A Night at the Museum: The Gulf and Its Seafood- One Year Later

I was honored to be invited to attend- as press- an event entitled “The Gulf and Its Seafood- One Year Later.” The wine and dine reception at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was preceded by a panel discussion featuring experts from academia, industry, government…and Ted Danson.

Let’s face it, I was thrilled to be invited to this event.  In addition to Ted Danson (who I am so enjoying on HBO’s “Bored to Death”) the invitation caught my eye with participating chefs including Top Chef’testants Carla Hall and Mike Isabella as well as other notable DC chefs including Scott Drewno, Ris Lacoste, Jeff Black, Jamie Leeds, Jeff Buben, etc. etc.  They had me at Carla Hall and Mike Isabella.

It was a bit surreal to walk into the event and announce myself as press.  I was considered press early in my career, but it’s been years.  We arrived just in time for the panel discussion.  May I say that Ted Danson is quite a striking man.  I was fairly focused on looking only at him, until I realized that I was actually paying attention to what these people were saying.

The panel talked about the state of seafood in the Gulf, one year after the BP oil spill.  Ted Danson by the way was not just there because he is funny (and did I mention good looking).  He is an environmentalist and founding member of Oceana and has just co-authored a book entitled“Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”

I won’t go on and on about the non-food part of the evening but here is the major message:  it is safe to eat seafood from the Gulf.  This is a positive message, which is difficult to impart to the public after all the horrific images we saw in the media following the spill.  The long-term effects of the oil spill are still unknown, however.

I am glad to hear that seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat because my husband and I both consumed a ton of it at this event. Although not all the seafood served was from the gulf, each station included information about the fish and its sustainability, which was very informative.

We initially made a beeline for Carla’s station.  Her bluefish poached in carrot-ginger broth was the highlight of the evening. So flavorful. She is such a delightful person and genuinely seemed to recall me from the night she had to push my car out of the parking lot following her cooking class. (see my blog post on this).

Carla Hall
Carla Hall’s bluefish poached in carrot-ginger broth

Other favorites were:  smoked sturgeon with lemon blini and yuzu cream from Scott Drewno (The Source by Wolfgang Puck), wild Texas shrimp from Randy Evans (Haven, Houston), barramundi with warm potato salad from Ris Lacoste (Ris), blue crab and camembert bisque from Chris Lusk (Cafe Adelaide, New Orleans) and blueberries and cream with corn brittle ice cream and toasted cornbread from Mallory Staley (1789 Restaurant). Unfortunately, we ate these dishes before we remembered to take photos. But here are a couple of photos we did remember to take:

actually don’t remember what this is
rockfish escabeche by Jeff Buben of Bistro Bis and Vidalia

I was surprised to see Sam Talbot from “Top Chef” Season Two, who is the chef at the recently opened Imperial No. 9 in New York.  I had just that morning read an article on Grub Street that mentioned him in relation to a “Top Chef” backlash in NYC (i.e. bad reviews. chefs leaving, etc).  I wasn’t going to mention the article to him (it was somewhat negative) and to be frank, my memory of him on “Top Chef” at this point is fairly vague.  So I said nothing when he served me his dish. But I did get to taste food from another Cheftestant, so I was satisfied.

Sam Talbot

I was determined to say hello to Mike Isabella, particularly since he recently posted my blog about Spiaggia on his Facebook page.  He is such a charming guy. We had a few minutes to chat about the gnocci at Spiaggia vs. Spiaggia Cafe (really great vs. good) and he offered to accompany me there on my next visit to ensure that I got the great gnocci. (he really did).  Check out this video on www.metrocurean.com where Mike explains his vision for his soon-to-be opened Graffiato.

spiced rainbow trout escabeche by Mike Isabella

This was a top notch event.  The public may have been lured in with great food, but hopefully attendees got to enjoy sustainable seafood and learn some important lessons. I know I did.


  1. Arielle Dubin says

    Glad you liked the dessert! Hopefully I'll see you soon at another DC food event!

  2. Michael Passmore says

    So glad you like what Scott Drewno did with our sturgeon. I thought it was awesome as well!

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