When people talk about eating seasonally, they're usually referring to the harvest: butternut squash in the fall, asparagus in the spring, and so on. But at Stoic & Genuine,the hot new seafood restaurant in Union Station, seasonality refers to something different, something measured not in frost-free days but spawning, catch limits and water temperature. And that might come as news to landlocked Denverites, who assume that everything that swims is like the chicken of the sea, i.e. available 365 days a year. See also: Behind the Scenes at Stoic & Genuine
But that's as far from the truth as Colorado is from the ocean. "One fish I love, wild striped bass from Virginia, they catch a certain amount of on one river and then move up north and cycle around so they don't overfish certain areas," says Jennifer Jasinski, the James Beard award-winning chef who opened Stoic & Genuine with partner Beth Gruitch. "Some things come into season each month for a small period of time."
Others, like halibut, have a longer season, typically spring through late fall. But this year, "we didn't even make it to November," she says, noting that the early end to the season had ripple effects on the menu. The "chowder" with bacon-wrapped halibut that I wrote about in my review now comes with cod instead of halibut, and leeks and hazel dell mushrooms have replaced the corn.
Even seafood that is considered year-round isn't always available. "The kind of scallops we get are from day boats, they go out for one day," Jasinski says. "But some days the boats can't go out because of a storm." No boats, no scallops; no scallops, no scallops on the menu.
And what about oysters, which were traditionally eaten only in months with an "R"? That notion of seasonality came from spoilage on hot summer days as well as the risk of contamination from red tide. Many consider the rule to be outdated, but Jasinski says it has some truth to it. "If somebody said they wanted Gulf oysters, I'd say we won't have them until January, because the water is too warm and there are too many chances of bacteria," she explains. "You need to know certain areas. Most oysters that we've had on were from New Brunswick" and other northern waters.
No wonder the menu at Stoic & Genuine fluctuates as rapidly as the tide.