By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director
It sure was a wild party – Go Wild Alaska Style, that is! One of the social event highlights of the March 19-21 Seafood Expo North America in Boston was the well-attended reception and lavish buffet organized by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
This year’s bash, as always, featured a smorgasbord of wild, natural and sustainable fishery products from the 49th State’s finest producers. The menu abounded with crab, prawns, salmon, scallops, pollock, halibut, sablefish, sole fillets and surimi products. Plus there was a poké bar and plenty of suds to wash it all down with, courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Co. Coppa Candied Salmon Ice Cream topped off the sumptuous feast.
Just as I was finishing a second crab cocktail, dessert was served. Initially inclined to decline the offer, the site of somebody enjoying a cup of the frozen treat across the table gave cause for reconsideration. So I indulged as well.
“This is delicious,” I said to the lady, who turned out to be Rebecca Braun, a policy director for Alaska Governor Bill Walker.
She agreed enthusiastically, admitting that it was her second helping of the award-winning treat that evening. Upon learning that I cover the ice cream beat as well as the waterfront, she suggested that I visit the manufacturer’s booth and learn more about the product the following day.
Taking her advice happily, I met Marc Wheeler, co-owns Juneau-based Coppa with his wife, Jessica Paris. The ice cream maker and coffee shop entrepreneur was dishing out samples of the 2017 Alaska Symphony of Seafood New Products Grand Prize-winning entry for passers-by to try and hopefully buy. His innovative ice cream flavor actually scooped three prizes in the recently held Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) contest for value-added products made from Alaska seafood, having also scored first-place finishes in the Foodservice and People’s Choice categories.
Noting that the handmade salted caramel ice cream recipe features tiny chunks of Taku River Reds sockeye salmon, Wheeler said: “We hope our success shows that Alaska salmon has a wide range of uses, and inspires others to believe in unlikely combinations.”
The product was up against a high tide of competition, including Odyssey’s Seafood Cakes with Dungeness and Orca Bay Seafood’s Albondigas Mexican Seafood Soup.
Wheeler is hoping to have Coppa Candied Salmon Ice Cream co-packed, perhaps in the Seattle area, to facilitate wider distribution in the USA mainland market. Meanwhile, he is busy managing Juneau’s first handmade ice cream and coffee shop, which has received a number of awards in its own right since opening in 2013. Coppa was named Best New Business and Best Ice Cream Shop by the Juneau Empire Reader’s Choice survey in 2014. A year later it received the People’s Choice Award in the Path to Prosperity competition, and was named Best Business and Best Ice Cream Shop in the Juneau Empire Reader’s Choice survey. In 2016, BuzzFeed named Coppa the most popular ice cream shop in Alaska.
Anybody reading this story from the ranks of Ben & Jerry’s, Dreyer’s, Breyer’s or Mövenpick would do well to stop by Marc and Jessica’s ice cream parlor to get the scoop first-hand – and perhaps talk about co-packing. Who knows, Marc’s Herring Roe Ice Cream might be on the menu too.