Friday, January 17, 2014

Miya’s Sushi: How to Adapt Traditional Cuisine So Both Sushi and Ocean Life Can Survive

Jackson Blum ‘15, a farm intern, drew upon his love of a local sushi restaurant and a Yale College course he took to make an informative and entertaining podcast.

This past fall semester, I took Karen Seto’s Environmental Studies seminar “Urbanization, Food Systems, and the Environment.” In lieu of a boring final assessment, like a test or research paper, the students each created some kind of outreach project that presented some of the class’s takeaway lessons in a publicly digestible form. I elected to have a little fun and produce a podcast. My subject: my favorite New Haven sushi restaurant.

In early December, the class got together for a closing dinner, catered by Miya’s Sushi. The head chef and manager of Miya’s, Bun Lai, said a few words about the philosophy of his restaurant and its place in the modern world of sushi. I recorded Bun’s remarks about the popular Japanese cuisine and turned it into a podcast that illustrates the perils that many fish species experience in the face of the modern seafood industry and how one New Haven restaurateur and sushi chef hopes to address these challenges.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

bunlai:

Daniel MacPhee and Justin Freiberg provided me with fresh horse radish from the Yale farm.  Horse radish flourishes here so I had been thinking about using it in lieu of wasabi that is imported from thousands of miles away.  Justin and I experimented with some recipes and came up with one that is as good as the best fresh wasabi that I have ever had.  Horse radish is used in a different way than one would with wasabi.  You don’t want to mix the horse radish into the soy sauce because it deactivates it.  The horse radish tastes the best when a small pinch is placed directly on top of the sushi just about to be eaten.  By summer of 2012 Miya’s will be using only our own recipe of locally grown horse radish!  Sayonara wasabi!

Friday, September 16, 2011
Last Saturday I sat outside of Miya’s with Bren while members of his Community Supported Fishery program came to pick up their shares. It could have been a pretty tough series of encounters; there had been no August delivery, as heavy rainfall triggered state-mandated closure of his acres, and the September boxes contained only clams, since his oyster beds were still closed. There had been a disclaimer when we signed up for the program, letting us know that farming was unpredictable and there would be no refunds, but it had been easy to ignore with visions of freshly-caught, freshly-shucked oysters beckoning— now came the test of just how Community Supported the program really was.
And you know, everyone who came by was lovely. This was likely in part, Bren pointed out, because Irene was an understandable catastrophe that had affected all of us in one way and another; people were still in disaster-relief mode, eager to be helpful. But it was also a mark of the kind of economic and social community that CSFs and CSAs can build: Bren was not just an oysterman but also a businessman, and a neighbor whose livelihood was being threatened; the threat of a month without oysters was subsumed by the threat that the CSF might end entirely. We weren’t just dissatisfied consumers; we had become, in the language of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food, co-producers, without whom the business of good food was impossible. I’ve explained CSAs countless times: farmers need money at the beginning of the season, and it’s far less risky when they don’t have to rely on the success of a single crop to make a living. Now I watched it in action: it was that money that I’d paid out in advance that would help keep Bren and Thimble Island Oysters going after nearly 80% of his beds had been wiped out. 
I’m always a little wary of the “co-producer” model— there’s so much more work to being part of the Food Movement, whatever that is, than buying things— but it is important, and I think expresses a particular piece of what this thing is for me and why I care about it. If I’m going to spend money on food anyway, I want it to go to Bren and men and women like him, people I know, people in my community, who literally and figuratively weather the same storms. It encourages me to be sympathetic to them; it reminds me that food is not produced in a vacuum. If I want someone else to grow my food— a difficult and risky business at the best of times— then I should know all of the costs, and be prepared to pay for the privilege. 
bunlai:

80% of the oysters of CT’s first Community Supported Fishery, Thimble Island Oyster, was wiped out by the Hurricane but our members will still be receiving clams in the interim; we are all trying to think of ways of helping oysterman Bren Smith rebuild in the aftermath.  The best way way we can help is by signing up for a 2012 CSF membership.  Help out and get the freshest seafood back in return!  http://www.etsy.com/listing/75395775/thimble-island-oyster-csf-share   The above photo is of Captain Ben Kerzner and I with seaweed that we had dived for on the grounds of Thimble Island Oyster.  The invasive seaweed, deliciously called Dead Man’s Fingers, is used as a soup base at Miya’s.

Last Saturday I sat outside of Miya’s with Bren while members of his Community Supported Fishery program came to pick up their shares. It could have been a pretty tough series of encounters; there had been no August delivery, as heavy rainfall triggered state-mandated closure of his acres, and the September boxes contained only clams, since his oyster beds were still closed. There had been a disclaimer when we signed up for the program, letting us know that farming was unpredictable and there would be no refunds, but it had been easy to ignore with visions of freshly-caught, freshly-shucked oysters beckoning— now came the test of just how Community Supported the program really was.

And you know, everyone who came by was lovely. This was likely in part, Bren pointed out, because Irene was an understandable catastrophe that had affected all of us in one way and another; people were still in disaster-relief mode, eager to be helpful. But it was also a mark of the kind of economic and social community that CSFs and CSAs can build: Bren was not just an oysterman but also a businessman, and a neighbor whose livelihood was being threatened; the threat of a month without oysters was subsumed by the threat that the CSF might end entirely. We weren’t just dissatisfied consumers; we had become, in the language of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food, co-producers, without whom the business of good food was impossible. I’ve explained CSAs countless times: farmers need money at the beginning of the season, and it’s far less risky when they don’t have to rely on the success of a single crop to make a living. Now I watched it in action: it was that money that I’d paid out in advance that would help keep Bren and Thimble Island Oysters going after nearly 80% of his beds had been wiped out. 

