Dining Out

Fresh Catch

Eating local with a focus on science


Few things are more synonymous with the Ocean State than seafood. The bounty of our waters has sustained generations upon generations of New Englanders, and made the region justifiably famous for its seafaring cuisine. Our birthright, however, is not something to be taken for granted. Pollution, overfishing, climate changes and other environmental issues can alter or endanger this precious food source, but responsible, sustainable stewardship of it can ensure that our children’s children’s children will still be enjoying clam cakes and chowder.

With that in mind, fisherwoman and environmentalist Sarah Schumann has launched Eating with the Ecosystem, a series of dinners intended to spotlight the amazing seafood our local waters produce and the tremendous culinary talent that prepares it, while also giving diners a better understanding of the delicate balance and complicated science needed preserve and sustain it. Schumann says she found inspiration for the dinners at the intersection of two important national food trends: the local food movement, which places a premium on knowing where your food comes from, engaging with the people who produce it, and appreciating the sense of place in its flavors; and the sustainable seafood movement, which has conscientious foodies forgoing Chilean sea bass in favor of Arctic char and consulting web sites and smart phone apps to make sure tonight’s fish special isn’t depleting the oceans. Eating with the Ecosystem keeps both in mind, allowing diners to interact with both fishermen and environmental scientists while appreciating the freshest local catches. “The local foods connections are already there,” Schumann notes. “All I’m doing is bringing in the philosophical and scientific components.”

The series begins on March 20 at Nicks on Broadway with the spotlight on Southern New England waters. The food will be sourced by Wild Rhody, a group of Point Judith fishermen working together to sell the quarry directly to local and regional restaurants. Chris Brown, co-owner of Wild Rhody, will speak at the dinner.

Schumann explains that our northeastern waters are generally divided into three regions: Southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. The latter two will be on display in the next two dinners: April 2 at Julian’s and April 30 at The Dorrance. Both dinners will feature guest speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Woods Hole, MA. Prices for the dinners will vary, and menus are still to be announced. Check the web site for more details and information.

“The point of all this is to get people talking,” Schumann says. “My hope is that people will leave with more questions than they had when they arrived, and that they will become part of a long-term conversation about sustainable seafood consumption in New England.”