Celebrate Seafood: Dinner at the New England Aquarium

Sustainable seafood? Seasonal ingredients? Cooking demos from top Boston chefs?

Yes, please!

We recently had the chance to attend the latest of the Celebrate Seafood dinners at the New England Aquarium, a year-long series intended to simultaneously entertain and educate.

Apart being wowed by one dish after another, we also spent the evening hearing the story behind the seafood on our plates, how it was raised and caught, and how we could use that information next time we crave fish for dinner.

Throughout the evening, our hosts emphasized again and again that neither farm-raised nor wild-caught seafood is "good" or "bad," either from an environmental or a taste standpoint.

In reality, it simply depends.

For instance, the steamed whole bay scallops we had for the first course were farm-raised in lantern nets. Since the nets lift them off of the ocean floor, there is little disturbance to the environment when the nets are raised for harvesting.

Scallops also grow quickly, require little maintenance, and feed off of naturally existing food sources in the water.

However, the seared wahoo we were served later in the evening is a wild-caught fish. Wahoo is sustainable because breeds and matures rapidly, decreasing the risk of over-fishing.

Although related to tuna and mackerel, these are solitary fish and don't swim in schools. This means that they are primarily fished using hook-and-line gear, a more environmentally responsible type of fishing.

Rather than memorizing lists, the key to finding sustainable seafood choices is really staying informed. We've relied on the Blue Ocean Institute's Guide for years, and now we can add the New England Aquarium's website to our resources.

Equally important is finding a fishmonger you can trust--whether it's your local Whole Foods or a shack down by the dock. Our hosts at the aquarium warned us that there's a a fair amount of deception in the fish industry, an unfortunate effect of the lack of regulations and supervision.

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All in all, our evening at the New England Aquarium gets an A+. It's been hard to sum it up in just a few paragraphs!

As home cooks, we were delighted with the recipe cards giving instructions for preparing each dish along with information on seasonal availability and alternate cooking options.

The evening was smoothly and efficiently run, and had the relaxed atmosphere of a gathering of friends. Thanks, New England Aquarium!

The next dinner is August 26 and will feature farm-raised clams and wild-caught mahi mahi. To make a reservation or learn more about the series, visit the Celebrate Seafood website.

Related: Linguini with Mussels and Dandelion Greens

(Image Credit: Scallop-Filled Crates Stacked on an Odaito Dock, $39.99 on AllPosters.com; Fresh Salmon in Granville Island Market, British Columbia, Canada, $39.99 on AllPosters.com)