The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

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Page 119 of 128

After two years, abalone grow one to two inches and are almost ready for bigger holding tanks. Situated on a stunning piece of Cayucos coastline in Central California, The Abalone Farm typically produces about one million abalone annually and is the largest such aquaculture facility in the country. Because the mollusks—a type of sea snail—are efficient feeders, and because of the farm's vigilant water monitoring, the operation is a model of sustainability, even with such high production. U.S. farmed abalone is a "Best Choice" on Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, the industry standard bearer for identifying "ocean-friendly seafood." The Abalone Farm raises the prized California red abalone. It's priced accordingly, but that's understandable considering these mol- lusks take a minimum of four years to reach their market size of three to four inches across. Admittedly, the price point presents a challenge for chefs, but The Abalone Farm has begun offering "trim" as a far less costly option. This dark, bearded foot of the mollusk is a byproduct of hand-process- ing abalone steaks. It has the same flavor, but does present some visual challenges. "It's a matter of educating the public," said Brad Buckley, The Abalone Farm's Sales and Marketing Manager. "The color is a natural pigment, so it would be like getting used to truffles, mushrooms or squid ink." The finished dish as served at Artisan restaurant in Paso Robles. Shaun Behrens, Executive Chef of Luna Red in San Luis Obispo, has success with the product in such dishes as an "abalone skirt" salad. A marinade and light poaching keeps the trim tender, "and it has that earthy flavor and bite of a shiitake mushroom," Behrens notes. "What's also important for me is that it's a sustainable product, and we're utiliz- ing something that would otherwise be thrown away." The trim can also be used to flavor consommé, or even ground up for a binder in dumplings, explained Chef Chris Kobayashi (a two-time James Beard award nominee) of Artisan restaurant in Paso Robles. Sustainability is also essential, as with all of his protein sourcing. "If it wasn't sustainable and local, we really wouldn't even have it on the menu," he said. august 2012 / the tasting panel / 119 PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTISAN

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