Seafood Expo North America a hit, thanks to salmon ice cream and other tasty treats
With a plethora of scrumptious seafood samples in my belly after Seafood Expo North America which took place in Boston, Massachusetts from 19 to 21 March, I am fondly recalling some of the most flavorful - and successful - products at the show.
Undeniably, salmon ice cream was the talk of this year’s expo. Specifically, Candied Salmon Caramel Ice Cream, made by ice cream and coffee shop Coppa in Juneau, Alaska. Coppa won both the grand prize and first place in the foodservice category in this year’s Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition.
Trade show attendees whispered to each other in hushed tones, “Are you going to try the salmon ice cream?” A few responded with horrified looks, indicating they would never try a fish-containing ice cream. However, most – including myself – said, “Sure, why not?”
I’m fairly certain that drool rolled down my chin when I took my first bite of this delicacy containing cream, candied sockeye salmon, maple syrup and sea salt. The mixture of sweet and salty – with a slight crunch from the salmon – made for an incredibly delicious and surprising dessert.
“I went through 20 recipes to get to this point,” said Coppa co-owner Marc Wheeler, who thought up the tasty treat when seeking local ingredients to use in the shop’s ice creams. The shop has featured other Alaskan ingredients, with flavors such as Spruce Tip Ice Cream, along with a beer ice cream featuring Alaskan Brewing Co. beer.
But will Candied Caramel Salmon Ice Cream achieve commercial success? Wheeler is looking for a co-packer in Seattle, Washington, to make distribution more cost-effective. He believes the ice cream will work best at a seafood restaurant chain or specialty grocer. For now, though, “I am going for the cruise customers. There are one million cruise passengers coming through Juneau every year,” Wheeler said.
However, another SOS winner, SeaFare Pacific Salmon Chowder from Oregon Seafoods in Coos Bay, Oregon, has already obtained commercial success. The pouched chowder – which won the Seattle People’s Choice award – is distributed in around 3,000 grocery stores, including an estimated 900 Walmart stores, according to James Elstad of Oregon Seafoods.
“People’s choice was most important to win, in my opinion,” Elstad said. “We produce all of our products ourselves.”
The hot, creamy chowder really was scrumptious.
Juneau, Alaska-based Dear North, which won first place in the retail division for its Alaska salmon bites, was showing its novel soft salmon jerky flavors: Spicy Fireweed Honey and Savory Sea Kelp and Sesame.
Both were very tasty, and I was surprised that I really enjoyed the Savory Sea Kelp and Sesame bites. The high-protein snack, made with coho salmon, is brined, and then “cooked low and slow for a tender texture that isn’t achieved with traditional jerkies,” the company said.
But the Alaska Symphony of Seafood booth was just one of nearly 1,350 exhibitors from 53 countries – a record for the expo. Many exhibitors offered tastes of their products – the smartest marketing decision, in my opinion, while others chose not to. The expo was firmly restaurant-focused, as suppliers and distributors brought in professional, award-winning chefs to prepare their dishes and host cooking demonstrations.
Some of my personal favorite dishes were: New Zealand Ora king salmon with Ora King bacon, charred cauliflower and ruby sunchoke puree at Samuels & Son Seafood’s booth; New Orleans-style Barbecue Shrimp with rice grits, prepared by Chef Blake Phillips, the 2016 King of Louisiana Seafood, at the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board booth; Paradise Shrimp “Scotch Egg” with Pepper Hash and Black Garlic Aioli at Samuels & Son Seafood, Open Blue Cobia, which had a clean, delicious flavor and nice texture; Blackened Louisiana Drum Courtbouillon at the LSPMB; and Patagonian mussels from Chile.
There were a myriad of excellent smoked salmon samples at the show, so I cannot mention them all. But one that stood out to me was Ocean Beauty’s Echo Falls Scottish Whiskey Cask Smoked Salmon. The whiskey barrel smoking makes for a stronger flavor, while still honoring the salmon.