Farm-to-table dining is old news, but for a good reason: it’s everywhere now. There is a simple satisfaction in knowing that the grass-fed beef or thinly sliced fennel on your plate is grown only 20 miles away. However, the same hasn’t been true of what we’re harvesting from our waterways. And really, we’re the Ocean State; it only makes sense that we should treat our seafood the same way.
Luckily for us, there are those who are making this ocean-to-table concept a reality. Take Sarah Schumann, a local fisherwoman passionate about sustainability. She is at the forefront of the Eating with the Ecosystem movement. This initiative works with local restaurants, chefs and fisherman to create one-of- a-kind events. The fishermen take their haul-of-the-day to a restaurant and the chef prepares a multi-course meal in celebration of the bounty. During the dinner, the fisherman explain where the seafood came from, their habitat, how they co-habitate with other organisms (such as the relationship between sea scallops and red hake), where the menu item is on the food chain and how overfishing of one species can affect others.
Wild Rhody – a fisherman-owned seafood distribution company - often partners with Sarah at the Eating with the Ecosystem events. They are the ones who caught that skate earlier that day in Narragansett Bay, which is now on your plate. Lifelong fishermen Chris Brown and Steve Arnold started Wild Rhody out of a need to create stability for themselves as fishermen, directly understand what the seafood demands were in the industry and to provide a fresher alternative to restaurants and retailers (such as Roxy’s Lobster food truck and Chef Derek Wagner of Nicks on Broadway).
Born of this collaboration between fishermen and chefs is Trace and Trust. It is a way for anyone to track where their seafood came from and when it was caught. Never before has such a connection been able to be made – unless of course you just happened to know a guy that owns a boat.
While these initiatives have been around for a little while, it’s only recently that local restaurants have caught on in a big way. So whether you’re noshing on Poppasquash oysters at Hemenway’s, Atlantic sea scallops at birch traceable through Trace and Trust, Atlantic mahi mahi hauled by the F/V Aces High docked at Point Judith at Local 121 or summer flounder at The Dorrance from Narragansett Bay caught by F/V Sweet Misery docked in Newport, seafood across our state is more personal than it ever has been, and we’d like to keep it that way.