Saturday, September 15, 2007

PEI Shellfish Festival

So I never thought I would have such a good time at something like the PEI Shellfish Festival before I went this year, but the entertainment and the events really were as good as the food wsa.

We got there and had a couple of free samples of mussels and chowder from the chowder competition, and then got some more substantial food. The Culinary Institute had their truck there, the one that's a fully-equipped kitchen in the back of a truck, very impressive, and they were serving mussels cooked in various ways and oysters and other things. I got Casino Style mussels, and a bowl of chowder from one of the vendors. Sadly the girl selling the chowder didn't quite know what was in it or anything, I think I sort of embarrassed her when I asked. It was pretty good, though, your basic mix of seafood chowder.

Then they announced the winner of the chowder cooking competition, and it ended up being Duncan Smith from the Claddagh Oyster House, who's my friend Kelly's husband. He was really not expecting to win, he even said that he hoped he didn't win because if he did he'd have to make the damn stuff every day, but he ended up destroying the competition. Second and third places had something like 147 points and 145 points each, very very close to each other. And Duncan's score was so high that they didn't even say it when they announced the winner, he ended up winning by more than 20 points. For a dumpling he had to get Kelly to run to the store and grab wonton shells at the last minute because the ingredient he wanted to use wasn't working out right because of the humidity today. Kelly was happiest about the prizes, which included a full set of Paderno pots and a $500 gift certificate from A1 vacuum sales, which is not a place where I think I'd spend $500 but if I had the chance I would absolutely love one of those nice canister electrolux deals that last 20 years and are indestructible.

The funniest thing about Duncan's chowder was that he called it something like "Dad's own recipe", but in reality his parents never cooked anything more ambitious than chicken nuggets and Kraft Dinner when he was a kid.

After that was the oyster shucking competition. Not the most exciting thing when you hear about it, but trust me, it's a good time to watch them up there shucking away. You had people who were first time competitors going up against experienced old pros who are repeat national champtions, and you could really see the grace and skill that the veterans had. The had the whole thing shown up on a big screen at the front so you could see in detail all the action, and spot damaged oysters and ones that weren't fully severed from the shells and other things that would result in a penalty.

In the end the penalty time was what really mattered, too. Second and third places all had very low times, 1:02 and 1:07 each I believe, but they both had 30 seconds in penalty time added on. Amazingly, the kid who won had only 2 seconds, which means all of his oysters were perfectly shucked, not something you normally find in competition where time is the critical factor. He also then went on to help beat the American team in the Canada vs. The World shucking relay competition, another fun spectacle, and again Canada lost on flat time but ended up winning because of judging and penalties.

The other big penalty was for blood on the oysters, since cutting yourself is pretty common apparently. I made sure to check carefully before eating the oysters that they brought out to the side of the stage, where I was strategically standing, to let people have the oysters from the competition, just in case.

Everyone who thinks they don't like oysters needs to try them again, and chew them this time. If you swallow them all your tasting is salty slime, that's no good, it's the texture of them that is why they're so prized. Trust me, there's a reason people like them so much.

Update: Duncan won the international portion of the chowder competition today, with a $2000 prize and trophy.  He's the first islander ever to win it.  I'm guessing he's going to be utterly sick of making this stuff by this time next year.  I know I'm gonna have to go to the Claddagh and get a bowl soon.


By al - 8:33 p.m. |

My Electrolux canister thingy used to belong to my parents, and they were using it even before I was even born. It's still kickin'.

Sorry I can't comment on any of your oyster content. I just... can't.
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