Six weeks since he was first whisked away to Baltimore from a muddy stretch of an inland Delaware river, Phil the harbor seal is showing signs of improvement.
The federal government plans to award $1 million to a river-restoration business to help remove a pesky dam from Patapsco Valley State Park.
Santa Claus isn’t only a friend to reindeer and elves – he also has friends under the sea.
Scuba diver Josh Foronda is no ordinary pumpkin carver. This afternoon, he let his Halloween spirit lead him underwater at the Blacktip Reef exhibit at the National Aquarium, where he carved a jack o’ lantern while sitting at the bottom of a giant fish tank.
The United States harvests billions of pounds of seafood every year, and some of it is very delicious. But a shameful amount of it gets thrown away, too.
After traveling across the ocean and the continental United States to college, it turned out that vegetarianism—well, pescatarianism—was pretty easy to follow at a crunchy east coast liberal arts college. I never missed pork or beef or chicken, ate a lot of peanut butter and Goldfish, and was a generally happy camper, gastronomically speaking. Since graduating, I’ve introduced fowl of all sorts back into my diet, and since pregnancy, bacon is familiar territory, but in generally fish finds its way onto my plate fairly often. Unwilling to sacrifice my love of red wine for my arbitrary dietary choices, I’ve often dabbled in red wine and fish pairings, a long pronounced no-no in many food and wine pairing discussions. I’m happy to announce there are scads of options for people like me.
First things first: When you talk about pairing wines and food, it’s important to consider the weight of each. Not literally, don’t whip out a scale, but the heft of the punches the dish and the wine individually pack. If your food and wine don’t match in weight (or at least get close), chances are one will trump the other. With wine, a quick recap, we can consider the weight or body of a wine by comparing it to milk: skim milk is just a tad richer than water, so we’ll call it light. Whole milk is more viscous so we’ll call it medium-bodied. And heavy cream is thick and creamy, totally palate coating and is therefore heavy or full-bodied. They all spawn from the same material, but coat your palate differently.
To put that in the context of actual wines, consider the classic Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir: These are notoriously “light” wines, meaning they won’t coat the inside of your mouth as much as heftier bottles will and are more likely to be called refreshing than rich. Medium-bodied wines include many Tempranillos, Zinfandels, or Verdejos (a Spanish grape, see my article on the Pinot Grigio Problem for more!). Wines dubbed heavy or full-bodied more often include Cabernet Sauvignon and heavily oaked Chardonnay. There are white and red expressions of all weights of wine, something to keep in mind when we get to our dishes.
We’re talking fish here, but fish are just as heterogeneous as wines when it comes to texture, richness, and preparation. What’s the fish’s texture? Is it delicate, white, and flakey? Is it an oily fish? Was it cooked with citrus and herbs? Is there a cream or reduction sauce? What’s your garnish? What’s the most powerful flavor on the dish? When you’re picking out what glass you want to join you for dinner, consider the table as a whole.
One thing, probably the source for that earlier discounted red wine and fish pairing rule, fish oil is generally not a friend to wine’s tannins. The combination of the two chemically creates an unpleasant and persistent metallic taste that’ll dominate whatever else you may taste. And while I’m not an expert, but I do have a few favorite dishes and red wine pairings that I’d love to share.
Cobia, aka black salmon, is a fish that likes to eat other fish — and crabs, squid, and pretty much whatever else it can get its jaws on. Or that’s how things used to be. After four years of experiments by Baltimore scientists, the cobia has now converted to vegetarianism.
Adopting an animal can bring so many joys into a home. There’s the constant companionship, the soft fur you can run your hands along, the days spent strolling through the park chatting up other parents of mutts. Sure, those things are alright. But what if you want a pet that can excrete a totally unique toxin from its scales when it senses danger or feels just a little stressed out? You’d have to track down the mother of a longhorn cowfish. And then convince it that your covetous self wasn’t worthy of her toxic spray. Unlikely. Especially if you don’t speak Cowfish. But luckily, the folks at the National Aquarium have anticipated this debacle and are offering Aquadopting—the opportunity to “adopt” (yeah, okay, you don’t get to take the cowfish home with you) an animal at the aquarium.
The Aquarium has more than 16,000 hungry mouths to feed and they are committed to providing all of them with the best care. Aquadopting helps offset the high costs of veterinary care and food. Aquadopting makes a great holiday gift as well—it’s not only fun, but also educational. When you find yourself wondering what you can get for the person who has everything, think “cowfish.” Adoption packages vary based on the level you choose, but can include a personalized adoption certificate, fun facts about the animal, a cuddly plush version of your adopted animal, and even tickets to the aquarium.
To find out more about Aquadopting, visit www.aqua.org.
Baltimore farmers interested in sustainability have been growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs for a while. Maryland’s even got green-minded grain farms, and organic wines. But Johns Hopkins’ new aquaponics project, which features 400 tilapia in 210-gallon tanks at Cylburn Arboretum, is the first we’ve heard of a sustainable fish-farming effort.
I’m loving this moderately hopeful environmental news lately. I mean straight-up “good” news might still be off the table, but I’ll settle for some “less bad” news — like this headline from The Baltimore Sun: “Bay’s ‘dead zone’ smaller this year so far.” Even with the qualifying “so far” this feels like cause for celebration. I mean I thought save-the-bay measures were about working out our personal feelings of guilt, who knew they would actually deliver results?