By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
The third annual Off the Hook Seafood Festival brought foodie fun to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, October 14, 2017. The event featured a wide assortment of seafood samples from some of SaMo’s best restaurants as well as live music, beer, wine, games and educational demonstrations. Guests enjoyed an afternoon of tasty samples while learning about sustainability and helping to raise money for Surfrider Foundation.
The Off the Hook Festival was an example of how to successfully run a big party while being extremely conscious of the environment. Everything used at the event – plates, cups, silverware, etc. – were environmentally friendly, recyclable or biodegradable. That made perfect sense for a party that celebrated the gifts from the sea and emphasized the importance of keeping the oceans clean and properly managing the food bounty we harvest from it.
The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches, working through a powerful activist network. The foundation’s Emily Swallow gave a presentation at the Community Programming booth about using biodegradable straws, one of the easiest and most important ways to reduce literally millions of tons of plastic from entering the environment. Other presentations covered aquaculture, sustainable fishing and ocean-friendly seafood practices in restaurants and all kept guests entertained while offering valuable information.
Off the Hook showcased many seafood delicacies, but tuna and oysters were featured prominently. A lively oyster shucking contest took place in front of the music stage and Yousef Ghalaini, Executive Chef at Fig Restaurant, won the battle by beating several other contestants for the second year in a row. The Fig Restaurant Santa Monica booth at the festival fittingly presented amazing Baja-farmed oysters on the half shell served with a bay shrimp and aji amarillo mignonette. The Albright had a raw oyster bar set up – they were shucking the delicious bivalves sourced from Long Island, New York.
Tuna was the star at several booths – Del Frisco’s Grille served melt-in-your-mouth ahi tuna tacos with guacamole and a chipotle cream sauce. Spinfish Poké House had tasty tuna, salmon and shrimp pokés with rice. Grub Market & Wild Caught Local Seafood served smoked ahi salad. Sushi Roku had the longest lines – their spicy tuna and baked crab hand rolls were a big hit.
Other delectable choices included Tar & Roses’ grilled octopus skewers. The Lobster’s white chili with Maine lobster and house-made shrimp sausage was creamy and delicious. Ashland Hill offered a vibrant seafood ceviche. Enterprise Fish Co. served an excellent Kentucky fried soft-shell crab slider. BOA presented a buttery, almost criminally luscious, mini lobster roll.
Guests paired the great seafood with a variety of beverages. VIP guests enjoyed curated cocktails by Kikori Rice Whiskey, 8th Devil Rum and Sugar Cane Vodka. Peroni served their refreshing Italian lager in the VIP area, while Blue Moon poured their Belgian-style wheat beer. A nice selection of wineries, soft drinks and coffees were also available throughout the festival.
After a few hours of seafood indulgence, it was tough to think about desserts, but the tempting choices were overpowering. Sprinkles had an amazing assortment of cupcakes in vibrant colors. Rosie’s had a variety of gluten-free popsicles including delicious chocolate-dipped pistachio, watermelon and strawberry mango. The Capital One Café served pastries from Cake Monkey and Peet’s Coffee.
The Off the Hook Seafood Festival once again turned out to be fun, extremely satisfying and educational. Guests enjoyed delicious seafood from some outstanding restaurants in the Santa Monica area while learning about the importance of making smart selections when dining out or purchasing seafood. Here’s to next year’s event, when we hope the world’s oceans have perhaps gotten a bit cleaner, due to the conservation and sustainability efforts of the important nonprofit group that benefitted from the party – and by every person who loves the sea and its wonderful bounty.