Mignonette with a twist, or squeeze, at Tosca in Hingham, MA

Reprinted with permission. Original posting is online here.  
By Joan Wilder
oyster and sauce.JPG Wondering what would be special for holiday eats, I called one of my favorite chefs, Kevin Long, to see what he was doing.

“I thought oysters with a pomegranate mignonette would be kind of fun,” said Long, when I walked into Tosca in Hingham one afternoon last week. The chef stood all in white behind the marble bar in the open kitchen presiding over a countertop covered with colorful foods. Behind him, smoke and steam wafted up as several cooks prepped the evening meal.

At first I thought there wouldn’t be much to a raw oyster dish to share with readers.But, I was wrong.

Long treats each ingredient with such care that even a simple preparation becomes an education (and an inspiration) in good cooking. Mention something about food, and he’s all over it: a fount of enthusiasm and ideas about everything that has anything to do with food.

Turns out a mignonette is a simple sauce typically served with oysters. Long decided to flavor this one with pomegranate because the fruit is available this time of year, delicious, and festive.

ingredients mignonette.JPGBefore my arrival, he’d prepped all the ingredients in pretty little bowls (left), along with a few ounces of deep crimson pomegranate juice.

Of course the chef hadn’t used a juicer, he’d mashed the seeds with a mojito mallet (actually called a muddler), then pressed the juice from the mash in a strainer.

As Long assembled the ingredients in a small stainless bowl, I gathered some of his comments.

Four tablespoons of ice water: “Ice water is an integral part of my world.”
Two tablespoons plain white vinegar: “You want the taste of the juice to shine.”
One tablespoon fresh minced thyme: “Buy one package for the holidays and use the rest for stuffing.”
A couple pinches of cracked black pepper: “You crack it with the side of a knife.” (“Really?” “Yup.”)
One tablespoon chopped shallots: “We dice them then run them under cold water for 20 minutes through a colander. We do it with all onions – the whole allium family. It takes away the mucilaginous film and makes them taste cleaner, brighter, better.”
One tablespoon raw brown sugar: “I prefer demerara, it’s a little more molasses-y.” But he didn’t have any.
Three tablespoons pomegranate juice: “I’d have 10 guys squeezing pomegranates all day for the juice if I could, it’s so delicious.”

After swishing the sauce all together, he let it sit.

Long has his way of handling oysters, too. He keeps them iced down in the sink for at least an hour prior to shucking to make them easier to open. He uses the sink so the melted ice can drain.

“You don’t want to drowned them, they’re alive,” he says.
After shucking, he keeps them on ice in a perforated pan, so they don’t get all wet.

We talk for five minutes about ways a home cook who doesn’t have a perforated hotel pan could do this.

“If there’s snow on the ground, you could lay them in a show bank,” he says, pretty seriously. (I’m imagining little structures I could build around them for protection from animals out there on the snow.)
The chef shucks an oyster so easily it doesn’t seem like a real oyster. He says the key is a razor sharp knife. Holding the bivalve in a folded kitchen towel, he tucks his blade into the little notch at the hinge end and slides it in and around one side, then the other, and lifts off the top. But, that isn’t the end of it.

Before severing the muscle that attaches the bivalve to the bottom shell, he swishes it in an ice bath.
“I tell people I wash them, and they go crazy, but it really works,” says Long, opening another oyster and rubbing his finger along the edge of the shell to show me all the grit that comes away.

“I insist that you bathe them.”
He then cuts the muscle and lifts the meat free to reveal a pool of oyster liquor beneath.
Setting them on ice, he spoons some pomegranate mignonette over each and sprinkles a few ruby-colored seeds on top, and we each have one.

They’re beautiful: briny, sweet, savory, exciting mouthfuls.
As we sit in the rich atmosphere of the magnificent, bustling restaurant for a few last minutes before Long has to hustle back to work, somehow the idea of left over shucked oysters comes up.

