I was lucky enough to be invited by Amber Stott to moderate a Q and A session for a short documentary film about sea urchins with the director and star. I think it went really well, especially because I know how it is to feel trapped at a film Q & A. Although the film was only 18 minutes long so that doesn't really apply. The director, Alex Finden is very talented (and looked about 22) and the star was a real character. He's 70 and has been diving for sea urchin for 50 years. I would link to it but you need a vimeo sign in from him because he's taking it around to film festivals. I got to try Billy Ngo's famous uni panna cotta (made famous by BAR in his awesome review) and I have to say it was too rich for me. I can't imagine eating a bigger portion. Uni walks the line between beautiful and gross for me, if that makes sense, and I prefer just one bit of perfectly firm nigiri. Even by the second huge bit of nigiri I feel like I'm not sure I want more. The first bit can be absolutely perfect though.
I learned a lot about sea urchin. I learned that it starts out really soft but then they firm it up with alum phosphate. They can live about 30 years but become mature at I think he said 2 or 3 (might have been six or 7). The Italians prefer it right out of the shell. In San Diego you can eat it that way at the farmer's market or just right on the dock. The stuff from SD is considered some of the finest in the world because they feed on 5 kinds of kelp (according to the diver) and there is definitely a terroir based on what they eat and probably the salinity, etc., just like oysters. The fisherman bagged on the nor cal stuff of course but the director said he tried it for the first time at Kru on Friday and thought it was fine. Such a fun time!
It reminded LM and I of the article in Lucky Peach about the Korean female shellfish divers and how they are aging out with no young people to take their place. Coincidentally the NYTimes wrote an article about them the same day. Wow, did they go to complete paywall? I haven't looked at it much lately but you used to get 20 free articles, so I can't link it.
Am I alone in never getting through a Lucky Peach. I love the idea of it but I kind of find it a chore to read. Some of that is jealousy, I admit.
More pics after the jump!