I’m always a little wary of the “co-producer” model— there’s so much more work to being part of the Food Movement, whatever that is, than buying things— but it is important, and I think expresses a particular piece of what this thing is for me and why I care about it. If I’m going to spend money on food anyway, I want it to go to Bren and men and women like him, people I know, people in my community, who literally and figuratively weather the same storms. It encourages me to be sympathetic to them; it reminds me that food is not produced in a vacuum. If I want someone else to grow my food— a difficult and risky business at the best of times— then I should know all of the costs, and be prepared to pay for the privilege. 

bunlai:

80% of the oysters of CT’s first Community Supported Fishery, Thimble Island Oyster, was wiped out by the Hurricane but our members will still be receiving clams in the interim; we are all trying to think of ways of helping oysterman Bren Smith rebuild in the aftermath.  The best way way we can help is by signing up for a 2012 CSF membership.  Help out and get the freshest seafood back in return!  http://www.etsy.com/listing/75395775/thimble-island-oyster-csf-share   The above photo is of Captain Ben Kerzner and I with seaweed that we had dived for on the grounds of Thimble Island Oyster.  The invasive seaweed, deliciously called Dead Man’s Fingers, is used as a soup base at Miya’s.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Monday, July 11, 2011

Community Supported Fisheries & The Thimble Island Oyster Co.

There are basically two options for farmers who want to avoid the massive, impersonal supermarket system: selling at farmers’ markets, or starting a Community Supported Agriculture program. We’ve talked about how CSAs run here before, and why they’re such an important tool for small farmers looking to build a strong customer base and get the cash they need upfront at the beginning of the season. So what happens when you apply this system of exchange to another changing industry? What about fishing?

According to an article in YES! Magazine, the first Community Supported Fishery was started in Port Clyde, Maine in 2007, and it worked just like a traditional CSA: consumers paid a lump sum directly to the fishermen, then received a weekly allotment of seafood caught in local waters. Since then, more than 20 CSF programs have started up in the US and Canada, each of them dedicated to provided fresh local seafood and supporting shrinking fishing communities, many of whom can’t or won’t operate at the scale required by industrial buyers.

It’s a tough time for those fishermen as well as their catch: human demand for seafood of all kinds is quickly outstripping supply, leaving many global stocks in critical condition as their numbers dwindle and their habitats suffer the effects of pollution. Agricultural runoff creates nitrogen-choked dead zones that expand every year; the 2010 Gulf Oil spill was neither the first nor, sadly, likely the last of its kind. So when we eat seafood, it’s crucial to eat conscientiously, consuming species that aren’t dangerously overfished and that have been harvested or farmed responsibly.

Bren Smith, of the Thimble Island Oyster Co., does just that. His refrigerators are solar-powered; he uses recycled gear and farms shellfish like clams and oysters, which actually help clean the contamination in the waters where they live. Plus for which, the cages he grows them in act as an artificial reef, providing habitat for other creatures.

Luckily for us here in New Haven, Bren and Bun Lai, chef and owner of Miya’s Sushi Restaurant, have teamed up to bring us Connecticut’s very first CSF. CSF members pay an annual fee toward the oyster farm’s operating costs and receive a dozen oysters and two dozen clams weekly for 6 months, from June through November. The YSFP is a proud member, and we’ve already experimented with making clam pizza of our very own with the CSF’s bounty.

Interested in learning more? Check out their website for more information about how the Thimble Island Oyster Co. benefits the marine ecosystem and the local community.

Looking for a CSF near you? The Northwest Atlantic Marine Associate (NAMA) features a list of CSF locations. (If  you don’t find one, don’t despair. The Thimble Island Oyster Co. isn’t there yet either!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

YSFP Clam Pizza

Forget New York’s splintery, cracker-thin crusts and Chicago’s doughy deep dish; New Haven’s signature apizza splits the difference between the two, producing slender, crusty slices that give way to a sweet, springy interior. There’s plenty of lore around the city’s oldest pizzerias (Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan are famed fans), but that’s never stopped us at the YSFP from trying our hand at the city’s most iconic dish— and there are many who would argue that ours best the classics. 

The trick of a New Haven-style apizza is to form a thin crust and cook it quickly at a high temperature, allowing for crisp char on the outside and a little lightness within. Pepe’s and Sally’s use coal, but the Farm burns hardwood logs in our oven; we harvest them from the Yale Meyers Forest, an hour outside of New Haven. We also make our own dough, adding in a little whole wheat flour for wholesomeness and plenty of white to keep it from getting too heavy.

We usually keep our toppings vegetarian and stick to what we can grow ourselves, but this week we had fresh clams from the state’s first Community Supported Fishery program and it seemed only fitting to try the most iconic pie of them all: Frank Pepe’s brainchild, the white clam pizza. Above are some photographs of the process, which, from lighting the oven and starting dough until we had pizza ready to eat, took just about three hours.

The photographs are lovely, but they don’t do the pizza justice— it was insanely delicious, a simple crust with preserved lemon pesto and oven-roasted clams, intensely salty and just sweet enough. We also had pies topped with mozarella and arugula, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, and a dessert version that involved apricot jam and currants.

If you’re in town, we’ll be making pizza again this Friday (though sadly sans seafood) to serve as lunch to volunteers during our open work hours— so come by to get your hands dirty, and stick around to sample a slice!