Jazzy Scallop & Seafood Festival in Barnegat Light Defies the Downpour

Jul 01, 2015
Photo by: Ryan Johnson

Jazzy Scallop was a festival under a tent big enough to hold tables of 500 friends and neighbors plus a jazz band, while along the perimeter, 11 chef stations dished out their competing fresh seafood delicacies.

Folks savored them with wine and beer, went back for more, then voted. It unfolded in the atmospherically surreal setting of Viking Village in Barnegat Light at dockside, where the commercial fishing vessels lined up in a proud red and white steel-on-water backdrop.

Some years, the afternoon sun gilds the scene. This time, buckets of rain unloaded at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than the forecast. But by that time, all who were coming were in the tent and three-quarters full, and narrowing down whom to vote for. And they had come in slickers in the first place, daring the downpour.

Neptune Market won the top number of votes, as the announcement came over the loudspeaker along with cheers from its fans. “Noonie’s,” as the locals call it, came from Harvey Cedars for the first time, bringing fresh tuna nachos over seaweed salad with sriracha, soy reduction, wasabi cream, scallions and sesame seeds.

Second place went to Mustache Bill’s Diner for its fried scallops and the diner’s own tartar sauce, which captured first place last year. Third in the vote count was Viking Fresh Off the Hook with a loaded mahi mahi fish taco on a flour tortilla with chipotle mayo and OTH custom salsa, greens and sour cream.

Attendees were heard to say all the entries were tasty. They were created by the following additional restaurants: The Arlington; Black-Eyed Susans; Cassidy’s Fish Market & Sushi Avenue/Wakefern; Cuisine on the Green; The Dutchman’s; Kubel’s & Kubel’s Too; Chef Frank Benowitz/Mercer County Community College Culinary Programs; and ReClam the Bay, which presented fresh raw clams on the half shell.

“The variety of the food that we had here was especially good; I think it was the best that they’ve had,” remarked Raymond “Capt. T” Bodine, of the Brighton Beach section of Long Beach Township.

“I liked the idea that it was strictly local seafood from here in Barnegat Light,” added Janet Bodine.

The Bodines brought their own table full of neighbors from 83rd Street. Carol Chapelle said she enjoys the Jazzy Scallop festival more than some others because “it isn’t overcrowded, and everybody’s polite and not pushy in line. And all the food is different and delicious.”

The seventh annual Jazzy Scallop & Seafood Festival raised funds for five scholarships through the Larson-Puskas Fisheries Education Partnership, said Heather Larson of Viking Village. This year, additional donations will go to the Barnegat Light Beach Patrol toward a lifesaving boat; and to ReClam the Bay for purchase of “seed stock” that is raised into young clams and turned over to clammers for future production.

(Did you know local clams are sweetest this time of year? The cherrystones at the ReClam table testified to that.)

The featured restaurants and chefs donated their time to showcase what can be done with the freshest, highest-quality scallops, tuna and mahi, caught by the Barnegat Light fleet.

Viking Village Commercial Seafood Producers will market about 1.3 million pounds of high-grade scallops alone this year, stressing “responsibly caught” practices that work along with federal management programs. Discerning diners recognize Viking Village scallops by size and sweetness. They’re found on plates not just on LBI but in the cities – orders are filled for casino buffets in Las Vegas.

Viking Village Dock Manager Ernie Panacek attested that the weather for this year’s Jazzy Scallop had “looked a little scary,” but it did hold off for the festival to get underway.

“We’re excited about our seventh annual festival; it’s a really good turnout. It really is important to showcase what we do at Viking Village, what the fishermen accomplish,” Panacek said. “There are quite a few of them here today. We’re happy to get the public to see it and sample it.”

“Helping ReClam the Bay to promote environmental education about the bay and rebuilding the clam stock in the bay is important,” he added.

It’s a good year for a scallop bounty.

“The scallops are very healthy, but the management plan has limited the catches a great deal. But we catch them at the right time, and they’re healthy and very good,” Panacek summed up.

Capt. Dane Knutson, skipper of the F. Nelson Blount, a 70-foot scalloper owned by Marion Larson, said the regulations are different every year as to the number of days and the location where harvesting is allowed.

“We have a lot less time, but every year it gets better. We used to fish a lot of days and get a real low price; now we fish a lot less days and get a better price.”

He and Ken Roma, owner of the Sea Dog and the Virginia Lynn, had also heard that day how the chefs love cooking with the large and tasty scallops. The fishermen pointed out that for the price per pound, scallops give a lot of product as compared to fish or lobster, where the buyer has to throw away the carcass.

The “Jazzy” in Jazzy Scallop was lent an upbeat, classy tone from Jimmy Merchant & Friends, a local jazz band comprised of Merchant on sax, Jonathan McElroy on bass, Michael Winnicki on drums and Adam Shaber on guitar.

Dozens of businesses and volunteers contributed to the event. Congressman Frank LoBiondo, who has attended in the past, got involved by offering one of the auction prizes, breakfast in the Members Dining Room in Washington, D.C., on a day when the House of Representatives is in session.

This year’s recipients of the foundation’s scholarships are: music scholarship awarded to a Southern Regional High School student, Nicholas Durst; marine science scholarship (SRHS), Kayla A. Haberstroh; marine science scholarships to two students of MATES (Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science at the Ocean County Vocational Technical School), Courtney Tierney and Dawn Perry; and the John Larson Memorial Scholarship (SRHS), Amanda Elizabeth Horner.

Jazzy Scallop will also be featured in The Beachcomber’s upcoming Food & Beverage edition, on news racks in mid-July. Watch for it to read details of all the participating chefs’ creations.

— Maria Scandale


(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
(Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
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