RENEW IOWA: Locally Raised Fish Make Splash

Renew Iowa
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You can go out and get a nice dinner for not a lot of money this week. Restaurant Week runs through Sunday at 32 Des Moines area restaurants. You can get two lunches or a 3 course dinner for $25. The focus is local this year for restaurant week. Chefs created meals with meat and produce from Iowa farms. One restaurant even found fish locally.

Bradley West with Splash Seafood says, “This is a red pepper coulis with it, which is from local peppers.” Sure, you can find red peppers grown locally this time of year, Along with mini tomatoes and fresh greens, but what about fish?” Showing a dish, West says, “We’re featuring a hybrid striped bass.”

West says Splash Seafood is known for the restaurant’s fresh fish. He says, “There’s a misconception that we’re in the Midwest, and this is a seafood place, and is the fish going to be fresh. Well, we get it flown in 4 days a week, sometimes 5.”

Now, Splash Seafood’s chefs get fish for one dish driven in. He says, “When we brought it here, they were still alive.”

The fish is as fresh as it gets. It will come from Iowa’s First, a new fish farm in Hamilton County, just about an hour north of Des Moines. Jeff Nelson says, “It was formerly a farrowing farm for hogs. We converted it over to raising fish.”

Nelson says he and his cousin Mark Nelson started researching the project three and a half years ago. In March, they brought fish from Arkansas to their farm north of Blairsburg. They currently have 12 10,000 gallon tanks. Mark Nelson says, “It will produce, right now, a little over 200,000 pounds of fresh fish a year with just what we have with these tanks.”

The cousins plan to add six more tanks in the next few weeks. The fish swim in climate controlled water that’s recirculated every 40 minutes. They say the striped bass grow in fresh water free of contaminants. Mark Nelson says, “This fish right here is really high in omega 3 and omega 6. It’s really a heart healthy type of fish to eat.”

The cousins say they’ve had interest from buyers in the Midwest. For now, you can find it at the farm and at Splash Seafood. West says, “Everyone who hears about this is really interested in getting this fresh fish from these guys.”

This is the fifth anniversary for Restaurant Week.

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