Variations on a Steam: Barton Seaver cooks seafood that tastes like seafood.
Variations on a Steam: Barton Seaver cooks seafood that tastes like seafood. Credit: Pilar Vergara

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Barton Seaver looked a little glassy eyed when he showed up for our scheduled lunch today at Surfside, the Glover Park seafood grill owned by his buddy, chef David Scribner. Seaver apologized for being slightly out of it; he’s battling a bug, he said, and was still feeling the effects of the medicinal hot toddy he sucked down last night (recipe below).

Seaver agreed to meet so we could talk about what his future holds. It has been, after all, more than two months since he split from Hook, the sustainable seafood house in Georgetown that he almost single-handedly designed, and I hadn’t heard a thing about his whereabouts. The funny thing, Seaver told me right after sitting down, is that within hours of resigning from Hook, he was presented with a chance to work for one of D.C.’s best-known and highest-end restaurants. He declined to make that phone call (or to name the restaurant publicly—-sorry!)

He has his reasons for not wanting to jump back into the kitchen: He realized one day that he “hated” the people who were walking the streets at 6:30 p.m. “They were providing me with a reflection of my choices,” he said, choices that included working late and working weekends and working almost daily. “Everyone should have a reasonable work day. I just never had one.”

Seaver is striving for a reasonable work life, however, and it likely will not include running or cooking at a restaurant. “I’m really not interested in that,” he says. Instead, Seaver has a number of ideas and projects that he’s developing. Top among them are a pair of TV shows that he’s shopping—-one a cooking show, the other a program “looking at the people behind sustainable food.” Seaver hopes to “follow the PBS model. That’s where I want to end up.”

No matter what Seaver ends up doing, however, he plans to move beyond a message of sustainability, a focus that he now believes may be too narrow. It’s not enough, Seaver thinks, to merely sustain, say, a fish stock at 6 percent of its historic population; we need to start rebuilding populations. One idea he has concerns a new way to rethink and refashion commercial aquaculture facilities so that we can “feed more people with fewer fish.” He also wants to take these new technologies to developing countries where they can start building their own new generation of aquaculture facilities—and start building whole new economies.

More immediately, of course, Seaver just wants to shake his cold.

Barton Seaver’s Medicinal Hot Toddy*
Your tea of choice (to your desired strength)
3 lemons cut in half and juiced
5 tbsp honey or maple syrup (Seaver prefers the syrup)
2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp cinnamon ground or 1 cinnamon stick broken up
4 cups water.

Place all ingredients together, including the juiced lemon rinds and bring to a boil. Take off boil, strain, and drink.

Personal note from Seaver: I thought the toddy was great with a shot of Calvados in it. Bourbon, rum, or brandy would work well, too, depending on your preference.

* Cautionary note from blog author: Measurements are approximate. The poor dude was sick, after all, and not precisely measuring out every damn ingredient.

Photograph by Pilar Vergara