Build On, Barton.

By Ezra Klein

As a near-full time blogger, I’m not a big fan of meta-blogging. I’m a bigger believer in reveled preferences. Since none of us get paid for manning this site, the answer to why we do what we do is that we enjoy it. And apparently, enough of you enjoy it to keep coming by. So let’s just agree that the IFA is the best food blog — nay, best blog — on the internet and leave it at that. That’s a compromise I think we can all be happy with.

It also leaves me time to gush excitedly about the fish market chef Barton Seaver means to open in Logan’s Circle. Seaver is the former sous-chef at Jaleo, the former executive chef at Hook, and now the chef at Blue Ridge. He’s also a sustainability obsessive.In a good way. This quote, for instance, is as no-bullshit as I’ve ever heard someone who sells food for a living get:

He’ll send the message at his restaurants. The ingredients will be sustainable, of course: grass-fed Virginia beef, Kentucky hams and local bluefish. The portions will be measured. Diners will get four to five ounces of fish and lots of vegetables, not all-you-can eat sustainable shrimp. “I don’t care if something is certified 10 times over. It’s morally reprehensible to eat 16 ounces of protein in one sitting,” Seaver said. “Until that changes, it doesn’t matter what the product is.”

Word. Fucking. Up. That’s a neat dividing line between the folks digging into the policy around sustainability and the chefs interested in the image. Local isn’t the first priority in protein sustainability. Less is. But unless you can make up the reduction in volume in premiums for quality, less food sold also means less profit turned.

Seaver’s new market, apparently, will reflect this sensibility: The fishmongers will be versed in both their product and its implications. The choices will be environmentally and ethically sound. And that’s a relief to me. Whatever my problems as a cook, I’m pretty good on food policy. But the oceans still overwhelm my puny human brain. There are too many fish, too many variations of fish, and too much deceptive labeling for me to make confident choices. Worse, the absence of a particular fillet often throws my plan off altogether: My knowledge of seafood substitution is rudimentary as is, and worse when cross-referenced with my understanding of sustainable choices.

All of which is to say that I’d like to walk into a room that smells like ocean, where the choices can be trusted, where the staff can help me out, and where Seaver can scold me for my portion sizes. I’ll gladly pay a premium for that. So build on, Barton.

6 responses to “Build On, Barton.

  1. I’m so excited about this market. I’ll be pacing until it opens.

  2. It may well be morally reprehensible to eat a ribeye at a restaurant once in a while or, say, drive to Boston or drink wine that’s shipped across the ocean from France. Not being as goodhearted and true as Ezra, I’ll hold off on the moral judgment.

    What I can say is that such conduct imposes a cost in carbon, and we would do well to discourage people from doing it as much. The question is how to effectively discourage them. In that connection, I’ll hazard a guess that labeling commonplace activities morally reprehensible is not the most effective strategy. People will just find you annoying and ignore you.

    On the other hand this does allow Ezra to get all gangsta with his douchey chef friends, and how can that be wrong?

    Throw away your grills, you morally reprehensible assholes. Word! Fucking! Up!

  3. Of course, in food production, nitrogen, not carbon, is the “limiting reagent,” as they say in chemistry.

    Someday, I hope Ezra or another food blogger addresses this fact, and starts talking about the horrendous way we deal with the byproducts of food consumption. Spending huge amounts of time and money to purify a limited resource (fresh water), only to then shit and piss in it, only to then dump it into the local watershed, all the while losing the nutrients contained therein. It’s like the manure lagoons in many ways, though more pervasive and less obvious.

    It’ll be a crappy series of posts, but somebody should write them.

  4. Well, we did talk about it, Wingus, although nitrogen reclamation isn’t something we touched on. I suspect it’s just a cost/benefit consideration — given current energy prices, it’s cheaper to pull the nitrogen out of the air with huge amounts of natural gas than it is to reclaim it from natural sources. If we change how we price energy, that may change, too.

  5. Bulging Bracket

    Says the man who eats at Per Se. You’ll remain full of it until you fully live the life of an Indian peasant. The only legitimate thing to do given your professed beliefs is to stop living an upper-middle class life. Live like an Indian peasant (i.e. no travel, restaurants, alcohol, recreation of any kind) and donate the rest of your salary to whatever malicious charity you like (the DNC, Nepal’s Maoists, the genocidal bastards at Greenpeace).

  6. Pingback: An Intellectual Crush « Close Encounters of the Me Kind

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