(May 10, 2013) Somerset Street Plaza in downtown Ocean City will be bustling with activity this Saturday as the Ocean City Downtown Association hosts its ninth annual White Marlin Festival and Crab Soup Cookoff on the square.
“It’s for the whole family. There’s something for everybody,” said event coordinator Lisa Aydelotte. “It’s a fun-filled day.”
The event continues to grow each year. In 2012, approximately 400 guests paid to taste soups entered in the contest and another 200 or so enjoyed the free festival offerings.
“In three hours, it’s amazing to see how many people do come out to participate and support the Downtown Association,” Aydelotte said. “Every year it keeps getting bigger and better.”
More than a dozen local chefs will serve gallons of their specialty crab-based concoctions, such as Maryland-style, gumbo, cream blends and bisques, to visitors during the three-hour Crab Soup Cookoff.
The 13 businesses set to participate are American Legion Post 166, Casino at Ocean Downs, Eagle’s Landing, Fager’s Island, Frontier Town Lazy River Saloon, Hall’s Family Restaurant, Mother’s Cantina, Phillips, Pickles Pub, Pour House, Quickies, Seacrets and The Shrimp Boat.
“This year there was a lot of interest [from restaurants],” Aydelotte said. “I’m very pleased.”
From noon to 3 p.m., visitors may sample the crab soups and choose their favorite. Tasters can vote in two soup categories: white and red.
In 2012, Mother’s Cantina took top honors in the white crab soup division, and Hall’s won the red category.
This is the third year Mother’s Cantina has competed. The cream of crab soup they will offer at the festival is the same served in the restaurant, said Neely James, owner of the restaurant with her husband, Ryan.
“Ryan and I are passionate about using fresh, local ingredients, which we feel is what takes our food flavors to the next level. We are also members of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources True Blue Program, which means our customers know they’re getting delicious local Maryland crab in all of the crab dishes we serve,” she said. “We participate in the Crab Soup Cookoff because the proceeds directly benefit the Downtown Association in their efforts to improve the quality of life for our community.”
Joe Hall, owner of Hall’s Family Restaurant, has entered a soup in the contest since the event’s inception. It is the same soup offered at the restaurant.
“What sets our soup apart from the rest is the amount of different ingredients we use. The mixture of veggies, okra, sweet shoepeg corn, carrots and celery, then comes the spices — Old Bay, of course, white wine, thyme, garlic and much more,” Hall said. “It makes a party in your mouth. Each time you take a bite, you can pick up on another flavor. It’s a symphony of flavors.”
Hall’s has placed six times, taking first in the red soup division twice.
“My dad is a founding member of the Downtown Association so anything that helps downtown we are going to be part of it,” Hall said.
The festival is free to attend; however, the cost to sample the soups is $12. The chefs who have the top three recipes in each category will receive a crystal award.
In addition to the Cookoff, the Downtown Association fundraiser will feature face painting, crafts, Sherman the Shorebird, Capt. Phil the Crab and music by DJ Bigler. The band Sweet Harmony will also perform. T-shirts, beer, soda and water will be available for purchase.
Several organizations will have exhibits on display, including the Ocean City Beach Patrol, Life-Saving Station Museum, Coast Guard, Town Cats, Downtown Association, Play It Safe, Susan G. Komen and the Children’s Miracle Network of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
For more information, call 410-289-1413, or Aydelotte at 410-262-5911 or visit www.downtownassociation.net.