Some people find peace through meditation. Others pray. For the nearly-twenty years I lived in Florida, I found equilibrium underwater, scuba-diving on coral reefs. When I stepped off the boat and the water closed over my head, reality changed. Noise diminished. The horizon faded. I felt weightless, buoyed by air in my equipment and balanced by long slow deep breaths.
As I heard the mechanical rasp of my breath in the mouthpiece, my heart-rate slowed. I n h a l e, feel the lungs fill. E x h a l e, a slow stream of bubbles dribbled up, disappearing in the blue.
Below and around were reefs, natural cities of plants and animals in browns, blues, greens, oranges and yellows. Soft corals waving in the current, lacy sea fans rippling. Bright yellow tube sponges tucked into crevices. Hard corals as green and brown boulders or shaped like pointed antlers.
In, around and above it all lived a plethora of fish. A vibant meditation of form, color and movement.
|Photo credit: Daryl Duda, courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/REEF.org/|
|Lionfish photo courtesy Reef.org|
In recognition of the danger, groups such as REEF, a nonprofit marine education and conservation group, have begun to fight back through education, lionfish roundups and more. Reef even publishes a lionfish cookbook to encourage folks to harvest and eat the fish.
As longtime REEF members, my husband Denny and I have contributed reef fish surveys to the database and are happy about efforts to reduce the lionfish threat.
But what could we do in the Texas Hill Country? The answer appeared at happy hour last week after a friend called me to meet her at The Downtowner Kitchen. Over a glass of wine, she told me they serve lionfish.
Sounded good to me--I'm tickled to help make a market for lionfish by eating them at a fun cafe in New Braunfels. Good eating and good for the planet.
|The Downtowner Kitchen in New Braunfels has an eclectic feel.|
Not to mention a local DJ named Barrett Read who spins "Soul Brunch" on the weekends.
Last week I went twice. And I'm letting you in on it now so you can feel like a local too when you ask for lionfish. You won't see it on the menu even though it's a regular offering, flown in fresh from Florida. Owner/Executive Chef Chad Niland hasn't printed it on the menu because he doesn't want to disappoint if weather interferes with the harvesting, which is done by spearfishing.
For folks who wonder about eating venomous fish, it might set your mind at ease to know that the fillets are from the sides of the fish, away from the venom in the dorsal, anal and pectoral spines. Still curious? Check this video:
Most folks like lionfish because it's a mild white fish with a delicate texture when cooked. Chef Chad does several lionfish dishes, each with separate appeal. Some are only served at dinner. I've tried three but others are on my radar.
|Grilled lionfish at The Downtowner Kitchen in New Braunfels, TX.|
|Blackened lionfish sandwich, The Downtowner Kitchen, New Braunfels, TX.|
A note about prices, lionfish is hand-speared and flown in, just two fillets per fish, so the price per pound of usable meat is not low. But it's a price worth paying, both for the experience and for the reefs.
Want to enjoy yourself and feel good about helping the coral ecosystem? Check out the lionfish dishes at The Downtowner Kitchen.
The Downtowner Kitchen
208 S Castell Ave.
New Braunfels, TX 78130
Tues-Weds 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
Friday 10 a.m.-12 a.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Then tell me what you think.
Copyright 2009-2017 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.