“Stuff and bake them,” he says. “I’m obsessed with the lost classic New England dishes like seafood newburg, lobster thermidor, anything with bread stuffing drenched in Dry Sack sherry. I love them!”
It’s tempting to conclude that attention to detail makes a great chef.

But really, what makes a great chef is attention to everything involved in the procuring, handling, preparing, and serving of food.

Whether it’s chasing down locally grown produce, dedicating a cooler to dry aging meats, or running water over shallots for 20 minutes, obsessive, passionate love and focus on food is at the heart of a chef’s talent.
And Kevin Long’s got it bad.

Need an oyster shucking knife?  Click here.


                      

Massachusetts Oyster Project now on Facebook

As you know, we are always happy to post information for oyster related non-profits on our blog.

Recently, the Massachusetts Oyster Project joined Facebook and we'd like to encourage you to be a part of the page. Simply click on the "like" button below.



To learn more about MOP, visit the new Facebook page or visit the MOP blog by clicking here. They have a great event planned at the Harpoon Brewery in early 2011. Hope to see you there!

Oysters in Stowe, VT?

This weekend we will be vacationing in Stowe, Vermont at The von Trapp Family Lodge. Any suggestions for oysters or raw bars in the area?

Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival - Oct. 9th

Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival
October 9, 2010

Maddox Family Campground
6742 Maddox Blvd.
Chincoteague Va, 23336



All you can eat from Noon to 4 p.m.
OYSTERS, OYSTERS, OYSTERS...
on the half shell, steamed, single fried, fritters, clam chowder, clam fritters, steamed crabs, cole slaw, potato salad, hush puppies, hot dogs, Pepsi. 



Sponsored by The Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce

See www.chincoteagueoysterfestival.com for more information.

Shucking Contest: Sept. 25 in New York!


ATTENTION PROFESSIONAL OYSTER SHUCKERS!!!


ENTER THE GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR’S

PROFESSIONAL OYSTER SHUCKING CONTEST


TO BE HELD ON SATURDAY, AFTERNOON SEPTEMBER 25TH


GRAND PRIZE $1,500!!!

$500 for 2nd Place, $250 for 3rd Place


Contact:

THE GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR

Phone: 212-490-6652

Fax: 212-949-5210

E-mail: jpoccia@OysterBarNY.com


ENTER NOW!!!

Oyster Happy Hour at Five Fisherman in Halifax, Nova Scotia

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After more than a week exploring Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in our rented convertible, Michael and I were happy to wander around Halifax on foot, searching the waterfront and for all things oyster.

When we saw the sign inviting us to indulge in the Oyster Happy Hour at Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill we immediately knew this was going to be an worthwhile stop.

Five Fishermen’s Oyster Happy Hour, which takes place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 pm. seven days a week, features $1 oysters. Since the going rate for quality oysters averaged out at a little over $3 per oyster, who could turn down a bargain like this?

We sat up at the restaurant’s ground floor oyster bar and introduced ourselves to oyster shucker and barman Patrick. He and barmaid Celeste were busy selecting, shucking and plating oysters for the ever growing happy hour crowd – but not to busy to help out an oyster blogger.

The day’s featured oysters were from Nova Scotia (Eel Lake and Scotians from Digby, Nova Scotia, and Tatamagouches from the Northerrn Coast) and Prince Edward Island (Sinners in Heaven from Cascumpec Bay and more of the wonderful Raspberry Points).

We decided to start with the Eel Lakes since we had been invited by oysterman Nolan D’Eon of Eel Lake Oyster Farm in Yarmouth to take a boat out on the lake to see the oyster habitat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t squeeze it into our roadtrip.

Patrick paired the Eel Lakes with the Sinners in Heaven. And since we were no longer driving, we had Celeste make us some Grey Goose martinis (doubles!) to accompany the oysters.

Patrick’s shucking technique was excellent, as was his patter about the featured oysters. While was assumed he had been working with oysters for years, he candidly admitted that he was a relative novice to the world of oysters. Fortunately for Patrick, Five Fisherman’s general manager Shane Robilliard had taken him under his wing and has been doing an excellent job teaching him about all things oyster.

