Deering’s 8th Annual Seafood Festival: A Festival of Un-sustainability

TeamSeafoodie critics got festive this weekend and attended the Deering Seafood Festival in Miami. I arrived early to soak up the gorgeous coastal view and get my foodie bearings before the crowd set in.

As I strolled inside the grand estate, I spotted a lone booth, “Florida Gulf Safe,” where three inattentive teenager playing on their phones. Did I encounter my first glimpse of the seafood sustainability that awaits me around the corner? No such luck. The brochures, recipes and stickers on the scarcely filled tables were marketing all seafood as good regardless of whether their populations are depleted.

I didn’t let that early disappointment deter me. I followed the steel drum beats to the main lawn to check out the seafood on tap. Only one of the six vendors selling seafood, Whole Foods, had a visible commitment to sustainability. And, yes, there were only 6 seafood eateries at a seafood festival.

TeamSeafoodie critic Jim Harper arrived shortly after and we got seated for the food demonstration by Oceanaire executive chef Kareem Anguin. A bright beacon of hope, Chef Anguin discussed his restaurant’s commitment to sustainable seafood and recent trip to Alaska to see the salmon and halibut fisheries first hand. (Read Jim’s full review)

We left the demonstration in high spirits and hungry for more signs of sustainable seafood.

Eager to unearth hidden sustainable gems, I asked what kind of shrimp were inside the fried coconut breading at Golden Rule Seafood Market’s booth. To which the guy dishing stone crab legs replied, “it’s just shrimp.” He was clearly very busy, so I decided to move on and not ask any more questions.

We strolled through the rest of the booths, admiring the fish art and jewelry but didn’t see any signs of life for a sustainable seafoodie. So, we took pictures with Officer Snook and played the Coast Guard’s marine debris game to satisfy our environmental awareness craving.

Feeling festively flattened, we ate the only two dishes promoted as sustainable seafood (Whole Foods crab cake sandwich and shrimp ceviche) and enjoyed the colorful Bahamian dance troop and stilt walkers one last time before heading home.

 

 

Bottom line: A small glimmer of hope thanks to Oceanaire executive chef Kareem Anguin, but overall a sustainable seafoodie nightmare.    

 

– Annie Reisewitz

Follow Annie on Twitter @annelore