Ever wonder what happened to orange roughy? The mild (some would say bland) white fish that was the darling of restaurant goers in the 1970s and '80s hasn't just fallen out of favor; it's been overfished to the point that it is virtually unavailable at any price. In the past few years -- coincidental with the burgeoning of upscale restaurants across the nation -- much the same has happened to New England sea scallops, Atlantic cod, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass. An alert reader who took exception to a recent column, in which I pledged to eat more sea bass in 2001, reminded me of the political nuances of our dinner choices. Sea bass tastes great, he concurred, but at what environmental cost? Several websites (www.mbayaq.org; www.nrdc.org and www.magazine.audubon.org among them) shed light on the controversial issue, providing lists of which fish species are in danger and which populations are environmentally sustainable. While the recommendations vary, most seem to agree that farm-raised tilapia, striped bass, catfish, and rainbow trout aren't problematic. Other sound choices come from well-managed populations of wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, mahi-mahi, calamari, Pacific Dungeness crab, and yellowfin/ahi tuna. Of course, not many restaurants list the origins of the fish and seafood they serve. So if the issue is important to you, ask. If enough diners indicate that responsible management of the oceans is important to them, it will become important to chefs and restaurateurs, too.
Local restaurants and bars are giving us some creative ways to keep warm this month, all built upon the jolly theme of wine drinking. Check out a tasting of affordable Cabernet Sauvignons at Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue, 216-531-4900) tonight (February 1 at 8:30 p.m.), where five wines will set you back a paltry seven bucks . . . At Flying Fig (2523 Market Street, 216-241-4243), you can raise a glass to Punxsutawney Phil during a tasting of white wines from Alsace, Germany, and California (February 2 from 6 to 8 p.m.). And on February 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., guests can sample an assortment of Syrahs from California, Australia, and France. Light appetizers from chef-owner Karen Small's sophisticated kitchen will add to the fun during both tastings; each event is $30 per person . . . Finally, after a well-deserved holiday break, wine guru Todd Thompson is at it again, with a new series of wine appreciation classes at Pier W (12700 Lake Avenue, Lakewood; 216-228-2250). On February 5, Thompson's students will get to try out eight Chilean and Argentinean wines for $20. The next night (February 6), the Pier's executive chef, Norbert Peissert, will be whipping up tidbits to complement a variety of wines, including Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, and Zinfandel; cost is $25. Reservations are suggested for all the events.
Gamekeeper's Tavern (87 West Street, 440-247-7744) should be reopening any minute now. The rustic restaurant in picturesque Chagrin Falls closed in January for renovations -- especially to the kitchen, which, according to partner Tom Lutz, was in fairly sorry shape after 25 years of roasting and toasting. Executive Chef Chris Johnson and Chef Lonnie Norman have spruced up the menu, too; look for old favorites like game and fresh seafood to remain, although treatments will be more contemporary.