Eel Lake oysters, which are also known as Ruisseau oysters, are cultured in the clean cold waters of Eel Lake. The ocean currents add the perfect salinity. Tasting these wonderful oysters, Michael and I regretted we missed the opportunity to spend time with Nolan.

Patrick told us the Sinners in Heaven were the favorite of his patrons for the past few days. At first I though maybe they had just been intrigued by the playful name, but after a taste, I knew it was the oysters’ creamy, full bodied flavor.

While Celeste prepared another round of martinis, Patrick handed over the Raspberry Points and Scotians.

Due to poor planning on my part, we had missed the Raspberry Point Oyster Slurp on Prince Edward Island. We had enjoyed them back home before the road trip, courtesy of American Mussel Harvesters and here and there along the way as we drove across Prince Edward Island. Consistently superb, the salty, meaty Raspberry points were now becoming a familiar delicacy.

The Scotians were next, but by this time, the martinis must have kicked in, as I appear to have lost my tasting notes about them. That having been said, I am sure they were fantastic.

Shane stopped by to see if we had yet tried the Tatamagouches from northern Nova Scotia. Since we had not, they were next up on our afternoon tasting.

He smiled a bit as he watched Patrick work extra hard to open the Tatamagouches. Once opened, we could see the sandy-colored oysters resting in liquor filled cups. The taste was mildly sweet, with a crisp briny finish.

Shane next asked if we had ever tasted a fat bastard. It was Patrick’s turn to smile this time, as he explained that “Phat Bastards” were very large oysters from New Brunswick that were gaining in popularity. Celeste went off to the kitchen and returned with a pair of Phat Bastards for us to try next.

The Phat Bastards were huge – the largest oysters we had seen on our road trip. Full-bodied with a wonderful aftertaste, they went perfectly with the last round of martinis Celeste passed our way.

Oyster Happy Hour at the Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill was the perfect ending to our oyster-centric road trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. When we return to Halifax – and we will – we will enjoy another Oyster Happy Hour and dine at the restaurant upstairs from the oyster bar. The menu looked amazing.

Thus ends our road trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Next summer’s trip in search of all thing’s oyster takes us to where the word for oyster is ostrica – Italy.

Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill
1740 Argyle Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2W1, Canada
(902) 422-4421
www.fivefishermen.com

Eel Lake Oyster Farm
P.O. Box 185 Ste. Anne-Du-Ruisseau
Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia
B0W 2X0 Canada
(902) 648-3472
www.ruisseauoysters.com

American Mussel Harvesters
165 Tidal Drive
North Kingstown, RI 02852
(401) 294-8999
www.americanmussel.com

                     

Thank You to Island Creek Oysters from TJS

Each June the staff of Go Shuck An Oyster.com participates in The Todd J. Schwartz Softball Classic, a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund. This event honors the life of Todd J. Schwartz (TJS), a vibrant college student and Dana-Farber patient who died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 19. This all-day event incorporates a softball tournament and countless activities for individuals, families and children, as well as a large silent auction and barbecue. For more information see For Todd.

Since 2003, this event has raised more than $250,000 for the Jimmy Fund's Family Festival, an annual event for Jimmy Fund Clinic patients and their families.

This past June, after I got in touch with Erin of Shucked, Island Creek Oysters donated an oyster gift package that included 3 dozen Island Creek oysters, a knife and a t-shirt. Todd Lieberman was the highest bidder during the TJS silent auction, and was the winner of the oyster gift package. Overall, the event raised over $31,000 this year.

On Friday, June 10th, Todd L. picked up his oyster package in Duxbury, MA. He told me things were busy at Island Creek headquarters as they were getting ready for the Island Creek Oyster Festival (held on September 11, 2010) but that didn't stop them from taking time to prepare his oyster gift package.

