Saturday 21 February 2009 saw a fantastic start to this year’s Rye Bay Scallop Festival. Bright sunshine, warm weather, a light breeze and the exciting arrival of the celebrated motorcycling foodies the ‘Hairy Biker’s.
Dave Myers and Si King the well-known TV pair arrived early in the morning to film part of their new BBC2 series (due to be shown later in the year) which will include a feature on, not only, the scallops but also Winchelsea lamb and local wine. They spent some time interviewing local fisherman Russell Drew on a scalloping boat kindly loaned by Kenny Butcher for the occasion. They then made their way along the quayside to visit Tony Isted at Rye Bay Fish and were able to taste the scallops cooked by Barry, Val and Bryony. They finished their filming with a visit to Webbes at the Fish Café, The Standard Inn and The Ship Inn, where they watched the various chefs produce their special seafood dishes.
Tony Isted was absolutely delighted with the weekend and said “we saw record sales in the shop over the weekend with over 3,000 scallops being sold and hundreds cooked and given away to visitors to the town.”
He said that “people were trying them on our stand, loving them and then seeing how easy they were to cook, were not afraid to buy some to take home”.
Saturday and Sunday also saw the Scallop and Seafood demonstration and Luncheon at the Fish Café. A good crowd gathered to watch the preparation of several dishes before sitting down to enjoy an excellent meal.
Sunday was also the day of the inaugural ‘What a Load of Scallops’ race which was organised by the Ship Inn. Seven teams met up with the wheelbarrows full of wet sand and scallops at Market Fisheries. Then ran as fast as they could to the finish line at the Ship to be first to win the coveted wooden scallop trophy. The race was won by a very fit team from Rye Sandwich Bar, even though they claimed to have been hampered by wheelbarrow tampering!
Monday saw some very enthusiastic amateur chefs join Paul Webbe at the Fish Café to learn how to prepare and cook the scallops. The advanced menu they prepared included such dishes as Pan Fried Scallops in Curry and Lime Oil with Cauliflower Puree and Seared Rye Bay Scallop and Black Pudding with Glazed Apple Cider Jug. The interest in the cookery course was so great that Paul ran it again on Tuesday.
On Wednesday the Ship Inn arranged a fantastic new event ‘Scallops of the World Unite’. A great evening that was booked up weeks in advance offering customers an opportunity to try scallops in many guises. For example Asian style Tempura scallops with an Oyster, served with soy and lime sauce, the French Coquille St Jacques, the Australian format of a Grilled scallop and smoked prawn with barbecue sauce and especially popular was the American dish of Scallop Burger with match stick potatoes. A good time was had by all and Karen Northcote told me “we could have run the event three times over because of the demand and next year we will”.
Thursday night was both Gourmet night at the George Hotel and live music and scallop night at The Standard Inn. The George Hotel hosted a fantastic evening, 6 great courses including a scallop & shrimp soup, a scallop & pancetta main course and a lovely plate of local cheeses. The beautiful seashore themed tables were decorated with seaside plants loaned from Great Dixter and pretty scallop shell night lights.
The Standard Inn was absolutely full up on Thursday too, staff there described the bar as being “ridiculously busy” and were delighted with the way everything went.
The general agreement in Rye has been that the festival has been bigger and better than ever this year and really makes a big and beneficial difference to ‘February in Rye’. Enthusiasm is running high for the event and lots of new ideas are being discussed for the Taste of Rye week in October and next years Scallop Festival.
If you would like to see more photographs and find out exactly what happened during the week take a look at www.ryebayscallops.co.uk.
“Rye’s Own” Supplement March 2009
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