Event - Slapfish's Summer of Sustainability Series Preview

Slap a sustainable summer in your face! The series has started already and is well on its way of six weeks of sustainable seafood specials (yes, I really am going to S up this post). June 3rd was the start of Slapfish's superstar campaign based on seafood sustainability, a campaign featuring separate seafood specials per week of the six weeks, complete with facts and significant information about the seafood choices. The beloved business that just celebrated their first anniversary has always very strongly and publicly supported the values of seafood sustainability, and it has been extremely obvious how welcoming the community has been to this outlook. This Summer of Sustainability campaign is just another fish in their large sea of ideas on getting you to eat better for yourself and for the environment but hey, it sure is a tasty one (as always). We got a tasting of the splendid specials so here's the dish on them!

(June 3-9) Wild Pacific Albacore Tuna Melt - $9.50
Rustic sourdough | spinach, cucumber, tomato, flaked albacore | awesome sauce
"MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified, locally sourced and managed, the quality of this tuna can’t be beat. Troll-caught and pole-caught tuna, where the fish are caught by individual hooks targeted at them, preserves the quality of the fish, since they don't spend any time scrambling in nets or then "drowning" once brought on board waiting their turn for processing. These fishing methods also create almost no bycatch (fish and other sea animals caught while trying to caught a specific species, which are often killed and wasted in the process)."
We had our dishes in chronological order according to release date and were graced by Chef Andrew Gruel's presence and short seminars. Every dish got a detailed explanation about the seafood itself, the source, and its seasonality. The pole-caught tuna in the first item, the tuna melt, is especially important in the role of assuring sustainability as its personalized catching style circumvents the typical fisherman's issues of bycatch (other creatures caught & "wasted" because they aren't the targeted species). A feel-good sandwich, this melt had the perfect crunch in the sourdough and an impressive tuna to cheese ratio. Get it while it's hot, literally!

(June 10-16) BBQ Yellowtail Banh Mi - $9.50
Fresh baked baguette | packed with pickled radish, cucumber, carrots, jalapeno, and spiced yellowtail | grill sauce
"California yellowtail is most commonly found along the Pacific Coast between Southern California and Baja, California. California yellowtail begins to reproduce at a young age and produces large numbers of young, traits that help it withstand fishing pressure. The stocks are well managed in U.S. waters."
It seemed like Duc took it upon himself to be the "banh mi" expert when trying out this sandwich (his supposed legitimacy in this matter = his being Vietnamese). No complaints here apparently as this sandwich was stellar. As with the previously explained fish choice, the Yellowtail in this one is also handled environmentally consciously from start to finish. There was quite a spicy zip to the banh mi that came from the slivers of jalapeno combined with the pickled carrots and jicama. In true banh mi style, these were piled high with cilantro as well but nothing could hide the intense quality and beautiful natural flavors of the yellowtail. I believe we're coming back in again for this when it is available.

(June 17-23) Alaskan Halibut Po Boy - $11
Fried halibut in a toasted roll | packed with lettuce, tomato and pickled peppers | Tabasco aioli
"Pacific halibut is a bottom-dwelling groundfish that nestles into the sandy seafloor, often seen with only its eyes and mouth uncovered. Primarily found in the coastal North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, it migrates hundreds of miles from shallow coastal waters to the deep, open ocean to spawn in winter. Most return, year after year, to the same coastal feeding grounds. Most Pacific halibut are caught in Alaska where fishing for Pacific halibut is strictly limited to the bottom-long lining method, which causes little habitat damage or bycatch. Pacific halibut is also caught using troll lines and bottom trawl nets.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) manages Pacific halibut in Alaska. Each year, the IPHC conducts a population assessment and reviews independent assessments to set annual catch limits. These limits are allocated among licensed fishing vessels, giving each boat a prescribed percentage of the total. This process has resulted in longer fishing seasons, while keeping the population healthy and abundant."
One of the focuses of this series, according to Chef Gruel, is to have the dishes get a little messy. Items would be hand-held and slappy. A po boy is certainly a sandwich you cannot be prim and proper about, especially Slapfish's version. Gently fried halibut (which is just starting to come into season now) crunched perfectly between our teeth and yielded to flaky, white flesh. The pickled peppers and Tabasco aioli created a regional heat worthy of its inspiration's area; after all, what is a po boy outside of New Orleans other than a sandwich? Throwing in some Tabasco should help nudge any rendition closer to its roots. Having the spot-on OC Baking Company's bread doesn't hurt either (they provide all the breads for the dishes).