Go Shuck An Oyster.com and the planning committee for the TJS event thank Island Creek Oysters for the generous gift.

It is also fitting that this post is written today as many family members and friends of Todd J. Schwartz walked 26.2 miles today during the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to raise money in his name. If you'd like to donate to the team, click here. As of this post, the team has raised $25,881.75.

The Halifax Waterfront

By Travel Editor, Rand Hoch

As usual, Jeremy’s advice was right on point: There is no need for a car when visiting Halifax for two days.

After our two hour drive from Annapolis Royal along Route 101, we checked into The Prince George Hotel, dropped off our bags, and said goodbye to the convertible.

There is a lot to do and see in Halifax, but, being oyster-centric, we were concentrating on the waterfront area along the harbor. Although we had been told several times throughout our road tip that finding oysters in Halifax might be challenging, that did not prove to be the case.

Stopping at the first restaurant we saw on the Halifax Waterfront, we were pleased to learn that Salty’s was serving Beausoleils oysters from New Brunswick. Sitting on the deck at water’s edge, we ordered Grey Goose martinis to accompany the oysters and watched the Sunday boaters enjoying the waterfront.

Having been spoiled by the incredible oysters on Prince Edward Island, we found the Beausoleils to be relatively basic: juicy and firm, with a pronounced brininess. That having been said, we enjoyed two dozen Beausoleils along with our martinis.

Heading out to explore the waterfront, we paused briefly at Cow’s to check out the fun T-shirts – and have some ice cream. (Michael won’t let me post the photo of him by the chain’s ubiquitous life-size plastic cows, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations.) Cow's is widely recognized as one of the world's top places to get ice cream.

After our long drive across Nova Scotia and our snacks, it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest. We checked out the historic buildings – and tourist traps – in the Waterfront District and then headed up the hill towards the hotel.

Along the way, we passed The Press Gang, a restaurant and oyster bar that had been recommended to us by Suzan, our host at The Bailey House in Annapolis Royal. We ducked in to check out the day’s featured oysters on the chalkboard above the bar: Rocky Bays from Prince Edward Island; Black Points from Pictou, Nova Scotia; and Beausoleils from Peacock Cove, New Brunswick. I also learned that elk chops were on the menu. We made our dinner reservations.

Well rested, we returned to The Press Gang for a leisurely dinner. The elk chop was amazing – and surprisingly tender. But then, we were there primarily for the oysters.

Our barman Brian shucked the first dozen oysters, four of each of the featured varieties. He told us a bit about the oysters as we sipped Grey Goose martinis.

Going clockwise in the evening’s oysters are the Rocky Bays, the Black Points and the Beausoleils.

As we expected, Prince Edward Island’s featured oysters were the best. The deep-cupped Rocky Bays were plump and bursting with salty liquor. Nova Scotia’s Black Points were light and only mildly salty. And for some reason, these Beausoleils did not taste as briny as the one’s at Salty’s.

Over our leisurely and exquisite dinner we tried to figure out what to do on the last day of our roadtrip. Earlier that afternoon we overheard travelers at Salty’s talking about the humpback whale they had seen that afternoon, so Michael suggested we go on a whale watching expedition.

The next morning we took the ferry to Dartmouth, where we met up with another couple to spend a few hours in the harbor watching for whales.

And that is what we did: watch.

There wasn’t a whale in sight the entire time. Our captain and guide were very apologetic, but if there are no whales, there are no whales. So, Michael and I took turns shooting photos of the same lighthouse – a lot of photos – and listened to our guides tell us about whales and the history of Halifax.

Slightly disappointed, we took the ferry back to Halifax with a new mission in mind: lobster.

During the road trip, we learned that a lot of the lobsters caught in the Atlantic Provinces are one to one-and-a quarter pounders which are canned for commercial use. Since those are barely legal in my mind, I had ordered only lobster rolls throughout the roadtrip. But today, I wanted steamed lobster and french fries.

