By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
The fourth annual Off the Hook Seafood Festival drew lots of foodies to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, October 6, 2018. Several local gourmet restaurants and hundreds of guests celebrated National Seafood Month with a wide assortment of delicious samples along with live music, beer, wine, games and educational demonstrations.
Attendees enjoyed an afternoon of tasty bites from some of the finest eateries in the area while learning about sustainability. The event helped raise money for Heal The Bay, a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches, working through a powerful activist network.
Everyone who made the crowded pier scene could taste specially curated seafood items from nearly 20 restaurants in the general admission area of the event. Some of our favorites included the briny, delicious raw oysters served by The Albright, who source their bivalves from an exclusive farm in Baja, Mexico. Enterprise Fish Co. offered their decadent, rich lobster bisque with puff pastry served in shot glasses – anything larger would have made it impossible to leave room to taste the selections from the other vendors.
Gladstone’s presented a vibrant fish ceviche and complemented it with a thick clam chowder. Tūmbi Craft Indian Kitchen stood out from the crowd with a really creative tuna dish. The rich tuna tartare was served in petite bowl-shaped puff pastries resting on shot glasses. Each glass was partially filled with tamarind juice. Pouring the juice onto the tuna-stuffed pastry resulted in a unique and tasty bite-sized delicacy. Blue Plate Oysterette also offered up another decadent selection with their stuffed tacos loaded with chunks of ahi tuna that were smothered with avocado and shredded veggies. It was over-the-top delicious and made us want to run to their restaurant a few blocks north on Ocean Avenue.
Guests that paid a premium entry fee were able to enter the festival one hour early and spend time in the Sustainable VIP Lounge. That specialty area had comfortable, reserved seating and exclusive vendors. The VIP guests also enjoyed curated cocktails from Kikori Rice Whiskey and flavored shots from Dulce Vida Tequila. The VIP Lounge had a Peroni beer station with lots of suds on tap and branded giveaways including logoed beer glasses.
There were three food vendors in the VIP Lounge, but the standout among them was Fig restaurant. Their baja kanpachi with tomatoes, avocado, meyer lemon, pickled fresno chiles and cucumber was a delightful gastronomic combination.
Back at the main part of the event, guests enjoyed Blue Moon beer, Epic and Jardesca wine stations and an assortment of non-alcoholic selections. There was only one dessert booth, but Bertha Mae’s Famous Brownies served such an incredible variety of tasty treats that no one complained about the lack of other sweet choices.
While guests indulged in the seafood tastings, DJ Cool Whip spun tunes and later in the afternoon Brightside played live music. Near the end of the event, a raucous oyster shucking contest took place near the music stage. Several contestants who were employees of the area restaurants competed for bragging rights. One of the chefs from Chaya Venice won the battle with a loaded plate of neatly shucked oysters.
This annual afternoon on the pier was a gastronomic delight yet again. The amazing assortment of seafood bites from some of the best restaurants in the area sent everyone home with smiles and full bellies. And the happy knowledge that the money was raised for Heal The Bay made the themed event even more fulfilling. We’ll see you there next year!