A.D. Makepeace is the largest cranberry bog in the world and has about 2000 acres of bogs on their land. Our chartered bus drove us to 4 different bogs on the property, including the world’s largest cranberry bog (which is 75 acres large). We got to see both dry harvest and wet harvest. The wet harvest looked just like an Ocean Spray commercial! (Not too surprising though since A.D. Makepeace is an Ocean Spray grower)

Dry harvest

Wet harvest

After the tour, we wandered around the gift shop and ate our boxed lunches at picnic tables on the property. Then we got back on the bus and went to Keith’s Farm. Nothing says fall in New England like apple picking!

My roommate and I brought home 10 apples from Keith’s Farm. At the market at AD Makepeace, I also picked up a ½ pound of fresh cranberries and a ½ pound of apple juice sweetened dried cranberries. I see lots of cranberry and apple flavored meals in my future! These recipes are catching my eye:

BU students can be notified of future sustainability events like this one here. BU Dining makes an effort to embrace the sustainable food movement by putting on educational events such as this field trip, as well as making a commitment to incorporate more sustainable food products and practices. Below are some highlights of the BU Dining sustainability initiative:

  • 28% of BU food purchases are sourced locally (within 250 miles)
  • Monday menus (“Make a Difference Monday”) are based around local, sustainable, and organic foods
  • Dining menus incorporate fair trade coffee, cage free eggs, and sustainable seafood
  • In 2011, the GSU diverted 73% of waste from the landfill by recycling and composting
  • A farmers market is held on campus Thursdays during September and October

-Kelly