There’s something very reassuring about walking into Stanley Park on a perfect, almost Spring evening. This night was spectacular. A crystal clear partial eclipse of the moon was framed by a cascade of brilliant stars, Venus and Jupiter.
I was on my way to the aquarium’s first Sustainable Table dinner in their new Vancouver Aquarium Chef Series.
The dinner was a fundraiser, a collaboration between aquarium executive chef Tim Bedford and well known sustainable seafood advocate, Rob Clark, now executive chef of the Fish Counter.
Clark, who used to be executive chef for C and Raincity Grill, was (and still is) a major mover and shaker for Ocean Wise. He is widely and rightly credited for getting the program off the ground 10 years ago.
Bedford runs all things culinary at the aquarium. He also handles the catering side of things, which is increasingly in demand.
It was a good evening, with a lively crowd bent on celebrating the best of sustainable seafood. I was also impressed by the aquarium’s new 360 degree projection. It gave us a Kokanee eye view of the Adams River salmon run. By the way, speaking of fish eyes, have you heard about the aquarium’s formerly one-eyed Rockfish?
But I digress…
What struck me most is that this menu could easily serve as a roadmap: where we’ve been—and where we’re going in terms of local, sustainable, marine ingredients.
Vancouver and BC still lack what you might define as ‘quintessential’ seafood dishes. But I thought these all-sustainable plates added up to strong suggestions, beyond salmon, of what could define our local seafood scene.
Clark chose to work with Albacore tuna, Humboldt squid, poached Sablefish, and Sturgeon. All are approved species under the Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. (As are some jellyfish…)
In their way, each one was a standout. And it all seemed a fitting salute to mark ten years of ground-breaking Ocean Wise.
Sablefish came poached, just right, with a perfect texture that married beautifully with butternut squash and puréed celery root.
I especially liked the sweet and savoury of the dashi broth that bathed the Albacore tuna tataki.
Squid is a species all too often overlooked as a local specialty. On this night it was toothsome, tender and spiced up with a fresno jalapeño and chorizo vinaigrette.
One of BC’s stars ascendant, eminently sustainable and organic Northern Divine Sturgeon was roasted in horseradish. Its dense flesh was well matched with the richness of saffron risotto and mushroom cream.
Most, if not all, paired fairly well with Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc on hand. Although, of course, there should have been Riesling there … by law!
Some Vancouver chefs (such as Blue Water’s Frank Pabst) go out of their way to embrace different local species. Yet, I can’t help but think that our progress is slow. For the most part, the consumer remains either unaware or indifferent. The fact is: in the face of devastating overfishing globally, we still have a long way to go. And not much time to get there.
For more perspective on Robert Clark’s accomplishments, check out my recent piece in Montecristo.