Thursday, September 27, 2007

McCormick & Schmick’s

September 26

Remember Zoë from the blog entry below? Turns out she’s an Australian and had no idea who Gilbert Gottfried was.
I learned that this evening, when I once again ran into Michael Park, whom I had not met until Monday.
And who was with him but good old Sara Bonisteel, who last appeared in this blog long ago, when she became editor-in-chief of the New York Resident.
It turns out she hasn’t had that job for a year-and-a-half and now works for Fox News’ web site.
We were all at McCormick and Schmick’s for an event celebrating National Seafood Month, which is in October.
The seafood chain’s publicists had attracted a good array of journalists, very few of whom I’d met before, except of course for Michael and Sara. Arlyn Blake was there, too, no-doubt introducing people whom she thought should know each other.
Oh, and Marian Betancourt was there, too. She had just written a book with San Antonio chef Scott Cohen.
Actually, Scott Cohen is from the Northeast, but he’s been in San Antonio for the past several years. I’ve been using him as a source for years, but we’d never met until recently, when he was in town to cook at the Beard House and stopped by our offices.
That was arranged by his publicists, who e-mailed me that I’d like Scott as he’s “a real down-home boy.”
I’m not sure why someone would think that I, a New York-based food writer, would be interested in meeting someone because he’s “down home.” But of more interest to me is the fact that I knew perfectly well that Scott was a northeasterner and just slightly more down-home than Leona Helmsley. Why would a publicist pretend otherwise? I mean if you’re going to lie, lie about something that matters.
But of course I met with him anyway. We had a nice chat.
I also re-met Kara Brisson, whom I last knew as the event coordinator of Hurapan Kitchen, where I had my 40th birthday party last April (I haven’t written a blog entry about it yet; I’m not sure why, but it was a good party). Now she’s the local McCormick & Schmick’s beverage director.
Part of the party was a presentation by one of McCormick & Schmick’s chefs about cooking seafood at home. It was a terrific presentation briefly interrupted by ignorant people repeating the scare-mongering of those who for reasons I will likely never understand (that means you, Pew Charitable Trust) like to make people nervous about mercury and PCBs and so on in fish without pointing out that the medical community generally concurs that the dangers of those contaminants for most people (with the possible, possible exception of nursing mothers, pregnant women and small children) is outweighed by the health benefits of eating fish.
One pompous, ignorant woman brought up that something was wrong with the feed in farm-raised salmon.
I think she was trying to remember the half-truth that the feed is dyed red. In fact, the added coloring is a pigment called astaxanthin, a healthful antioxidant — let me repeat that, a healthful antioxidant — that occurs naturally in the krill that wild salmon eat, giving their flesh that pink color.
I would not condemn this woman as an idiot if I hadn’t actually met her later on as I was reciting for someone a tasty and easy mussel recipe: moules marinières (sauté shallots in butter, add cleaned mussels, chopped parsley, black pepper and white wine, cover and steam until the mussels open).
She insisted fleur de sel must be added.
Okay, it’s seafood and so probably doesn’t need salt, but even if it did, fleur de sel would be a waste as it’s its texture that makes it different from regular cheap salt, and that would be lost in the steaming.
I didn’t argue with her, but she disagreed with the guy I was talking to that mussels and French fries were a common combination in Paris, where she says she lived for three years.
So that’s incorrect thing, number 2.
I asked her to repeat her name and she spelled it for me in French, which, I mean, you can’t be more pompous.
She also declared unbidden that she was as good a cook as anyone in the room.
I didn’t challenge her on any of these facts, because why bother? But I have found that when people say that they’re the best at something, it usually means that they’re worse than average.
She wandered off soon enough, which was nice, and I ended up talking to editors I didn’t know from magazines like Parenting who were collecting quick tips on cooking for consumers. Nice people.
I closed out the evening talking to McCormick and Schmick’s publicists. They’d thrown a good party.


Anonymous said...

People should be aware of both the risks and benefits of seafood. The decision of what fish to eat can be a challenge and often contradictory. At the very least, people should know that FDA and EPA have issued advisories about mercury contamination in commonly-sold fish. The problem is, this information is hard to find and is not usually available where it is most necessary: your supermarket.

Oceana, a conservation group, is trying to get major grocery companies to post this government advice at their seafood counters. Thanks, in part to their work, Whole Foods, Safeway stores, and Wild Oats voluntarily agreed to post the FDA’s recommendations and they have had positive responses from customers and no loss in seafood sales. But other companies like Wal-Mart, Costco, and Giant have refused to do so. Oceana has a list of which companies care about their customers’ health enough to post this advice, as well as a list of companies that don’t. You can get the Green List and Red List at their website.

Bret Thorn said...

Thanks anonymous. Where does Oceana get its funding?

Alexei said...

I agree that the decision of what fish to eat can be difficult, but in nearly every case the benefits far outweigh the risks. Infants, pregnant women, the elderly...don't gorge yourself on tilefish. Otherwise, fish is good for you, and tastes good too!

ps- the answer to Bret's question about Oceana's funding can be found here:
Oceana's annual report.