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Monday, November 23

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« Overheard at Chicago Gourmet, Day One Lido's CaffĂ©: Italian Gelato & Cookie Heaven in Oak Park »

Chicago Gourmet Sun Sep 28 2008

Lessons on Sustainability ... from Las Vegas?

dtchicagogourmet.jpgWhen I think of Las Vegas, words like repulsive excess and unnecessary waste spring to mind. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by Rick Moonen's Chicago Gourmet seminar on selecting fish the sustainable way.

Moonen, considered one of the nation's top seafood chefs, owns RM Seafood at Sin City's Mandalay Place, a 200-seat restaurant designed to look like "a swank cruise ship," according to the Web site. The chatty, energetic chef knows how to put on the ritz, but it's clear from listening to him that his twin passions are protecting endangered seafood species, while helping home cooks get comfortable with preparing fish.

"Everything we cook has an odor, but do you ever hear someone say, 'Eeew, it smells beef-y in here?' No!" he said, alluding to one of the reasons people often cite for not cooking fish at home.

At his lecture at Chicago Gourmet, the chef focused less on cooking and more on educating. Moonen is a regular visitor to Web sites like, which "raises consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources." The site regularly updates a list of fish that are the worst and best choices for consumers who want to buy "green."

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that Americans are too enamored with three types of fish, according to Moonen. If everyone would "hold hands and step outside the box of salmon, tuna and shrimp," we would help to reverse the environmental destruction caused by over-fishing certain species, open containment fish farming, and industrial fishing.

Moonen offered five tips for eating fish in a sustainable way:

  • Eat lower on the food chain. Selecting smaller fish such as calamari, trout and mackeral reduces mercury exposure.
  • Eat the "fast and furious" fish, the ones that grow to maturity quickly, such as U.S. wild mahi mahi, U.S. wild salmon, and mackeral. (Ditto on the mercury
  • Eat "vegetarian" fish, such as tilapia, catfish, abalone, and sturgeon. These fish don't require fisheries to catch wild fish for feed.
  • Eat bi-valves and bottom feeders, such as oysters, mussels, King crabs, and scallops.
  • Read up on farmed fish and support fish farms using sustainable techniques.

Moonen was clear that not all fish farming is created equally. Many farms, unfortunately, are open containment farms, in which tons of fish are raised in a netted section of the ocean. Dead fish, fish feces, and excess fish feed can accumulate in the netted in area, creating "a recipe for a suffocating blanket of death" in that part of the ocean, says Moonen. On the other hand, the more consumers demand mussels and oysters, the more bi-valve farms pop up. Since one oyster filters dozens of gallons of ocean water each day, bi-valve farming, done right, can be a net benefit to the ocean.

The bottom line, according to Moonen: get educated. Print out one of Seafood Watch's pocket guide to selecting fish, and pull it out of your wallet when you're at the grocery store. And learn how to prepare fish you're unfamiliar with: Moonen's first cookbook Fish Without a Doubt -- which Gourmet magazine called "inspiring, informative, and user-friendly" -- is a lovely book packed with primers on preparing and selecting all types of fish and shellfish (with lots of accompanying photos), as well as recipes ranging from the basic (poaching fish) to the more complex.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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