It Gets Festive When Scallops Get Jazzy

Fried Preparations Catch First and Second at Festival
Jun 28, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly The crew from Mustache Bill’s Diner in Barnegat Light, which won first place.

Scallops and jazz harmonized Saturday, under a big-top tent just a few steps from the majestic boats that hauled in the catch. It was another memorable Jazzy Scallop & Seafood Festival at Viking Village in Barnegat Light.

The 700 tickets sold this year made for an event big enough to be a crowd but “local” enough that you elbowed a few friends and neighbors, plus commercial fishermen testing what the chefs created with their bounty.

The “behind the scenes” scene was part of the show – a flurry of cooking choreography along the perimeter of the tent. Chefs were competing for votes, so scallops, tuna and tilefish were set forth in ways to win the tasters over.

At the end of the day, fried scallops done right took home top prize, according to tasters who cast their ballots.

Mustache Bill’s Diner in Barnegat Light, with its signature fried scallops and tartar sauce, was voted first place. It wasn’t the first time the diner had taken Jazzy Scallop’s top slot.

Second place went to Chef Frank Benowitz and Mercer County Community College Culinary Programs, with beer and vodka-battered fried scallops with Jersey General Mango Salsa.

Third-place vote-getter was Viking Fresh Off the Hook of Barnegat Light, with chef Nick Mains' satisfying poke bowls of sliced sushi-grade tuna, rice, seaweed, and ginger with ponzu sauce.

“We actually served over 400 portions in the first hour and a half. People have come back two or three times, getting two the first time, four the second time, some six. So I guess the proof is in the pudding, in this case, the scallops,” Benowitz said mid-afternoon.

“Mustache Bill’s would like to say thank you so much to the tasters and our overwhelmingly supportive fans for honoring us at the Jazzy Scallop Festival. We very much appreciate the acknowledgement as we constantly strive to maintain the highest levels of quality and consistency for our patrons,” said owner Bill Smith after the event.

The $25 to $30 ticket cost netted samples from not one but 10 restaurants, plus fresh raw clams and refreshing sorbet. “The Bansai Bills” cast memorable jazz tunes into the scene, and there were raffle prizes and a silent auction.

The combination was enough to entice a Cherry Hill couple to spend their fourth wedding anniversary at Jazzy Scallop. “This is how we chose to spend our anniversary,” said Jane and Dan, a soft-spoken middle-aged couple who didn’t want to give their last name. “We loved the variety. The tasting was fun. It was excellent.”

Ernie Panacek, general manager of Viking Village Commercial Seafood Producers, said the event serves to raise awareness of the efforts that go into sustainable fishing practices. Besides that, festival proceeds through the sponsoring Larson-Puskas Education Partnership benefit local nonprofit organizations and provide scholarships to area high schools. Major business sponsors got behind the event this year, their names filling the back of the T-shirt Panacek was wearing.

“We’re trying to show people where the seafood comes from and how responsibly the fishermen fish. There are local people that don’t even realize there is a commercial fishing industry here in Barnegat Light and we work really hard to be responsible and catch it so everybody can enjoy it. I think they’re enjoying it today. It’s a great opportunity, and we love the turnout.”

Here’s what the other restaurants presented, as described in the festival program: The Arlington & Daymark, scallop crudo with yuzu truffle vinaigrette; Black-Eyed Susans, poached golden tilefish and scallop salad with avocado, lemon, strawberry and basil; Calabria, Viking Village scallop with smoked bacon, Vidalia onion confit and pied montes verde sauce; Inlet Deli, tangy scallop slider – seared scallop topped with Inlet creamy slaw on a sweet Hawaiian roll; Kubel’s & Kubel’s Too, seared blackened scallop with avocado and pico de gallo on a tortilla chip; Spice Catering, scallop fritter – diced sea scallops and parmesan cheese fried in a zesty batter with choice of avocado mayo or mango sauce; Wally’s, rare-seared, blackened Ahi served with house-made soy vinaigrette and pickled ginger.

ReClam the Bay served fresh raw clams on the half-shell, and they were among the other “winners” of the event, as recipients this year of a donation from event proceeds. The donation will help buy tiny clam “seed stock” that the ReClam the Bay program will raise into young clams to be turned over to Barnegat Bay clammers for future production.

The Long Beach Island PTA was the other donation recipient.

— Maria Scandale









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