Hake in grape leaves, monkfish ceviche, pickled mackerel and scallop panzanella - likely four dishes you’ve never tried featuring several species that don’t make it onto just any seafood menu. But, chef Nikaline Iacono of Vessel & Vine, 4 Pleasant Street, Brunswick does not produce just any seafood menu. Through a partnership with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA), a local non-profit that works with Maine fishermen to promote sustainable fishing in the Gulf of Maine, Iacono was able to offer a unique selection of fresh catch for a series of six “Fishies on the Porch” dinners. Not only did this help bring attention to less familiar species, but it also helped to raise $2,000 for MCFA’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program.
The Fishermen Feeding Mainers project buys seafood directly from fishermen and donates it to area schools and food banks. Since October of 2020, the project has provided over 210,000 meals to those in need throughout Maine. Fishermen Feeding Mainers brought together two needs in the community - that of fishermen seeking a stable market for their catch and that of Mainers facing food insecurity. Although the project began during the pandemic, MCFA plans on continuing it into the future.
Part of MCFA’s broader work is to introduce people to seafood that they might not typically eat. Maine fishermen catch a variety of species and while some like lobster and haddock are familiar, others like monkfish and hake are abundant, sustainable and less well known. “Monkfish is something not a ton of folks are familiar with, so local restaurants showing it off is a great way.to try something new and maybe even get them cooking it at home.” said Brian Pearce, a monkfish fisherman out of Portland.
While diners sat on Vessel & Vine’s porch, they had a chance to sample some delicious seafood and also to learn about monkfish, MCFA’s mission, and the Fishermen Feeding Mainers project. The sold-out series of six dinners included both out of town guests eager to try Maine seafood and more local guests like Nat Wildes, co-founder of Flight Deck Brewing and executive director of Live Work Maine, who was dining with his wife and her parents. Wildes said, “It was a delight to experience a wonderful meal made with care and in a manner which inspired us to use more of the bountiful and sustainable resources our local community provides.”
The event was the first of what MCFA hopes will be several collaborations with local businesses in their efforts to promote Maine seafood and support small-boat fishermen and their communities. According to Iacono, “The event was a great success. I got so many interesting questions and compliments from people who had never tried these dishes and really loved them.” To learn more about future events or to donate to the Fishermen Feeding Mainers project, please visit www.mainecoastfishermen.org