Passing Bluenose II one of Halifax’s landmark restaurants, I noticed a sign for a $23.95 lobster dinner. That was all it took. The one-and-a-half pounder was great – and Michael always gets a kick out of seeing me in a bib!

On our way back to the hotel after lunch, we passed a sign reading “Oyster Happy Hour”. As you will soon read, that deserves a posting all of its own.

The Prince George Hotel
1725 Market Street
Halifax
Nova Scotia B3J 3N9, Canada
(800) 565-1567

Salty's
1869 Upper Water Street
Halifax
Nova Scotia B3J 1S9, Canada
(902) 423-6818

The Press Gang
5218 Prince Street
Halifax
Nova Scotia B3J 3X4, Canada
(902) 423-8816

Bluenose II Restaurant
1824 Hollis Street
Halifax
Nova Scotia B3J 1W4 (902) 425-5092

                      

Charlottetown, PEI and Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

By Travel Editor, Rand Hoch

Having spent time hiking, exploring the beaches, chatting with oystermen and riding bikes along the Points East Coastal Drive from the Inn at Bay Fortune to the Inn at Spry Point, Michael and I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a day in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Islands’s provincial capital.

We were wrong.

There really isn’t much to Charlottetown to justify spending a day there, but we had planned a night there, which was a smart decision.

We booked a Hideaway Suite at the Great George, a series of impeccably restored townhouses in the city’s national historic district. Our suite had a spacious bedroom with a fireplace and a staircase leading up to a loft with a double Jacuzzi.

We followed John Bil’s suggestion and booked ourselves a table for dinner at Lot 30,

Arriving a bit in advance of our reservations, we sat up at the bar where bartender Laurence Hertz made us some of his vodka ginger mojitos. This proved to be a great way to start of the evening.

Our server, Michael Good, suggested that we put ourselves in the hands of Chef Gordon Bailey and go with a five course tasting menu.

Chef Bailey, who has worked at some of Canada’s leading restaurants – including the Inn at Bay Fortune – is known as the “biker chef”, since he has augmented his income over the years by customizing motorcycles.

We followed our server’s suggestion, but insisted on starting off with a dozen of Rodney’s Oysters which were being featured that night.

Not knowing what else would be served, Michael and I ordered a bottle of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge brut champagne which we had enjoyed a few days earlier with dinner in Baddeck. Champagne does go with everything!

Following the impeccable oysters was our first course of the tasting menu – a presentation of sea scallops gratin with red pepper butter and fennel roasted almonds. Michael and I now realized that we should have brought the camera to dinner - in addition to our appetites. The second course was PEI halibut with Italian sausage pepperini and horse radish tomato.

Having concluded the seafood portion of our tasting, we next enjoyed Chef Bailey’s maple braised pork belly with potato puree, wilted spinach and natural reduction. This was followed by grilled prime rib eye steak, with potato pave, sautéed red peppers and peppercorn vinaigrette.

Although we were totally satiated by our offerings thus far, we could not turn down the dessert sampler which included crème brulée, chocolate pot de crème, double chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and vanilla cheesecake.

Clearly, John Bil had steered us to the right place in Charlottetown, making our brief stopover here quite memorable.

We got up early the following morning for our long drive out of Prince Edward Island across the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick, then on to Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, where we spent two restful days at the Bailey House B & B.

We had booked the Joseph Totten room on the second floor of the main house. Michael and I were glad we chose a room with a water view, as we spent a lazy afternoon watching boats sail by as we enjoyed some well deserved R & R. Throughout the day we could smell cakes baking in the kitchen below. Our host Suzan Hebditch spoiled us each morning with the best breakfasts we had on our road trip. She used ingredients from her own garden, as well as those from her neighbors. She also made some of the best preserves we have ever tasted.

We are both going to have to diet a bit when we get back to the states. But there is still one last stop - Halifax.

