Posts Tagged: seafood


12
May 13

Vancouver Spot Prawn Festival: five things you need to know about spot prawns

They love their spot prawns here...

They love their spot prawns here…

So, today was the much-heralded Chefs’ Table Society Spot Prawn festival down on Fishermen’s Wharf. In its seventh year more than 2000 sustainable seafood fans poured into False Creek to dive into the new season of spot prawns. Sweeter than many other prawn varieties and much-loved by BC chefs, there are several spot prawn festivals and dinners (like this series at yummy Italian Campagnolo)  across BC for the season. Try to get along to one of them because oh, those prawns are good!

Gotta get 'em while they're here

Gotta get ‘em while they’re here

1. No one knows how long the season will be. I chatted with Chris Sporer, the Executive Director of the Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association, who told me that, “In 2009 the season lasted for 66 days and in 2012 it was just 44 days. The fishery is monitored to check the health of the stock and count the number of spawning prawns. When the threshold is reached, that’s it, season over.” This is what makes the BC Spot Prawn season one of the most sustainable there is.

2. Prawns change sex. Seriously. Spot prawns have a natural four-year life cycle. All prawns are born male but around aged two, they become female and then start to spawn in their last year, so every adult prawn you eat is a female.

Boil 'em up for two minutes...

Boil ‘em up for two minutes…

3. Commercially-fished BC Spot Prawns go through vigorous checks. Spot prawns are caught in traps which get dropped to the ocean floor – so there is no trawling. The traps stay on the bottom and the fishermen can only haul up once a day. The first check comes from the prawns themselves – the holes in the traps are fairly large, so first the smaller ones swim in, then the larger ones arrive and chase the little ones out. Once they are hauled in, because they are hand-sorted, any remaining young prawns are thrown back in the ocean and those that remained are checked against a size requirement.

Buy your prawns fresh off the boat - the queues were huge!

Buy your prawns fresh off the boat – the queues were huge!

4. If you buy them fresh – off with their head! Yup, turns out that unless you want to cook and eat those prawns immediately, if you’re keeping spot prawns at home in the fridge, you need to take their heads off as soon as you get them home as they start decomposing and that affects the taste. I drove home from Fishermen’s Wharf with my bag of prawns jumping away on the floor next to me, raced upstairs, boiled them (heads on to get the best taste) for a minute and a half and then doused them in cold water to stop the cooking. Then I ate them dipped in aioli. Oh, yes please! So when you buy them from a fishmonger, make sure they’re live in a tank or already have the head off.

Just an hour from dock to table. That's what I call fresh

Just an hour from dock to table. That’s what I call fresh

5. Support sustainable fishing – ask where the prawns came from You can buy spot prawns from Washington State or Alaska – but nothing beats the taste of a fresh-off-the-boat BC spot prawn. And nothing feels better than knowing that you’re supporting one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. Sure, the season’s short but that makes it all the sweeter… Ask questions and make sure you support the good guys!

Nothing tastes as good as sustainable seafood!

Nothing tastes as good as sustainable seafood!

Everything you ever wanted to know about spot prawns from Organic Ocean


8
May 13

Celebrating a BC Spot Prawn spring

Spot prawn season begins...

Spot Prawn season begins…

I’ve never lived anywhere so ‘seasonal’ before; and I don’t just mean the weather, Vacouverites seem to live and breathe seasonality in their food. I noticed it first just before christmas, it was ‘pumpkin season’ and everywhere there was pumpkin pie, pumpkin latte, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin ales… you get the picture. Then it was ‘egg nog season’ and  again – ‘nog was to be found in absolutely everything. Then the arrival of the exotic King Crab… most recently there was halibut hysteria when, remarkably, even the big name supermarkets were proudly shouting about their fresh, seasonal, sustainable fish.

Spring morning on English Bay

Spring morning on English Bay

I spoke to a friend Sophia about this and her theory is that because the weather is so fiercely seasonal, people are more in tune to eating what’s fresh. She may be right, you are in no doubt what time of year it is in Vancouver; in autumn, you crunch ankle-deep through a patchwork of colourful leaves, in winter you wilt under relentless torrential rain and grey, grey skies with snow-covered mountains appearing once in a while through the gloom, and now spring is here flowers are bursting from ever corner. I cannot wait to see what summer has up its sleeve. There’s also the matter that chefs here in Vancouver are rock stars, followed and adored by their foodie fans. And of course, these rock stars want the very best produce to create their masterpieces – which means sticking to the seasons.

I took a photo. You never want to forget your first time...

I took a photo. You never want to forget your first time…

The Spot Prawn season began yesterday at precisely 12pm, I was lucky enough to get my first taste at Yew and I’m off to the Spot Prawn festival (seriously) at the weekend. It’s a four-to-eight week season and I intend to dive in head first and try them as many ways as possible. If living seasonally is the way to live in this town, count me in. I love the excitement and anticipation of enjoying something for a brief period of time. Now I know that when the last of the cherry blossom has fallen, it’s Spot Prawn season… I wonder what happens next.

 


22
Nov 12

Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium

The only accessory any smart Vancouverite needed tonight was a wooden spoon and voting slip from the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood Chowder Chowdown event at the Aquarium.

Forget designer bags or statement shoes: this spoon is all you need…

Twelve chefs, twelve delicious chowders, all competing for the honour of being voted the People’s Choice at the end of the night. I had such a great time; I hopped on the free old-fashioned trolley bus service that was laid on for the evening and rattled through town towards the Aquarium in Stanley Park. Once there, I was given my wooden spoon and slip and so galloped inside to start tasting.

What goes with chowder? Beer, of course! From the Granville Island Brewing Co.

What crowds! This was a sold-out event. I love that people turned out on a drizzly November evening to find out more about sustainable seafood and celebrate the great food culture of Vancouver. One of the first meals I ever ate in Vancouver, two years ago, was at C restaurant which was where I first read about the Ocean Wise initiative, the brainchild of the Vancouver Aquarium, dedicated to teaching consumers about how to make smart choices when it comes to sustainable seafood.

Better move fast…

In a nutshell this is the idea: overfishing is a huge threat to our oceans. The world’s marine life is quickly being depleted. A recent scientific study predicted a world-wide fisheries collapse by 2048. The only solution is to turn back from the brink, and to begin consuming seafood in a sustainable manner.

Definitely the winners of the best presentation award!

So, when you visit Vancouver, make sure you choose Ocean Wise seafood. It’s guilt-free eating because it fits these criteria:

  1. Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures
  2. Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research
  3. Harvested in a method that ensures limited bycatch on non-target and endangered species
  4. Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.

100% sustainable AND delicious

All the restaurants that took part tonight work within those guidelines. I’ll be doing my best to support them — and so should you. It was a tough choice; I adored the spicy tomato-y flavour of Chef Alex Tung from Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria’s chowder and the amazing citrus foam on Chef Dana Hauser’s chowder from Herons -The Fairmont Waterfront, was superb. But the winner of the People’s Choice was new opening Chef Chris Whittaker for Forage at the Listel Hotel. I will definitely be stopping by to see what else they do… as well as feast on sustainable seafood!

The winners! Forage – whizzing about so fast I couldn’t catch’ em.

Inspired? You should be! Keep Exploring Canada…

 

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