Foodie Seeks Relationship With Fresh Fish

Imagine sitting down to eat at Marea, the Midtown Manhattan seafood mecca captained by renowned chef Michael White. You know you're in for a scintillating evening of seafood. You order the razor clams. They arrive beautifully dressed in fennel and peperoncino, but you wonder about the history of these clams — where did they come from? What brought them here to you tonight?

Those seeking a more intimate and transparent relationship with their food and its producers now have answers. As a sort of variation on the farm-to-table movement, there is a new program founded by New England fisherman that makes it possible to connect with your seafood, and you can do it through your smartphone. This program is called "Trace and Trust," and while it won't give you facetime with octopi, it will tell you exactly where your seafood comes from, who caught it and when it was reeled in.

Here's how it works:

Everything caught by fishermen participating in the program (which is called Wild Rhody) is given an identification number. Restaurants and distributors display this number, which, when typed into your smartphone, results in a message that goes something like, "Congratulations! Your fish has been found!" The message then details the name of the fisherman and where their boat is docked, the date the fish was caught, where it was caught and when it was shipped to the location.

Fishermen Steve Arnold, Bob Wescott and Christopher Brown founded both Wild Rhody and Trace and Trust to satisfy the need for a program that provided ultra-fresh seafood and "vessel level traceability." They began talking to chefs from Rhode Island who expressed interest, and the program developed from there.

Currently up to 10 fishermen and 41 restaurants (Marea is one of them) are involved in the program, with many more expressing interest. Arnold says that Trace and Trust is struggling to keep up with demand: "Some chefs aren't interested so much in traceability as much as they are in having the personal relationship (the trust side) with the fisherman. Others want both."

While the program is only active in New England at the moment, Trace and Trust plans to expand to North Carolina, Maryland and California. If you're having trust issues with your seafood and want to know how you can trace it, check out the Trace and Trust website for a restaurant location near you. We typed in our ZIP code at the site and found that Marea has a new shipment of black bass from Arnold himself. Now we not only know where we're eating dinner, but how that dinner got there.

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