The Great George
58 Great George Street
Charlottetown, PEI, C1A 4K3, Canada

Lot 30
151 Kent Street
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 1N5, Canada

The Bailey House B & B
150 St. George Street
Annapolis Royal, NS B0S1A0

John Bil’s Quintessential Oyster

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After our last breakfast at the Inn on Bay Fortune, Michael and I ventured to PEI’s famed oyster capital – Malpeque.
We drove west along Veteran’s Memorial Highway to Saint Peter’s Bay, not far from Prince Edward Island National Park where we had spent the previous day hiking along the unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes. We were pleasantly surprised by the warm water at the park’s beach in Greenwich.


On the way back from the beach we treated ourselves to a snack of South Lake oysters on the veranda of the Inn at St. Peters.

From St. Peter’s Bay, we traveled west along Route 6, driving through farmland along the coast, stopping briefly at the resort at Delvay-by-the-Sea.

Reaching Cavendish, we stopped to take a picture of the Anne of Green Gables House for our friend Rebecca.




Just outside of Cavendish, we stopped at Raspberry Point Oysters Co to personally thank James Power and Scott Linkletter for the oysters we enjoyed before the trip. However, everyone was busy preparing for the company’s 1st Annual Oyster Slurp on August 21, which Michael and I were unfortunately going to miss. So we just took a few photos and continued along our way.

We continued west to Route 20 to meet PEI’s foremost oyster maven John Bil at his Ship to Shore Restaurant and Lounge in Darnley.

John was behind the bar when we arrived, pressing oranges in an old-fashioned juicer in preparation for a private party that night. He seemed happy to take a break and talk oysters with us, but then, I’ll bet he’s happy to do that with everyone who shares his love of oysters.

He drew us a couple of local red draughts and brought over a tray of his favorite oysters – “Johns ‘2 L’ Private Stock – from the seafood shop.

“When I think of oysters, these are the ones,” he said factually. “I’ve been getting them for years from my friend John MacDonald, who lives right across the street.”

Oysters really don’t get any fresher than these.

Since John is a three time Canadian oyster shucking champion, and a two time North American shucking champion, we wanted to learn from the master.

Having placed an oyster cup down on a dish rag, John inserted his knife in a narrow slot at the hinge. With a firm push and a quick twist, he lifted the lid up off the cup. John then scraped the knife along the lid and again across the cup, to separate the muscle from the shells. Displaying the oyster to us, he made sure there were no bits of shell or other debris on the oyster. The entire process took him only a matter of seconds.

While Michael shot a great video of this process, we are not currently able to upload it. Fortunately, someone else caught it years ago:



The “John’s ‘2 L’ Private Stock.” oysters were large and meaty. Biting into the oyster, I tasted a perfect oyster with slight touch of brininess from Darnley Basin.

“That’s the way they taste today,” John explained. “It is based on what has just passed the oyster lips before they came out of the water this morning. Try them in another week or so and they’ll probably taste different, but they’ll always be good.”

Before we left, we sampled some Indian Creek and Raspberry Point oysters, and John gave us a restaurant suggestion for the night – Lot 30 in Charlottetown.

All in all, it was a great way to spend some time on the way to Malpeque, where we spent a little while checking out the bay before heading on to Charlottetown.

Ship to Shore Restaurant

2684 Route 20,
Darnley, Prince Edward Island, C0B 1M0
(902) 836-5475

Colville Bay Oysters

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After a hearty breakfast at the Inn at Bay Fortune, Michael and I took the 20 minute drive to a grey shingled shack at the mouth of the Souris River in northeastern Prince Edward Island, which serves as the base of operation for the Colville Bay Oyster Company. We enjoyed the famed oysters at the Inn last night, so we wanted to spend some time with owner Johnny Flynn.

For the past seventeen years, Flynn and his family have been cultivating oysters in Colville Bay’s pristine waters, where the frigid, nutrient-filled currents flush and feed their young oysters. The uniquely soft, silty bottom of the bay adds to the environment in which these oysters plump as they mature.

Johnny explained that the shallow waters of Colville Bay contributed in several ways to the uniqueness of his oysters.

