Hollywood may have the Academy Awards, but San Diego has the Shuck and Swallow event, and it’s sure to draw attention from the Oscars, which despite 79 years of rehearsals continues to be a sleeping pill.
Shuck and Swallow, an oyster eating contest that premiered recently at the J Bar, a popular watering hole on the rooftop patio of the Hotel Solamar, had no redeeming social, philanthropic or artistic factor.
But it did make people laugh, as it was all about fun and seeing who, among local culinary stars and rising stars, could open and consume the highest number of raw oysters in 10 minutes.
No awards were presented, so there were no long, drawn-out thank yous.
“I’d like to thank my mother for having me, so I could grow up and achieve my lifelong goal of consuming a ton of raw oysters at a single sitting without tossing my cookies, er, oysters.” Nothing like that.
A plaque that was ordered failed to arrive on time, but nobody seemed to care.
No fashion statements were made, unless you consider San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau spokesman Sal Giametta’s mod tie haute couturier. Giametta and yours truly, whose idea of designer wear is any garment without coffee stains, were among the judges charged with counting how many oysters the swallowers could eat.
Nine two-person teams from the kitchens of local restaurants showed up with the sole intention of fostering camaraderie among themselves, said Ed Nesfield, Solamar’s director of catering and conference services.
“We’re friendly competitors,” Nesfield said.
When the countdown started, a shucker standing on one side of a long line of tables placed end to end furiously pried open oysters to supply the hungry swallower seated directly across from him.
The competing restaurants included Oceanaire; the Marriott Hotel & Marina’s Molly’s; Stingaree; Solamar’s J-Six; Thee Bungalow; The Palm; Modus; the U.S. Grant Hotel’s Grant Grill; and Water’s Catering.
And the winner Oceanaire oyster chef Demetrio Salazar, who shucked, and sous chef Sean Langlais, who swallowed 59 of those buggers.
Elliott Lawrence emceed and his quartet played jazz music afterward.
Gift bags for the judges included a bottle of imported shiraz, a stainless steel corkscrew and a giant Korbel Champagne cork with a key ring attached so your keys will float in case you lose them in the ocean, a swimming pool or washing machine.
There were also four miniature bottles of Chambord Liqueur, a couple of glossy books on the history of the French beverage, along with recipes, and a Jack Daniel’s T-shirt, which might be suitable attire for next year’s gala, if I’m asked back.
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