Dinner Wednesday night was an exceptional treat: an all-you-can-eat selection of small plates of seafood, with beer and wine included, in the unlikely venue of the Department of Commerce’s headquarters and at the improbable price of $35.
But I won’t be able to make another reservation like this until next June, because the NOAA Sustainable Seafood Celebration is a once-a-year deal. Wednesday was also my first opportunity to indulge in the event formerly known as the NOAA Fish Fry since 2018–I was out of town in 2019, then the pandemic sank it in 2020, 2021 and even 2022.
By any name, this annual seafood feeding frenzy is an excellent reason to spend an early-June evening under the trees in the courtyard of the Herbert C. Hoover Building. Staged by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteers, it draws chefs from the around the country, as in literally from Alaska to Florida, to show off what they can do with what’s in the water there.
Wednesday, for example, I enjoyed shrimp, oysters, fish tacos, sablefish, salmon and even a geoduck fritter (the mouthfeel was a little weird on the last one), but didn’t get to the lionfish ceviche in time. Enjoying this feast with friends was even better, even if the pal who works at NOAA and looped me into this well over a decade ago had family obligations and couldn’t make it.
Since the Fish Fry–er, Sustainable Seafood Celebration doubles as a fund-raiser for one charity or another, this year’s cause being the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, I don’t know why the organizers don’t charge more. Because at just $35, it sold out in minutes when tickets went on sale May 17, and you should expect the same next spring.