CINCINNATI -- Shoulder-to-shoulder with chefs from some of the area's best restaurants, Kroger Co. fired up its grill again at an annual seafood event here, but this time it cast a wider net with an expanded menu.
The only supermarket chain to participate in the Great Inland Seafood Festival, Kroger teamed up with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and two suppliers, McCormick and Reynolds Metal Co., for the fourth consecutive year to dish up enticing fare at a booth bedecked with banners, balloons -- and pinatas.
The booth team bumped up the menu from three choices to five this year. In addition to a standby that's proved to be popular each year -- Alaska salmon teriyaki with confetti rice -- the company offered Alaska halibut on a stick, deep-fried shrimp, blackened shark sandwiches and mesquite-grilled tuna on a bed of mixed salad with oriental dressing. All were priced at $4.
"We did the Alaska halibut on a stick because we thought we needed a festival-type food, one that you could eat while you're walking around," said Melissa DiSalle, Midwest and Northeast marketing representative for ASMI, Juneau, Alaska.
As it turned out, the Alaska halibut and blackened shark on a roll rivaled each other for first place on the best-seller list, DiSalle said. McCormick's tartar and cocktail sauces were joined by one created from McCormick tartar sauce, ketchup and Thai pepper sauce by Kroger's chef, and the sauces were offered with the halibut on a stick. Some tried all three sauces, and some came back for seconds.
The three-day festival, which began on a Friday evening and ran till 10 o'clock Sunday night, is sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association and the Cincinnati Recreation Committee. This year, the festival was held in communities on both sides of the river -- Cincinnati and Newport, Ky. -- which added to the festival air because a water taxi ferried people back and forth. Live music by name bands provided entertainment on both sides of the river. The Kroger-ASMI-McCormick-Reynolds booth was on the Kentucky side.
"We had a good spot right up by the entrance. We park the Kroger trailer up there so we can use it for refrigeration. So we stood out. People saw the trailer and then our colorful booth, with its banners, right away," DiSalle said.
Over its three-day run, the festival usually attracts more than a 100,000 people when the weather's good, she said.