While the demise of summer may be painful for most, the truth of the matter is that the closing of one door simply means the opening of another. Summer fun will always be held in the highest of regard, yet the weeks just after the crowds die down offer up some of the most enjoyable events at the shore. Take the Atlantic City Seafood Fest for example. This annual celebration of edible ocean life comes to town but once a year, bringing joy to seafood lovers everywhere. This year it falls on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10 — after Labor Day struck its death blow into the heart of summer.
There are some big changes this year — (a new venue, live music and more) — along with the usual contests and an assortment of some of the best seafood available anywhere. So, wipe away your sun-kissed teardrops and grab a jar of tartar sauce, because the 2017 Atlantic City Seafood Festival is set to be the best one yet.
The location: For the first time in its long history, the Atlantic City Seafood Festival has set up camp just off the boardwalk in the large space next to Showboat Hotel. This new location looks to be an improvement over the previous spot, Bader Field, which made it difficult for those staying in the city’s hotels to get to.
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“We kind of changed the festival this year, most notably with the location,” says Jon Henderson, organizer of the festival and CEO of Good Time Tricycle Productions. “Now you can wander off the boardwalk and taste food that was just swimming 300 feet away in the ocean. Bart (Blatstein, owner of Showboat Hotel) and everyone else have been awesome to work with.”
The food: We probably don’t have to tell you this, but this year’s seafood fest will feature — you guessed it — seafood! Name a fish or crustacean and somebody is going to be cooking it up and serving it to the masses of hungry attendees. How many places will be there? Too many to count frankly, but expect to see Borgata, Chart House, Gordon Ramsay’s, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Luke’s Lobster, McCormick and Schmick’s, Olon, The Big Shrimp Co., and Hi Point Pub just to name a few.
One that stands out a bit from the pack is Scuba and the Beast, a food truck with a unique concept. “Everything they have is some kind of combination of surf and turf. Their food is unbelievable,” Henderson says.
Speaking of turf, there are actually a few names appearing at the festival that you might not immediately associate with seafood. One of those is Ruth’s Chris, the legendary steakhouse known best for their high-quality cuts of beef.
“People think steak when they hear Ruth’s Chris, but we have something for everyone,” says Matthew Kenkelen, general manager at Ruth’s Chris Atlantic City location. “This year we are doing a seared, blackened ahi tuna served with Dijon beer sauce and topped with a crisp pickled cucumber salad, as well as our fried calamari tossed in a secret sauce. Lastly we are bringing back the dish that stole the show last year — our crab stack! Mounds of colossal crab meat, mango, avocado and a pickled cucumber salad stacked and topped with a citrus champagne vinaigrette with a side of spicy sriracha sauce.”
Of course there will be plenty of non-seafood treats, plus an army of craft beer and wine vendors there as well, so don’t let not liking of seafood make you stay home.
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The cook off: Each year one of the most popular elements of the A.C. Seafood Fest is its chowder cook off. This year it runs from 1 to 4 p.m. each day. Fifteen restaurants will compete head to head to see who’s the real chowder champ. “Resorts has won it three years in a row, so they are going to be the one to beat,” Henderson says.
The chowder cook off is not only a delicious opportunity to chow down on chowder, but is also a means to donate to charity. How? Well, each person attending must make a minimum $5 donation to The Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Last year $10,000 was raised and this year everyone is hoping to increase that donation substantially.
The odds and ends: No food festival can rely on food alone. In order to ensure that everyone has a great time and leaves whistling a tune, this year’s festival will feature a variety of fun concepts that are sure to bring smiles to the faces of all attendees. Saturday’s event will feature The B Street Band, a tribute to Bruce Springsteen that has been around forever and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Come Sunday, the world’s greatest Sublime tribute “Badfish” will take the stage. Badfish’s reputation for being one of the top tribute bands in the world is well-deserved and Seafood Fest attendees are sure to be blown away by their exact replications of all your favorite Sublime songs, including “What I Got,” “Santeria” and “Date Rape.”
For the second year, the festival will feature a pet costume contest, which will benefit the Humane Society of Atlantic County. The contest will take place on Sunday only, attendees are encouraged to dress up their furry friends in the most elaborate duds available. The pets will be judged in the following categories: Most Original, Best Sea Creature Theme, People’s Choice and Owner/Pet look-alike. To enter the Pet Costume Contest folks must sign up at the Humane Society Booth. A $5 minimum donation is required to participate.
In addition there will also be cooking demonstrations, sand sculpting (including a separate kids sand sculpting area), beer tastings, local artists, wine seminars and tastings, a crab cake eating contest and more. Don’t miss out on the fun.