The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Courtesy photo.

Hampton Beach Seafood Festival

Where: Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach
When: Friday, Sept. 9, 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: For adults, admission costs $5 on Friday, $10 on Saturday and $8 on Sunday. Children under age 12 are admitted for free on all three days. 

A whole lot o’ lobsta
Celebrate local seafood at Hampton Beach Seafood Festival

By Angie Sykeny

 If you love lobster, crab cakes, fish tacos or almost any other kind of seafood you can think of, there’s no better place to get it than the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival.

“New England seafood is worldwide famous. Nowhere in the world can you get seafood like you can here in New England, and nowhere but the festival can you find 60 vendors serving an abundance of seafood like this,” Festival Chairman Jude David said.
The 27th annual festival takes place Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 11, along Hampton Beach’s Ocean Boulevard and features local and regional restaurants serving all kinds of seafood, plus a beer tent, professional chef demonstrations, a lobster roll eating contest and more.
Between two large food tents, visitors can find traditional seafood favorites like lobster rolls, clam and seafood chowders, fish and chips, crab cakes and crab rangoon, fried calamari, fish sandwiches and fish tacos, clam strips, shrimp cocktails and more.
Most vendors bring their signature seafood dishes, but many also cook up new dishes specially for the festival.
“They tend to be a little more creative and do unique items. Every year they step up their game and do something different that attracts people,” David said. “A lot of vendors who serve a new item at the seafood festival even end up putting it on their menu afterwards.”
Some of the less traditional seafood dishes include coconut shrimp with orange marmalade sauce, cajun swordfish, provolone-stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon, Montauk seafood salad (chilled shrimp, scallops and mussels in a fresh lemon thyme vinaigrette), buffalo shrimp and cajun shrimp skewers.
Lobster lovers can get all of the classic lobster dishes as well as lobster-inspired variations of pasta, quesadillas, macaroni and cheese, sliders, grilled cheese and ravioli.
Though seafood is the highlight, there are also plenty of festival standards like blooming onions, chicken fingers, hot dogs, barbecue ribs, burgers, Italian sausage and french fries, and non-seafood specialties like gyros, falafel sandwiches, Jamaican jerk chicken on a stick, chicken and beef kabobs, gourmet macaroni and cheese and jambalaya.
Finally, there will be plenty of options for visitors to satisfy their sweet tooth with desserts like fried Oreos, strawberry shortcake, baklava, fried dough sundaes, apple crisp, dessert crepes and even chocolate covered bacon strips.
Visitors can grab a drink at one of the soft drink booths located around the festival, at the beach cabana bar or at the beverage court, which will have Budweiser and Redhook brand beers.
The restaurants aren’t only at the festival to sell food; they’re also there to compete for a variety of titles like Best Lobster Roll, Most Creative Cuisine, Best Bisque, Best Fried Food, Freshest Catch, Best Chowder and others, which will be awarded by a panel of judges.
“For something like Best Lobster Roll, the judges look at the freshness of the meat, if there’s a good mixture with the amount of mayonnaise and if there’s enough lobster meat for the roll,” David said. “They look at all angles of what makes something the best. It’s really a science.”
On Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Wicked Bites television and radio show will host cooking demonstrations with some of the region’s best chefs. Visitors can watch, learn cooking tips, sample food and get free recipes while chefs prepare their most famous seafood recipes. Past demonstrations have featured dishes like seafood gazpacho, Thai seafood chowder and Caribbean jerk seasoned scallops with tropical fruit salsa and coconut rum sauce in a Parmesan tuile cup. New local chefs at this year’s demo come from the River House in Portsmouth and Lobster Q in Hampstead, while returning chefs come from The Old Salt Restaurant and Chez Boucher Cooking School in Hampton, just to name a few.
The Hampton Beach Seafood Festival is also home to the annual Lobster Roll Eating Contest, which brings 12 professional eaters from across the country each year to compete for cash prizes and bragging rights. Spectators are invited to behold the action on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“It’s an eating frenzy. It’s really become an event within the event and is the most spectated thing at the festival,” David said. “If you’ve never seen an eating competition, you have to witness it at least once in your life.”
While the seafood is the main draw, the festival has a variety of other attractions too, such as continuous live music by local artists on two stages, over 80 arts and crafts vendors selling locally made products, a Kiddie Land with games, face painting, train rides and more; the largest fireworks show of the summer (Saturday at 8:15 p.m.), skydiving demonstrations (Sunday at 5 p.m.) and Ocean Boulevard merchants sidewalk sales.
“We call it New England’s largest beach party,” David said. “There’s entertainment for anyone who comes, and it’s just a fun, friendly atmosphere where people can make new friends and have a great time.” 

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