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Shelter Island Lions Club’s Scallop Dinner serves up memories

The Shelter Island Lions hosted their 65th Annual Scallop Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club.

From the time the doors opened at 5 p.m., Islanders streamed in to enjoy one of the first major social events in a long time. The robust vaccination program conducted on the Island, making it safe to resume public gatherings, enabled 250 guests to celebrate a tradition with deep roots. The dinner was canceled last year under COVID protocols.

For the first of these dinners, 65 years ago, Lenny Bliss cooked the scallops for the event, which raises funds for the Lions’ community activities.

Over the years, Mr. Bliss served as the Gardiner’s Bay club manager, then bought the department store on Bridge Street, now owned by his daughter Peggy and her husband Walter Johnson, that still bears his name. Their son Adam now works at Gardiner’s Bay as a chef alongside his cousin Sebastian Bliss.

Together, this culinary team turned out dinners of soup, scallops, risotto and dessert for the sold-out event, just as their grandfather did decades ago.

Lion Chris Carey drew upon his experience as a banquet manager to shepherd groups of guests to tables in every corner of the club. Mr. Carey, who began his career 53 years ago working for Lenny Bliss, helped club manager Charlie Marcus and his staff fill each table as soon as it turned over.

On Saturday night, the club’s former golf pro Bob DeStefano was at the door selling tickets. In a recent column for the Reporter, recalling how his career at Gardiner’s Bay began more than 50 years ago, he wrote, “When I arrived in 1962, Lenny Bliss was the club manager. He and his wife May broke their backs to make the members happy … In those days, when you sat and had a drink at the bar — no cheap peanuts for us — Len would bring out smoked bluefish and scallops to nibble. I still remember how he did the scallops. He’d boil water, turn off the heat, put the scallops in for five minutes and serve it with red sauce. They tasted like little chunks of lobster.”

No lobster was needed Saturday evening. Hearty food and drink in the company of friends and neighbors made for a menu to please body and soul on a crisp fall night.