Maryland True Blue

How many crab cakes can you make after an hour out on the Choptank River with a trotline, hand-bagged clam bait, a heavy-wire net, an experienced captain and a handful of regional bloggers? Not as many as you might think. In fact, probably only one or two. If that.

I think this is the message that Steve Vilnit, the Director of Fisheries Marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, hopes to send home with the local chefs and bloggers that he takes on experiential adventures in Maryland Seafood – one of which I had the pleasure of participating in this weekend (read all about it in EatMoreDrinkMore’s post here).

Catching and picking crabs in our region is a labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor with costs that can’t be recaptured (let alone sustained) if the majority of “Maryland Style” crab cakes are made with less-expensive crab meat imported from the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela or the Far East (ah’hem: not sustainable). Unfortunately, many restaurants are capitalizing on the illusion of “local”crab meat without supporting the Maryland seafood industry directly.

According to Vilnit, only a small percentage of restaurants in Maryland reliably make their crab cakes from local crab meat and the state does not require restaurants to identify the source of the meat. So how do you tell the difference? Look for the True Blue label.

The new True Blue Certification Program aims to boost the use of local crab meat and the local seafood economy by certifying establishments that can verify at least 75 percent of the crab meat used annually is harvested and/or processed in the state of Maryland. Qualifying restaurants are then able to advertise their certification with the True Blue logo. A list of restaurants and retail venues selling Maryland certified crab meat can be found on the Maryland DNR’s website.

If you want to purchase delicious, sustainable Maryland crab meat directly, check your local Whole Foods for Epicure Crab Meat. The authentic “Blue Crab crab meat” is harvested and processed naturally (without chemicals. additives or preservatives) by the J.M. Clayton Seafood Company, a fifth generation family operation (that just so happens to be the oldest working crab processing plant in the world ).

Environmental Film Festival in DC

180 Documentary, narrative, animated, archival, experimental, and children’s films selected to provide fresh perspectives on environmental issues facing our planet. This year, the festival selections examine the critical relationship between health and the environment with 75 film makers, 115 special guests, and extraordinary cinematic work from 42 countries. Download the full schedule here. Don’t you wish you could see them all?!

Food = Art

I’ve been a fan of Baltimore’s own Chef Chad Wells, Executive Chef at Alewife, since I heard he was sauteing snakeheads in an attempt to eradicate the invasive fish and working with the Department of Natural Resources to promote menu items centered around local seafood species. Turns out his sustainable initiatives aren’t limited to the sea.

Earlier this month, Chef Wells teamed up with Joe Squared at Power Plant Live to host a “Campfire Dinner” in conjunction with the new monthly event promoting local talent called Food = Art. The inspiration for January’s event was to take people camping by using food you can kill yourself – all cooked in a way that can be duplicated deep in the woods – with limited local ingredients, cast iron pans, smoke and fire. And boy did they pull it off!

The constant-campfire vibe of the event, which included an all-evening performance of folky, old-timey, American awesomeness from The Manly Deeds, was authenticated with each family-style entree arriving in foil and with a single utensil per diner – a fork. If that weren’t enough, several people at our table were involved with the meal on a personal level. Mike Naylor, the DNR’s Chief of Shellfish Programs, foraged the morels that accompanied the trout dish. Austin Murphy, Pro-Staffer for Whackfactor Outdoors, “harvested” the main ingredient in the venison stew in Flint Hill, Virginia.

So in case you haven’t heard: wild game dinners are the new black. Here is the full menu for those of you anxious to recreate the deliciousness with your own circle of hunter-gatherers:

Hot Mulled Cider, Honey Comb Infused Bourbon

Hickory Smoked Trout, Pan Fried Wild Morels, Roasted Beets

Wild Duck Cast Iron Mac and Cheese, Two-year aged Grafton Cheddar, Grana Padano, Duck Confit

Fire Roasted Quail, Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Granny Smith Apple Stuffing, Smoked Pork Belly BBQ Baked Beans

Venison Stew, Dutch Oven Chipotle Corn Bread

Smore Dessert, Graham Cracker, Dark Chocolate, Marshmallow, Candied Bacon
To keep up with Food = Art events, ‘like’ them on Facebook. Most photos displayed in this post, with the exception of a few, are from the artistic view of Sean Scheidt See more of his images from the event here.