Lowdown on the Throwdown: 5 Corners Kitchen Wins Lobster Challenge

Posted: July 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Ataraxis Tavern, Event, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s not every day you get to attend a live event that rivals popular reality TV. Today we had a chance to check out the Seafood Throwdown at the Marblehead Farmers’ Market and enjoyed every minute of it.

For those unfamiliar with this type of contest, two chefs are given limited time and a secret ingredient to battle it out for the winning title. The event is sponsored by the farmers’ market in partnership with Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and Cape Ann Fresh Catch in an effort to support local fishermen and educate about sustainable fishing practices. The throwdown is a relatively new idea, and although there have been several at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, this was the first in Marblehead.

The chefs competing in the event were Paul Riccardi from Ataraxis Tavern and Barry Edelman of 5 Corners Kitchen. Sean Sullivan and Niaz Dorry from NAMA were there to oversee the proceedings, and guest judges were Rosalie Harrington, chef and former owner of the legendary Marblehead restaurant Rosalie’s; Leigh Vincola, director of marketing at Edible Boston Magazine; and Rosalie’s husband, Todd Feinberg, morning talk show host on WRKO, who also emceed.

The morning got off to an exciting start when Sullivan announced that the mystery seafood would be lobster, courtesy of Marblehead’s own Paul Crowell. The chefs were then given $25 each and 15 minutes to shop the market for ingredients. When time was up, the horn sounded, and the chefs were allotted one hour to create a meal using the lobsters, their purchases, provided staple ingredients, and up to three unannounced items they were allowed to bring with them.

As the cooking proceeded, Feinberg gave a play-by-play, cracking jokes and asking the chefs questions, even breaking into his best Gordon Ramsey impression at one point. The crowd grew, and everyone, including the kids watching, felt the excitement. It was a treat to see.

Interestingly, both Riccardi and Edelman had chosen some of the same produce from the market, including small potatoes and corn. Riccardi boiled his lobsters while Edelman cut them up, boiling the claws and sautéing the bodies.

The end results were gorgeous. Edelman plated a vegetable mélange first, which included the sautéed corn and potatoes as well as grilled zucchini and fresh carrot, then added the claw meat in roe butter, the lobster half, and beautiful greens that included fresh squash blossoms.

Riccardi plated his “deconstructed” lobster with sautéed potatoes and corn and grilled spicy sausage on a bed of greens that had been sautéed with toasted garlic oil, which he playfully garnished with the lobster body.

The scoring was based on five categories that included originality and use of whole animal. The judges had a difficult job because, as Sullivan opined, “both dishes are unbelievably good.” Harrington noted that Edelman’s combination of flavors were so fresh that all together they “tasted like summer.” Feinberg was surprised by Riccardi’s sweet and sour sauce. “Mango sauce is great with lobster,” he said, “I never would have guessed.”

After tallying up the votes, 5 Corners Kitchen was announced the winner, and both participants were soundly applauded. There is no prize for winning except bragging rights, and, truly, both contenders should be proud of what they accomplished. Can you imagine creating a meal off the cuff in a hot tent in front of a crowd of milling strangers, on a deadline?

Our hearty congratulations to Chef Edelman, and we hope he and Chef Riccardi continue to be involved in this sort of event. Not only does it spotlight local seafood and produce, it is also a great way to get the public more involved in their town’s food scene. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

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Fish Tales: Does Cape Ann Fresh Catch Measure Up?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Gloucester, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the Gloucester-based community supported fishery program, has certainly made a big splash since it debuted last year. Lauded by the likes of Boston.com and Saveur, the program has been popular among those with a desire to eat fresh, locally produced foods.

Caught fresh daily by Gloucester fishermen, approximately five pounds of seafood per customer is delivered to seven Boston area communities; Cambridge (two locations), Jamaica Plain, Acton, Lincoln, Marblehead, Gloucester, Newburyport, and Ipswich. There is a two-hour window for shareholders to pick up. Consumers get local, seasonal, super-fresh fish, and the money goes directly to the fishermen, supporting the local economy and encouraging sustainable practices.

We subscribed to the winter season, which started in the middle of December. It was supposed to run eight weeks, but due to understandable delays caused by stormy weather, we just picked up our last share. Winter shares included an option for local or “Maine” shrimp, as they are in season. We opted for a half fish/half shrimp share, which meant receiving five pounds of shrimp alternating weeks with five pounds of fish.

3152010cSign up was easy and pick up relatively convenient. The CAFC people were great with keeping everyone informed about schedule and expectations via Web, Twitter and e-mail. Our delivery guy Steve (pictured here) was helpful and even emailed out a fish cake recipe after chatting about it. The fish itself was incredibly fresh and delicious. If you are used to buying fish at the supermarket, I can’t stress this enough—the difference in taste is phenomenal.

Something I didn’t anticipate was the “facing your food” sensation. Unlike the bland fillets from a glass case, here was a whole damned fish (thankfully gutted) taking up my kitchen counter and staring at me with his big eyes. Truth be told, I was fascinated. During the season we ended up Googling all manner of fishy facts and watching YouTube videos on everything from filleting techniques to shrimp recipes. We contracted for fresh seafood and got an education in the bargain.

So, what’s the catch? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Although we liked the program so much we’ll sign up for another season, it’s not without issues. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is the lack of variety. Along with the shrimp, we ended up with cod, pollock, and haddock during the season. This was change enough for me, but we also had several missed weeks due to inclement weather. I can see how one could easily end up with a freezer full of pollock.

The shrimp were also a surprise. Despite having grown up on the North Shore, I was unfamiliar with the local variety. Used to big gulf shrimp, these wee pink ones were a mystery to me. The flavor was wonderful: sweet, delicate, and almost lobster-like. But shelling them was extremely time consuming and seemed hardly worth it for the amount of meat harvested. I think next time I’ll skip the shrimp and buy the shelled meat at a local fish monger.

That brings us to the question of cost, which figures in at $4/lb for fish and $3.50/lb for fish and shrimp. Sounds like a bargain until you realize that you are receiving whole fish or shrimp that needs to be processed. Even if you’re an expert with a fillet knife, how many edible pounds are you actually buying? Is it worth the effort?

Unless you live in a coastal town with a reasonably priced fish market selling dayboat fish you can patronize at whim, the answer is a definite yes. That’s what Cape Ann Fresh Catch delivers—incredibly fresh, great quality fish that helps food lovers support the local economy.

Cape Ann Fresh Catch
Gloucester, MA
(978) 283-2504
http://namanet.org/csf/cape-ann-fresh-catch

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