Smiles (usually) free of charge.
(June 24-30) Crispy White Seabass Taco - $7
Fried corn shell | pickled red onion and cabbage | rooster dressing
"Prized for its large size and good flavor, white seabass is found off California and both coasts of Baja California, Mexico. Fished commercially and for sport since the early 1900s, white seabass populations were in decline from the 1960s through the 1980s. New management efforts, including supplementing the wild population with hatchery-raised fish, have helped California's population recover.

Slapfish also uses FishWatch, a program maintained by NOAA Fisheries, the leading science authority for managing the nation’s marine fisheries. FishWatch provides easy-to-understand science-based facts and updated information on popular seafood harvested in the U.S., to help consumers make smart sustainable seafood choices. Programs such as these keep the environment healthy, populations of fish thriving, and our seafood industry on the job."
After such swallowing of bread-heavy specials, we tasters were in luck for the crispy taco. Historically fished to near extinction, the white seabass steadily made its way back into the seafood population after some farming and careful studying. It was a lovely light fish, softly seasoned and seared before being placed atop a smidgen of guacamole in a crispy shell and buried under pickled red onion and cabbage. The rooster sauce continued our exposure to spiciness that sitting as did the subtle chili pepper threads. Chives added sweet bursts of color as well.

(July 1-7) Copper River Salmon Hand Pie - Market $
Gently fried | stuffed with avocado and chiles | served with tomatillo sauce
"Prince William Sound salmon runs are all carefully managed for long-term sustainability by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ADF&G conducts weekly aerial surveys and monitors weirs at several points throughout the Prince William Sound estimating abundance to ensure an adequate number of fish migrate to spawning grounds to reproduce each year."
The salmon hand pie became a welcome sight for its distinctly different form of presentation from the rest. Instead of being nestled between buns, this fish found itself stuffed with plenty of avocado inside a roll of chive-brushed phyllo dough. The salmon was strong and flavorful, perfect in its flaky shell that paired soundly with the tomatillo sauce. Get this if you are looking for a hearty but small punch of seafood goodness.

(July 8-14) Baked Carlsbad Luna Oysters - Market $
Wild mushroom and bacon stuffing | herb crust
"Carlsbad Aquafarm Sustainably Farmed Shellfish. Unlike some farmed fish, oysters minimally impact marine resources as they don't rely on wild-caught fish - in the form of fishmeal or fish oil - for food. And, thanks to the oyster's filter-feeding action, oyster farms can actually benefit the surrounding coastal waters."
By far my favorite of the options (which happens to last be available on my birthday!) were the oysters. Chef Gruel expanded on the history of the oyster's beneficial role in the ocean's ecosystem, including how the oyster (nearly) solely helped bring the Chesapeake Bay back to a better state than it was in years before. An underrated but extremely important protein source of the ocean, the oyster is definitely not to be trifled with. Normally served shucked and raw, oysters take a bit of getting used to without any toppings. Slapfish's version for the summer is slightly different. Piled high with a wild mushroom and bacon stuffing, the oyster was divine. On equal footing via the shell itself, land  "brine" and sea brine met; it was bacon vs. oyster. Both lost to one slurp and swallow which married the two in their complementary ways. Each oyster must be had in one go as you have them. Order a plate or more of these; I bet you'll love them.

While the aforementioned specials may be sectioned off to specific weeks, the already-fantastic regular menu is not (save for the fact that they're seasonal). As we waited for the main dishes to saunter their way over to our soiree, we dipped magnificent chips in hearty lobster dip, cupped our hands under our mouths to catch falling seafood as we crunched on lobster toast, and tittered at the charming baby fry-basket holding sweet potato tots before devouring those in their spicy saucy goodness. You must get at these as well, and often enough, they'll release "secret" deals on their social media channels on how you can snag a side for free (go follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!).

If you're planning on gorging yourself silly on these slap-alicious dishes, don't forget to take pictures and post them up on whichever social media sites you decide to use. Make sure that you use #SlapfishSustainability and #SustainableTastesBetter too to show your support of seafood sustainability. So yes, drop on by Slapfish at 19696 Beach Blvd Huntington Beach, CA 92648 and get some fresh all up in your face.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook.