Saturday, August 29, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors (Fishy Restaurants)

I just picked up on this interesting article on NPR's health blog. I'm disappointed but not surprised to hear that there are restaurants out there that will switch the expensive fish you ordered (like grouper or red snapper) on the menu with a less expensive species like...wait for it...catfish. Geez.

My take? Eat out at restaurants that you trust and get to know your chef. Pick eateries that have a seasonal, local focus. Your fish many not come from a local source, but chefs that care about where their ingredients come from typically have a high level of culinary ethic and integrity.

Also...Learn To Cook Fish At Home. I know, I know. It's expensive and intimidating. But just try something simple like broiled fillets seasoned with a little olive oil or butter, salt and pepper. Notice texture, subtle flavors and aromas that different fish bring to the table. Get some farm-raised salmon and some wild-caught salmon and compare flavor, color and texture.

I'm not even going to try to delve into the ethics of eating seafood, because it's a totally convoluted nightmare and others like Mark Bittman handle the subject with far more expertise than I. Plus, I'm not one to preach food ethics. As a food writer, I eat good food when I'm out--not necessarily ethical food (ie: veal, fois gras). And as a home cook on a very tight budget I've been known to succumb to bags of frozen shrimp raised on farms in Vietnam rather than the wild caught ones that cost nearly twice as much. So there you go.

But when it comes to restaurants that swap out your order for something of lesser quality, hoping that you just won't notice? For shame, for shame! I guess your mama didn't raise you right.

(photo above: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)


The Columbia Fam said...

You also have to be careful when you order scallops. Some places will serve swordfish and call it scallops. Anyone that has had real scallops can instantly tell the difference. Swordfish is much more rubbery than a true scallop.

untamedbeer said...

I would simply say, "learn to cook at home."

I think your suggestion of getting to know the chef at your favorite restaurants is a great idea. We've all heard the horror stories of what goes on in restaurants, and I think we take way too much for granted when we eat out.

And I agree with your point on culinary ethics, it's important to know whether the owner/chef is more interested in the bottom line or if they consider what they do to be an art or vocation.

If the sole purpose of the restaurant is to make money, beware.

donedieting said...

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