CAPE MAY — There will be flounder, clam chowder and scallops, but seafood lovers will also be able to taste spiny dogfish, skate wings, whelk and scup.
One of the goals of the first Cape May Seafood Festival, set for June 28 on the beachfront, is to feature the unusual species that have helped make the Port of Cape May the second largest fishing port on the East Coast. The port is known nationally for finding new markets for types of seafood that have been dubbed “underutilized species.”
“We want to educate the public on the various types of seafood. It doesn’t come out of a Mrs. Paul’s box or a tuna fish can,” Mayor Ed Mahaney said during a news conference Wednesday announcing the festival.
Mahaney said another goal of the festival is to highlight the fishing industry, the second largest driver of the local economy behind tourism. Eight seafood companies from the area have agreed to provide fare at wholesale prices for the festival. The food will be cooked under the tutelage of Rusty Nail chef Jim Burton and Chef Instructor Ruth Lattore of Atlantic Cape Community College.
The festival will have a large educational component, overseen by the city’s co-sponsor, the nonprofit Cape May Forum. The goal is to teach the public how the seafood is harvested and brought to market.
“We’re not just putting it on a plate. We’re getting it out of the ocean. We want people to see what this is all about,” said Sam Martin of Atlantic Capes Fisheries on Ocean Drive.
The news conference was called to provide details about the festival, including an accounting for local taxpayers. The Cape May Forum could end up with some proceeds from the event, while the city merely hopes to break even on its costs. The city is projecting attendance at 7,500 to 10,000 people and will offer free trolley service from remote parking lots.
The festival will be held in a two-block area in front of Cape May Convention Hall that will be closed to traffic on that day. Tents will be erected, and there will be live music. There is no admission charge, but there will be seafood sold, at what Mahaney termed “family prices,” and a charge for locally brewed beer and wine. There will be no other vendors, as Mahaney said they don’t want to take away from the focus on the fishing industry.
The festival will include educational exhibits about the industry and live demonstrations on fishing techniques. Fishing stories will be told by captains and crew members. The festival is for commercial and recreational fishing, so live events could include how to make fishing nets, shuck oysters, tie ropes and surf cast.
There will also be professional cooking demonstrations, including by celebrity chef Mike Colameco, and culinary students at Atlantic Cape Community College will hold workshops on subjects such as preparing underutilized species.
Eight food stations will supply different fare. The menu includes fish tacos, chowders, seafood salads, fried and broiled fish, a raw bar, a section devoted to underutilized species and a kid’s station with hot dogs, chicken, french fries and other nonseafood fare.
Seafood companies at the kick-off were excited to take part. The companies include Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Cold Spring Fish & Supply (the Lobster House), Lund’s Fisheries, Lamonica Fine Foods (Cape May Foods), Dock Street Seafood, Bumble Bee, Surfside Foods and Cape May Salts Oysters. Most are in neighboring Lower Township and Wildwood, where the Port of Cape May is primarily located.
“We have national and international accounts, but at the same time, this is where our boats start from. We look at this as a great opportunity to bring what we do back home,” Martin said.
By the end of the news conference, Latorre said all the talk was making her hungry.
“I don’t know about anybody else, but my mouth is starting to water,” she joked.
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