While in Greece, I was wired/connected to the Internet for the first time right at our family’s summer home. I brought my laptop so that I could upload the hundreds of photos, write a blog post (or five) and check/send emails on a whim. While in Greece I received an invite by the Greek Consulate in Toronto to attend a luncheon that would be centered around the Greek sea bass and sea bream.
The lunch was located at the historical Palais Royale, located on the western shores of Toronto’s lakefront (Sunnyside Beach). The building was originally used as a boathouse, it then became (as most knew it) a dance hall. A fire nearly destroyed the building but a renovation with a keen eye towards restoring much of its original grandeur has the Palais Royale once again housing ballroom dances, banquets, weddings and other functions.
The day’s lunch was hosted by the Greek Consulate in Toronto and Selonda Aquaculture SA. The purpose of the lunch was to inform local restaurateurs, food suppliers and others with an interest in Greek cuisine (and fish) that a consistent, fresh and economical supply of farm-raised sea bass and sea bream are widely available in Toronto and in major cities in North America.
The first fish to be presented was the European ea bass, knows as a lavraki in Greek, loup de mer in French and Branzino in Italian. The sea bass is found throughout the Mediterranean Sea but it’s now a scare fish and one that’s very difficult to catch (considered a very smart fish). The sea bass is a flavourful fish that’s fabulous on the grill, wonderful in the oven and now being used for Ceviche-type dishes by more adventurous Greek chefs.
The second fish to be featured was the sea bream. Here in North America, this fish is also known as the sea bream or porgy. Greeks call this fish Tsipoura and the French call it Dorade. There are many other bream-shaped fish from the Mediterranean (share similar shape) but the Tsipoura is the most popular as it has a mellow, tender white flesh, it’s widely available and usually found at reasonable prices. The sea bream is delicious when grilled, ideal for filleting as it has a wide body shape (good presentation) and excellent pan-seared. The sea bream will also make for a good addition in a fisherman’s soup.
Selonda SA brings both farm-raised sea bass and sea bream to North America from their several farms located on the shores of the Peloponnese. The fish pens are larger and deeper than the usual North American farms. The farm-raised sea bass and sea bream are considered sustainable as all fish and fish meal is from small fish species with large populations with a short life cycle and are not protected or threatened. The farmed sea bass and sea bream operations cause no damage to the surrounding environment with only an accumilation of food residue and fish waste on sea bottom. Despite this, a large abundance of wild fish can be found in the waters surrounding the farms.
Having cooked with both sea bass and sea bream (many recipes featured on this blog), I can tell you that both species of fish are delicious, I can find it very fresh at my favourite fish markets and cooking with fish from the Mediterranean helps tide me over until my next vacation in Greece. Last but not least, both sea bass and sea bream are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids (28%).
Since 2005, the consumption of sea bass and seam bream has almost doubled and currently, Italy consumes the most sea bass and bream. Greece produces 137,000 tons of sea bass and bream and that represents about 47% of the market share. Greece is a small country of 11,000,000 and even when the population swells with tourists in the summer months, there’s still plenty to go around in foreign markets. The sea bass and bream are harvested, packed in ice and shipped to the consumer markets in one business day.
So, after schmoozing with some old friends and making some new ones. we were all very hungry and I (as were all the guests) anxious to see what Executive Chef Steffan Howard had in store for us. The first course an a meze (appetizer) trio of marinated loup de mer (sea bass), sunchoke, artichoke Kalamata fricassee.Next up was a salad of shaved fennel with grilled watermelon filled with a whipped Feta and finished with cracked black pepper and an apple and anchovy vinaigrette.
Done with salad, it was time for some soup. Chef Steffan served up his ode to a Kakavia (a Greek fisherman’s soup) that included mussels, a sea bream fillet, saffron and some crab legs.As soon as we finished the Kakavia, out server swooped in on our table and placed a grilled whole lavraki (sea bass) on our table. This is how fish is served in Greece – whole. Grilled and presented family style, we filleted the fish and each of us sampled and enjoyed the succulent, white meat. Lavraki…the other white meat?After finishing the sea bass (just head and spinal column left behind) we we served the main course: Grilled Dorade Royale (sea bream) fillet with steamed fingerling potatoes tossed with dill, Ouzo and orange-braised snails.Finally, the afternoon ended with a light dessert that consisted of a pear tart paired with a strained yogurt flavoured with lemon zest, mint and a hint of sage.The afternoon finished with some closing remarks by Greek Consul General Dimitrios Azemopoulos and Chef Christine Cushing welcomed us to join her in congratulating Chef Steffan Howard on his creativity in presenting some Greek dishes with a modern twist.
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