YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR LOCAL NEWS UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY Follow OBX News as it happens http://outerbanksvoice.com Community News It’s time to rise up and fight this catfish with forks and knives Article and Photos By Jim Trotman The Invaders were at the gates. So we caught them and ate them. And they were delicious. It seems like a regular thing that we seafood consumers are being told to avoid a certain species because it’s becoming endangered. If we are good-hearted people, we obey. Which is why we’ve been sorely missing Chilean sea bass. So it came as a bit of a surprise to be told that if we want to do right by our local ecosystem, we really need to get out there and eat a particular species, blue catfi sh in this instance, and do so in a hurry. We recently joined about 30 other interested folks for the “Fish & Flights: Fighting Invasive Blue Catfi sh with Forks and Knives,” an educational outreach dinner held at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café. The North Carolina Coastal Federation held the dinner was to raise awareness of the drastic impact this invasive species is having in North Carolina Coastal waters. The blue catfi sh is highly adaptable, eats darn near anything and grows to astounding proportions. It is native to the Mississippi Delta and has been introduced to other waterways as a means to help struggling fi sheries. Virginia and South Carolina were participants in such a scheme, but fi sh are lousy at observing state lines and they migrated southward, enjoying and now threatening the abundant and varied sea life here in North Carolina. The main problem is, they are so good at what they do, eating and breeding and growing, they have few natural predators. In fact, I have met Blue Cat predators and they are us. And so, the promotion of humans to consume blue catfi sh with gusto and expand the commercial markets for them seems to be a wise tactic. We were brought this information between courses of small plates by Thomas Hennessey, an undergraduate intern at UNC-Chapel Hill who gave an overview of his research with a PowerPoint presentation. Hennessey and Sara E. Mirabilio, fi sheries specialist with the North Carolina Sea Grant Extension Program answered a bevy of questions at the conclusion of the meal. The courses were touted as tapas, yet the servings were ample enough that all three added up to a quite satisfying meal. Using virtually all locally sourced ingredients, Chef Bud Gruninger proved there was more than one way to cook a Cat. For those who chose to imbibe, a fl ight of beers was paired to the dishes. A few months ago we took part in the cape shark (spiny dogfi sh) tasting series project carried out by Sea Grant and the North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, the goal being to gather data that would help broaden a local market for this now sustainable fi sh. Having grown up on catfi sh, this latest tasting was less of challenge. We were eager to do our part. And who can say no to catfish and beer? Not long after seating, the fi rst of the beers appeared. This Foothills “Torch” Pilsner was crisp and refreshing. Then the fi rst plate arrived, Pan Blackened Blue Catfi sh, flash fried at high temperature, much in the style of Chef Paul Prudhomme, who perfected and popularized the technique at K Paul’s in New Orleans. Sides of collards and a sweet potato puree helped tame the heat. For the second course, Duck Rabbit Amber Ale was matched with Oma Pearl’s Fried Blue Catfi sh with pecans in the coating. Sweet potato fries and Cole slaw joined the plate and a bit of marmalade was included for dipping. Another Foothills beer, this one the “Hoppyum” IPA preceded the entrance of the fi nal course, Beer Battered Fried Catfi sh Taco. This was dressed with Pico De Gallo, a zippy Chipotle slaw and a Lime Sour Cream Drizzle adding a tart counter note to the savory catfi sh fi let. Pan blackened blue catfi sh. Pecan Crusted Blue Catfi sh. Thomas Hennessey presented his research on the invasion of the blue catfi sh into North Carolina waters from Virginia. If we were alone, we would have attempted to eat this in the traditional style, but it’s girth had us resorting to knife and fork. With each plate, the fish was the star, the flesh tender and fl aky and able to stand up to the various treatments. This is a fi sh that is plentiful, good tasting and good for you. So troops, here are your orders. Get out there and eat some blue cats. It is your duty. And they are tasty. Beer Battered Blue Catfi sh Taco 26 Albemarle Tradewinds December 2016 albemarletradewinds.com
YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR LOCAL NEWS UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY Community News Ben Noffsinger: Forging a future, preserving the past Follow OBX News as it happens http://outerbanksvoice.com Story, video and photos by Matthew Haskett Tall, bearded and covered in soot, Ben Noffsinger greets me and leads me into his shop. Hidden in a small garage behind a scattering of kayaking supplies, his workshop is a strong contrast to the typical things you will see in Dare County. “The online bladesmithing communities told me that I could do this,” he said, so he took some initial steps into becoming the craftsman he is today. This workshop is Nafzger Forge, and it is here that Noffsinger works as a bladesmith crafting knives. Noffsinger looks the part, but that may be the end of where the blacksmith of reality and imagination merge. It became apparent that the image of sparks fl ying as hammer meets metal followed by a sizzle and steam rising as the iron cools in water are not the defi ning features of his work. Instead, the skills of an artist — precision and great care — were the ones that were most fascinating. He removed orange-hot steel from his forge and placed it on his anvil. One strong, well-aimed smash of a hammer branded the steel with the Nafzger Forge insignia. He then carefully inspected the steel lengthwise for irregularities and carefully hammered them straight. He smiled: “To me, this is the moment I realize that each piece of steel will become a knife.” Noffsinger grew up in Manteo. His father relocated here from Raleigh to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The natural world has played an important part in his life, and he enjoyed hunting, fi shing, camping and other elements of rural society that are often idolized. In school, he gravitated toward Scandinavian and Medieval history, culture and mythology. He was a strong and gifted student and completed high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and went to N.C. State University to study wildlife science. Throughout this time, he was interested in blades and crafting, but those interests were largely restricted to his imagination, video games and backyard misadventures. After N.C. State, Noffsinger began to work at The Red Hen, a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Va. The philosophy of local production and sustainability had a profound effect on him, and the idea came to him that the knives he was using were something that he could make. He feels that there is an appeal in both using a handmade product and knowing who made it. Noffsinger began to research bladesmithing online and found an open and tight-knit community. His interests were shared and embraced and he found the support he needed. He bought an anvil and got in touch with a person who could help him make his own forge. The skills were hard to learn at fi rst, but the online bladesmithing communities gave him the answers to his questions, explained complex steps and helped him correct his imperfections. In 2012, Noffsinger sold his fi rst knife for $100 to a chef in Lexington. In 2013, he moved to Morganton, N.C. and took a full-time job as a blacksmith working for Oak Hill Iron. The same year, his Nafzger Forge stamp came in and his business began to take shape. At the End of 2015, he was selling two to three knives a month, and bladesmithing became his full-time job. Today, he is selling 10 to 12 knives a month and he has shipped his knives as far as New Zealand. Noffsinger sees his work as more than a simple trade. He sees bladesmithing as “a part of history that is integral which we have forgotten about.” I ask Ben about the blacksmiths and bladesmiths that use their skills to craft art objects and movie props. Ben explains that he was always interested in their work, but the fact that knives have practical use is one of his primary motivators. “If the things I made were not useful and practical, it would feel foolish.” Noffsinger explains that chefs are “one of the last remaining professions that relies on a blade,” and he sees his bladesmithing as an effort to keep this human history alive. A knife from Nafzger Forge can run from $150 to the mid- $300s. The costs may seem prohibitive to some, but Noffsinger says the prices are very competitive to similar handmade products. But more importantly, Noffsinger wants his customers to be of a mindset that you are making an investment when you purchase one of his knives. Not just an investment in the knife itself, but an investment in an ideology that you should know where the things you buy come from, that your purchasing power should support communities and families from the grass roots and that you are honoring an important part of human history and culture. Did you know the Albemarle Tradewinds is located in more than 250 locations in NENC and Chesapeake? Noffsinger sees his work as more than a simple trade. He sees bladesmithing as “a part of history that is integral which we have forgotten about” RY LIVE GAME. EVERY SUNDAY. V RY LIVE GAME. E 2016 NFL SUNDAY TICKET INCLUDED WHEN YOU SWITCH TO DIRECTV. $ 60 00 MO. Plus taxes. For 24 months W/ 24-mo. TV agmt. & other qual. AT&T service.* Regional Sports fee applies in certain markets. facebook.com/AlbemarleTradingPost Albemarle Tradewinds December 2016 27 2-Year all-included pricing CHOICE All-Included Package FREE YOURSELF FROM BAD CREDIT CALL FOR A FREE CONSULTATION TODAY Renews at full price. 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