Friday, September 4, 2015

Prairie Grass Cafe Aims to Promote Sustainable Fishing, One Fish Fry at a Time

Chef/Owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris of Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd.; Northbrook, IL; 847-205-4433) have introduced a delicious way of keeping a beloved Midwestern food tradition alive while doing something noteworthy for sustainability. Their just launched Prairie Grass Fish Fry lunch and dinner on Thursdays and Fridays will be a throwback to the weekly Fish Fry tradition, but with a sustainable and artisanal chef's touch.

Currently the Prairie Grass Fish Fry, priced at $28, will feature Batter Fried Wild Alaskan Black Cod with Fish Fry 300Potato Wedges, served with Peach and Corn Slaw. The menu will change weekly depending on fish availability and seasonality of ingredients, giving guests a good reason to return frequently. The black cod is pot caught in Petersburg, Alaska which is on the "green list" from Monterey Seafood Watch.

"George and I want to express our commitment to sustainable fishing while giving our lunch and dinner guests a special treat twice every week," said Stegner. "We know how much people on the North Shore love their Fish Fry, complete with potatoes and other goodies, so we're serving it on Thursdays and Fridays. The best news is that it's delicious. The second best news is that at Prairie Grass Cafe we're using only sustainable fish and fresh locally farmed ingredients when possible. It's a winner on several levels."

Why Raise Awareness about Sustainable Fishing?
"Our Fish Fry program can help raise awareness about sustainable fishing, and so it is something we're going to aggressively promote," said Stegner.

According to Oceana, the not-for-profit advocacy and research organization (, the primary trend to reverse is global overfishing, which is destroying the environment at a much higher rate than we once anticipated, and it is unsustainable. Overfishing occurs when the number of fish removed from their habitats is greater than their reproduction rate. This causes entire species of fish to die off, leading to drastic deterioration of our marine and, ultimately, our terrestrial ecosystems. Ocean acidification, caused by a range of industrial processes, is another major issue facing our marine habitats.

According to National Geographic, commercial fishing removes more than 170 billion pounds of wildlife from the sea each year. This rapid removal has caused 80% of the world's natural fisheries to be in a state of collapse. The three main fish used in fish fries are cod, haddock, and flounder. But overfishing of these mainstream commercial species during the past decade has resulted in a 95 percent drop in these populations.

"That's why Prairie Grass Cafe is using Wild Alaskan Black Cod," said Bumbaris. "It is one species that is not being overfished. We will continue to use sustainably fished species as our Fish Fry program continues."
Stegner and Bumbaris are active supporters of the Right Bite, the Shedd Aquarium's conservation program. The program's goal is to promote the consumption of responsibly and sustainably sourced fish so that our marine ecosystems, including the Great Lakes, remain sound. Many people, roughly 36 million in the U.S. and Canada, depend on the Great Lakes for food, home, livelihood, and clean drinking water.
The world's global marine ecosystems are also at major risk. The United States is the world's second largest seafood market and more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is caught or processed overseas. Scientists have determined that if we continue to overfish our oceans and fresh water sources, there will be no seafood left by the year 2048. We need to choose sustainable seafood options to promote healthier ecosystems and protect marine life.

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