The Beacon


My friends and family have noticed that in the past few months, especially since I started reading Taras Grescoe’s new book Bottomfeeder, I’ve become a sustainable seafood evangelist. (More on that book at a later date, it deserves its own post.) “Is that farmed salmon?” I’ll ask, or, eyeing some frozen shrimp, “Do you know where those come from?” In fact, I ought to tone it down a notch – otherwise I have a feeling people are going to stop inviting me out for meals.

So with my mom in town this weekend to foot the bill, I picked Georgetown’s Hook, which is known for being the place for sustainable seafood in Washington, DC. (And whose former chef, Barton Seaver, we featured in our Spring 2007 newsletter back when he was the chef at Café Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar.)

Looking over the menu, our group had a lot of questions, mostly about fishes we weren’t familiar with, like Barramundi, Ling Cod, Tautog, and Sablefish. One of my friends was particularly confused by the “Grass Fed Striploin.”

“What kind of fish is that?” she asked, bewildered. The only non-fish offering, dear.

We compared the offerings with our ocean-friendly seafood guide and found that everything was in the "green," with the exception of the yellowfin tuna which is listed as yellow. I noticed that there was no information on the menu about where each fish was from – although when I asked our knowledgeable server about the Coho Salmon, he didn't skip a beat, answering, “Alaska, of course.” We didn’t ask about the others – I didn’t want to torture my fellow guests -- but most likely he knew where they were from as well.

The other thing I noticed about the menu was that a sustainability proclamation was conspicuously absent – not even in small print at the bottom. When I asked our server why, he said, “Most people already know about us, And if not, they don’t care. Some people are even annoyed by it, so we choose to leave it off – if people want to know, they ask.”

Are people really irked to be told where their food comes from? Have we reached the point where not only are most of us ignorant about the source of our food, but if someone tries to inform us, we stick our fingers in our ears? I like to think not – I like to think that more and more people are starting to care, actually. Sure, I’m an optimist, but if a restaurant works that hard to be environmentally conscious, which it clearly does, shouldn’t they be loud and proud about it?

Anyway, the food! I ordered the Coho salmon and was not disappointed. It was a bright pink – er, salmon – color and was absolutely delicious – I had to concentrate on eating it slowly, savoring each bite. Others ordered bluefish, mahi-mahi, oysters, and yellowfin tuna. It was a fantastic meal for all.

When the check arrived (thanks, Mom), we were amused to find an ocean-friendly seafood guide attached – the very same one we had perused at the beginning of the meal. I suppose that’s enough of a subtle proclamation for now.

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