Have a craving for some gooseneck barnacles and sturgeon-liver mousse?
You’re in luck. These overlooked and 0ft-snubbed delicacies and others are about to grace the menu of one of Vancouver’s finest restaurants for a most unusual seafood festival.
Unsung Heroes returns to Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe this February for its 12th annual instalment. The month-long festival puts the spotlight on local, unique seafood that diners often pass on or turn up their noses at. Menus in past years have included everything from red sea urchin trifle to stir-fried jellyfish and poached periwinkle.
The goal is to turn diners on to these underused seafood options, which are plentiful, locally available and sustainably caught or farmed, while at the same time relieving pressure on overfished and over-harvested marine life, like Atlantic cod and bluefin tuna.
Blue Water Cafe, in turn, donates 10 percent of proceeds to Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. Founded in 2005, Ocean Wise works with restaurants and suppliers to ensure they’re serving sustainable seafood and also empowers diners with the facts on what to eat and what to avoid.
Interestingly, fans of Asian cuisine will note that many of the so-called “unsung heroes” feature prominently on Chinese restaurant menus in Vancouver. Sea cucumbers, geoduck and jellyfish are all mainstays of certain Chinese dishes, though they’re rarely found on Western menus.
While the official 2016 menu for the Unsung Heroes festival is a tightly guarded secret, executive chef Frank Pabst has promised to incorporate some previously unavailable ingredients, like those steamed gooseneck barnacles and sturgeon-liver mousse. Dishes are generally served as small sharing plates (around $10-$15), so diners can sample multiple offerings. Some highlights from last year’s menu included:
- sea urchin mousse in a lettuce wrap, served with calamari crackers and ponzu jelly for $14.50;
- jellyfish congee with beef tongue, snow peas, bean sprouts, garlic chips and hoisin dressing for $12.50; and
- whelk (a type of sea snail) served “escargots style,” cooked in seaweed butter with parsley and garlic for $9.50.
The 2016 menu will be unveiled on the Blue Water Cafe website.