The Alaska Symphony of Seafood took its show to Chicago in February.
The group has promoted dining on fish since 1993 by hosting a New Products Contest and Gala in Anchorage. The presentation has grown to become the largest event of its kind in the United States.
"We had judging in Chicago to target a market that is not already so aware of and knowledgeable about Alaska seafood," said spokeswoman Brandie Ahlgren.
On Feb. 15 in Chicago, a panel of experts sat down to a day of critique and close scrutiny of all entrants. The panel included a diverse group of judges such as executive chefs Carrie Nahabedian of the restaurant Naha and Mark Mavrantonis of McCormick & Schmick's; John van Amerongen, editor of Alaska Fisherman's Journal; Mike Mondello, president of SeaBear, a Seattle salmon smoker; Bob Sullivan of Plitt Seafood; chef and culinary instructor Christopher Koetke of Kendall College; executive chef Mark Facklam of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago; Cynthia Santana, anchor at WBBM-CBS; and Joyce Macey, food editor of Village View.
The judges were asked to evaluate 18 products in five categories for taste, price and marketability.
First place winner of the salmon retail category was Alaska Seafood International (Anchorage) with its Fiesta Salmon Tenders. C&H Classic of Washington state won first in smoked products with their Smoked King Salmon. Alaska Wild Seafood Suppliers' Fish on a Stick (halibut) won first place in the white fish foodservice category. (Alaska Wild Seafood Suppliers is located in Bellingham, Wash.) Trident Seafoods of Seattle took first place in the white fish retail category with FireHouse Cod Fillet Tenders.
The overall grand prize winner was Smoked Salmon Sprinkles, created by Trapper's Creek Smoking Company (Seattle). Over the years, Trapper's Creek has won more Symphony of Seafood awards than any other producer.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, the Chicago public was given the opportunity to vote on its favorite dishes at the Chicago Downtown Marriott. They listened to live music, sampled beers and ales from the Alaskan Brewing Co. of Juneau and wines from Columbia Crest. Every visitor received a People's Choice ballot.
The Chicago People's Choice award went to Seafood Salsa, created by So-Cal Seafood of Whittier, Calif. Their dish is a spicy, Mexican-style cold salad composed of surimi and bay shrimp. So-Cal was a winner two years ago with Ceviche, which also used surimi made from Alaska pollock.
The first-place category winners and the winners of the Anchorage and Chicago People's Choice awards receive free exhibit space at the International Boston Seafood Show, the largest seafood show in the country. In addition, top winners receive a product photo shoot and the right to use the Symphony Winner sticker on their packaging and promotional materials.
Major sponsors of the Anchorage and Chicago events include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.