Scallops Got Jazzy and Joined the Music

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ashley Vosseller

The Jazzy Scallop & Seafood Festival: a perfect world where a taster’s biggest problem was how to fit a three-bite-sized Viking Fresh scallop into the mouth at one time. Cutting may have been what the little forked wooden skewer was really for.

Viking Village in Barnegat Light was the setting for Saturday’s 10th annual festival, at dockside by the boats that brought in the bounty. The big top tent comfortably contained all 700 ticket-buyers, and luckily the forecasted rain didn’t show up.

In this showcase of what professional chefs can do with premium products, this year brought one change: There was no voting.

“We decided to focus on celebrating seafood this year,” one organizer summed up. “We didn’t do a competition this year,” another organizer added. “There was a high complaint rate from the participating restaurants last year.”

With the care and donated time that chefs put into presenting their recipes, that’s highly understandable. But one young girl in line for a sample was surprised at the news. Her gang of friends had just gotten done debating which entries they liked best – that was part of the fun, she said.

Good tastes assembled in front of patrons’ eyes. Scallops were seared, fried, smoked, beer-battered or served as ceviche (marinated in citrus juices). Fresh tuna starred in one presentation this year. By the numbers, it was the year of bacon, featured in four recipes.

This year’s chefs and restaurants, and the tastes they presented were:

• The Arlington and Daymark: pan-seared scallop, with Benton’s bacon, corn and a sweet corn crema;

• Black-eyed Susans: tuna tartar, tuna with pine nuts, preserved lemon, chives, olive oil and a rouille on grilled sourdough;

• Calabria: Yucatan scallop ceviche, sea scallops with Patron tequila, lime juice, cilantro, red onion and jalepeno served in a tortilla shell;

• Kubel’s and Kubel’s Too: scallop BLT, seared scallop BLT with a lemon aioli;

• Chef Frank Benowitz, Mercer County Community College Culinary Program: seared sea scallop, scallop with maple-bacon tomato sauce;

• Viking Fresh Off the Hook: smoked scallop panzanella on Belgium endive;

• Viking Fresh Off the Hook: fried scallops, with choice of sauces;

• Spice Catering: beer battered scallop, with smoked bacon and a blood orange maple Dijon cream sauce served on a plantain;

• Wally’s: scallop & shrimp ceviche, tender pieces of scallop and shrimp marinated in citrus juices, combined with grape tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado and cucumber.

Poppy’s Ice Cream Parlour brought sorbet as a refreshing palate cleanser and ReClam the Bay volunteers shucked fresh raw clams on the spot and talked to folks about the group’s role in replenishing clams that are vital to the ecosystem.

“This is so much more civilized than Chowderfest,” a north end homeowner commented in line. “There, you have to be aggressive.” He was talking about the hustle that fall’s 15,000-ticket event in Beach Haven requires to reach the food samples at the height of that contest. (A VIP ticket for early admission averts the chowder crush.)

Jazzy Scallop brings tourists, but neighbors literally rubbed elbows with neighbors – this fest drew a good number of locals from the Island and mainland and lots of “hey”’s of surprise at running in to each other. Multimedia producer Dave Kaltenbach is back from Emerald Isle, for instance – one of his documentaries of the commercial fishing industry, “Fish for Tomorrow,” played in the tent.

For the “jazzy” aspect, The Bansai Bills were cookin’. All day, the Jersey trio’s music sent a note of smooth festivity through the salty air. Yes, it was one of those cloudy classic seaside afternoons where you really could breathe it in.

The Jazzy Scallop & Seafood Festival is a fundraiser sponsored by the nonprofit Larson-Puskas Fisheries Education Partnership, which states, “Our mission is to educate people about the commercial fishing industry, raise and distribute scholarship funds, and raise scientific awareness of various responsible fishing methods.”

Festival proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations – this year, one is the St. Francis Center Food Pantry (serving LBI and the mainland from New Gretna through Forked River and Whiting). The other is for ReClam the Bay to buy seed stock to be raised into young clams that are turned over to Barnegat Bay clammers for future production.

Proceeds also provide scholarships to area high schools. Scholarship winners this year were Samantha Lee Burr, Noah Rogers, Alaina Perdon, Sadie Wolfarth and Savannah Kelly.

Kelly earned the John Larson Memorial Scholarship, dedicated to the memory of Viking Village co-founder John Larson. It is awarded to a student who exemplifies Larson’s belief that anything is possible through hard work and determination.

— Maria Scandale

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