SAFETY HARBOR — For some snowbirds and Floridians who hail from up north, Saturday’s seafood festival at the city’s marina may have been missing a of couple of things.
At least that was the take from G.O. Deraney, a New England native who now resides in New Port Richey. Among the dishes listed were whole clam bellies, Maine lobster and steamers — what New Englanders call steamed clams.
And of course he also mentioned clam chowder, but then again, “that’s cold weather food,” he said.
In fact, he felt that the biggest difference between eating seafood here versus the coastal Northeast in early March is the conspicuous absence of snow, ice and freezing temperatures.
“We wouldn’t have alligator there,” Deraney added.
With clear blue skies over Tampa Bay and temperatures hovering just under 70 degrees, Safety Harbor’s marina was bustling Saturday afternoon.
It was a welcome transformation from Friday night’s event, with winds blowing 50-degree gusts off the water.
Families sat on the grass and on docks, eating Maryland crab cakes, coconut shrimp and big grouper fillets covered in crispy batter, all atop a bed of fries. The vendors that stretched from the intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and the waterfront offered a multicultural smorgasbord of sea fare.
There were giant plates of yellow rice littered with shrimp and clams, Caribbean specialties like conch fritters, Mahi tacos and crab wontons alongside piles of clam strips and popcorn shrimp.
Some of the offerings had to be shipped in, such as Maryland-based Laughing Crab Caterings “award-winning” crab cakes.
Others, such as the fish tacos and shrimp salad rolls offered at Nantucket Bucket, came right from the Gulf of Mexico.
Saturday’s free festival kicks off a series of spring events in Safety Harbor over the next month, including the Bloom N Art Chalk Fest, March 21-23, and the Safety Harbor Singer Songwriter Festival, a ticketed music festival with craft beer and food trucks put on by the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center, April 4-6.