By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Two events celebrated the kickoff of National Seafood Month during the first weekend of October in the Los Angeles area. On Saturday October 1, 2016 the second annual Off the Hook Seafood Festival took place at the Santa Monica Pier. On Sunday October 2, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s 3rd annual Sustainable Seafood Expo was held at CRAFTED in San Pedro.
The Off the Hook festival raised funds for the Westside Food Bank and awareness for the sustainable seafood movement through the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Seafood for the Future program. Guests enjoyed live music, a beer garden, games and an array of seafood samples from some of Santa Monica’s best restaurants.
There was a noticeable emphasis on oysters and tuna at the Off the Hook event. A lively oyster shucking contest took place in front of the music stage and around the private, sectioned off area of the pier, a few vendors served expertly prepared samples of the delicate bivalves. The Albright had a raw oyster bar set up while Fig Santa Monica presented amazing grilled Fanny Bay oysters served with a yellow chili vinaigrette. Boa also served bubbling hot, delicious grilled oysters.
Tuna was the star at the Del Frisco’s Grille booth – they served smooth ahi tuna tacos with guacamole and a chipotle cream sauce. Red O also served ahi, but on a mini tostada. Spinfish Poké House had yummy tuna, salmon and shrimp pokés that were available with tortilla chips or rice.
Other delectable seafood choices included Mare’s grilled baby octopus on chickpea pancakes and The Lobster’s crunchy, wonderful lobster corn dogs. Dock to Dish presented amazing swordfish tacos and Ashland Hill offered a vibrant seafood ceviche.
Guests were able to pair the great seafood with a variety of beverages. Shock Top had multiple taps pouring their signature Belgian White. They also had a booth in the VIP area with large cans and a variety of branded give-a-ways. Piper-Heidsieck served champagne and Infuse Spirits had several flavored vodka cocktails available in VIP as well. Non-alcoholic choices included Aloe Gloe, Boxed Water, Bulletproof Coffee and La Croix sparkling water.
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s 3rd Annual Sustainable Seafood Expo on Sunday was focused more on education, but the event also included some delicious seafood samples. Guests were able to watch presentations by expert panelists and chefs in addition to gathering information from a variety of exhibitors.
Chef Bernard Ibarra from Terranea resort showed how to extract the meat and prepare a red abalone that came from the environmentally friendly Abalone Farm in Cayucos, CA. He served the abalone in an amazing escabeche with Spanish chorizo, herbs and spices. Chef Paul Buchanon from Primal Alchemy, an area catering company, talked about Grenadier, a deep water by-catch that is healthy, tasty and plentiful. Chef Roberto Flores of 22nd Street Landing Seafood Grill & Bar showed the preparation for his pan-seared, citrus marinated sea scallops.
Other outstanding food samples included the tasty sablefish in a soy glaze from chef Pete Lehmar at Gladstone’s Long Beach and the simple elegance of the sesame seed seared ahi from San Pedro Brewing Company. Jim Tate from Parkers Lighthouse served a fabulous shrimp, calamari and scallop seafood salad. Chef Tyler Gugliotta from Baran’s 2239 served a vibrant octopus ceviche.
The informative and tasty expo concluded with a Q and A session featuring actor Adrian Grenier of “Entourage” fame. As co-founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, Grenier talked about his empathy for marine species and encouraged everyone to advocate for ocean health.
The weekend events proved to be educational, fun and extremely satisfying. Guests enjoyed delicious seafood from some outstanding restaurants in the Los Angeles area while learning about the importance of making smart selections when dining out or purchasing seafood. The takeaway of the weekend was that sustainable, fresh seafood tastes great and is healthy. By making smart choices we should be able to enjoy the bounty of the sea indefinitely.