Birch Aquarium hosts a green bash over the blue Pacific

Catherine L. Kaufman
Catherine L. Kaufman

“It's bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children's health than the pediatrician.” —Meryl Streep

“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.” —Elizabeth Berry

When the Scripps Birch Aquarium partners with Waters Fine Catering for an event, you get a divine, sustainable soiree with killer ambience overlooking the blue Pacific. Such was the recent launch for the aquarium’s new, interactive exhibit, “Boundless Energy,” the kind I used to have (and didn’t appreciate) before I had kids. It shows off high-tech turbines capturing wind power, mechanical fish harvesting a behemoth of solar energy, and wave tanks and water tables creating green energy out of the blue.

The ocean and wind provide a motherload of clean, natural energy that gives the soil, air and water a happier and healthier place for nature’s bounty of fruits, veggies, seafood and land food to thrive. Waters and Company catering, boasts about using regional, farmstead produce that let the seasons guide the menu, sustainable seafood, sound animal husbandry practices, no antibiotics or growth hormones in their locally raised meats, handcrafted, organic and artisan grains, flour and dairy and free-range eggs.

“This exhibit focuses on energizing kids about energy in the natural world,” said Nigelia Hillgarth, the aquarium’s executive director. “And in keeping with the green theme, we’ve worked with Waters Catering to maintain a 150-mile radius of local, sustainable produce and animals.”

In deference to the assorted marine creatures who reside at the aquarium, no fish or seafood was served at the environmentally-sound shindig. Fine substitutions included an assortment of passed hors d’oeuvres of crispy spring rolls stuffed with Suzie’s Organic Farm rainbow carrots, bean sprouts, and blue Scotch kale with a spicy pluot dipping sauce; organic pumpkin seed hummus cones; smoked bacon croquettes, a puree of Fibonacci’s Organic Garden heirloom potatoes, and natural Brandt beef hanger steak shish kabobs.

The play stations were rivaled only by the enticing food stations:

For the vegetarians:

A plate of handcrafted tortellini filled with Rey River Farms sweet white summer corn and housemade ricotta topped with smoked tomato coulis, and a grilled and chilled veggie salad with fennel and citrus vinaigrette.

For the pollitarians:

Nathan Rakov’s rosemary brine chicken breast with farmers market artichokes, crispy kale chips and heirloom tomatoes on a grilled polenta square.

For die-hard carnivores:

Braised short ribs with demi-glace and crisped shallot rings, paired with roasted garlic, and Meyer lemon-zested spuds.

For dessert:

A seasonal strawberry rhubarb crumble bar and salted caramel brownie bites; to wash it down nicely, a local small-batch artisan roaster coffee.

Consistent with the green spirit of the event, the food was served on white porcelain, with sterling service and crystal and glassware. Elegant and sustainable … especially if I don’t have to do the dishes!

Finally, I harvested my power of moxie to obtain the recipe for the grilled and chilled veggie salad from the kitchens of Waters. Serve with your favorite chicken, lamb or fish (allowed at home), or eat it straight up for a light green lunch.

Grilled Confetti Salad

A colorful selection of preferably local, organic summer vegetables:

1 small eggplant, peeled, if desired

2 medium zucchini

2 medium yellow zucchini (squash)

1 Fennel bulb

1 of each small red and orange bell peppers

2 garlic cloves, minced and blended with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice eggplant and zucchinis in ¼-inch thick cubes, and slice peppers in half and deseed. Core and separate fennel into pieces.

Brush vegetables with garlic oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until tender. Cut the peppers and fennel in uniform squares.

Add desired amount of salad dressing (below) just to moisten and flavor. Toss and chill.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 shallot

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 basil leaves

Salt and pepper to taste


Puree ingredients in a blender or food processor.

For more green and gorgeous recipes, including Waters’ strawberry rhubarb crumble bars, e-mail me at

or check out the Kitchen Shrink and company’s healthy gourmet blog at

  1. For more on Waters Fine Catering, visit

or (619) 276-8803.



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