By Katherine Kallergis
Along with Books & Books, longtime Miami chef Allen Susser and chef Sam Gorenstein teamed up in mid-June to host a sustainable seafood dinner at the Cafe at Books & Books.
The duo served wahoo, tuna and mahi, all caught off Key Biscayne the day before, at the communal dinner at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Allen, a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Blue Ribbon Task Force, discussed the importance of sustainable fishing and seafood consumption throughout the five-course dinner, which began with fried pickles and salted mahi with fried green bananas – all paired with sustainable wines.
A portion of the proceeds from the evening benefitted the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and The Fishing Experience, a program that works with South Florida’s youth to teach them about fishing. The Books & Books cafe hosts Susser’s vegetarian farm-to-table dinners, sourced from the adjacent farmers market, every Monday; this summer’s was the first sustainable seafood dinner.
The dinner menu included grilled wahoo with oranges, olive oil, mint, lemon and peppers; pistachio-crusted mahi served with mangoes; and ceviche – served family-style at a communal table.
Gorenstein, formerly of BLT Steak and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, is now co-founder, COO, and executive chef of My Ceviche, a casual dining cevicheria in Miami. The chef, along with Susser and “Captain Mike” were part of the team who caught the fish. (Captain Mike is founder of The Fishing Experience, a fishing program that works with South Florida’s youth to teach them about fishing.)
Fish future means sustainability
Susser, in his talks, highlighted issues including overfishing and environmental destruction, and called the evening a unique opportunity to demonstrate and educate consumers about sustainable seafood.
By overfishing, “we’re hurting ourselves in the future,” he said. “This is about having enough fish for our kids and our grandkids.”
Susser said there are good fishing practices, such as line and hook, and poor practices, such as longline fishing.
He pointed to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website and app to see sustainable seafood recommendations, showing which seafood items are the best choices or good alternatives, and which ones should be avoided. The organization updates the guide depending on fisheries, weather, and “the realities of the world,” Susser said.
Whole Foods, for example, follows sustainable seafood practices and incorporates signs at its fish counters, indicating the fishermen who caught the fish, and maps for customers to see the waters where seafoods are sourced.
“It brings you into the excitement of the fish and the hunter-gatherer aspect of it,” he said.
“From now on, you’re going to ask ‘Where did it come from, and how is it caught?'” Susser said. “If we care where it comes from, restaurants are going to ask where it comes from.”
* * *
To read more about seafood sustainability and local fishing practices, pick up our Summer 2015 issue of Florida Food & Farm.