Being farmed so close to the ocean’s surface gives Colville Bay oysters their distinctive teardrop-shape and jade-green shells. In addition, the bay's periwinkle population routinely cleans the oyster shells. And since the water is teeming with plankton, the growing oysters are constantly being nourished.

Once they reach maturity, which may take up to five years, Colville Bay oysters are harvested, graded and packed – all of which is done by hand, often by family members. When we stopped by, Johnny was sorting, his daugher Sarah was rinsing and his son Tom was out in the bay harvesting.



Colville Bay oysters, which are only available in Canada, are among the world's most sought after oysters.

Click here for a slide show.

Johnny spends no money on marketing; relying in great part on word of mouth advertising by chefs -- and patrons -- from the nearby Inn on Bay Fortune.

Colville Bay Oyster Co.
Ltd.83 Lower Rollo Bay Road
Souris, PEC0A 2B0
(902) 687-2222

Onward to Prince Edward Island

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

I’ll admit it. I made a mistake in planning this road trip.

Having just stayed overnight in Baddeck, we were now heading out of town.

Big mistake.

I should have planned for one more day so we could have explored the Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive. Oh well. That just gives us a reason to return to Cape Breton again.

We traveled southwest on the Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell Way (Highway 105), along the lake’s north shore. Reaching Whycocomagh, we traded our view of the lake for a view of the wooded mountains, as we continued our drive along the Big Ridge towards the Casno Causeway. Passing through farmland and villages, bald eagles soared overhead. Back on the mainland, we picked up Trans-Canada highway, retracing our route towards Antigonish. No time for scenic detours today.

We had to catch the North umber land Ferry from Nova Scotia for the 75 minute ride to Prince Edward Island.

Since we took the ferry over to PEI and will be leaving the island by the Confederation Bridge, there was no charge for the ferry.

(You only pay – dearly – to leave the island).

Since there are no reservations for one-way trips, we spent almost two hours playing rummy in the ferry terminal, awaiting embarkation. The ferry ride provided a nice respite from the driving (and waiting) and soon we were disembarking in Wood Islands, PEI. Back in the car, we headed northeast for a one hour drive to the Inn at Bay Fortune.

After greeting us upon our arrival, Innkeeper Dave Wilmer introduced us to Chef Warren Barr. He had been tipped off about our stay at the inn by his mother, a fan of the GoShuckAnOyster blog.

Since our dinner reservations were for 8:00 p.m., Warren suggested we reserve some oysters for the evening. No sense in letting the early diners enjoy all of the oysters sent over earlier in the day from nearby Colville Bay.

Dinner at the Inn is served on the veranda, and all of the tables have views of the bay. As we watched the late afternoon turn into dusk and then night, we feasted on Warren's specialties. To start off, we split a dozen Colville Bay oysters.

Since I prefer them naked, they were accompanied only by wedges of lemon. To accompany the oysters, I selected a bottle of Chablis (2007 Domaine Laroche from Saint Martin) from the Innkeeper's Reserve portion of sommelier Jean-Sébastien Morin's award-winning wine list.

Beautifully presented on slate. Each of the oysters rested atop a mound of sea salt. Sweet, and creamy with a perfect little saltiness at the end. The oysters shared with us a taste of the waters of nearby Colville Bay.

Our plans for the morning were to visit with Johnny Flynn, owner of Colville Bay Oyster Company to learn how he managed to grow such perfect oysters.

To show us what else could be done with these amazing oysters, chef Warren also sent over his oyster special for the evening: the Colville Bay oysters served out of the shell in horseradish espuma with diced crunchy vegetables from the Inn's garden, cider gelée, white wine poached pear and lemon granite.

These were so good, Michael and I ended up dipping the last few of our naked oysters into the creamy espuma. Since we had not yet finished the chablis, we also ordered a carpaccio of Nova Scotia swordfish and tuna which was garnished with a sweet and sour corn relish, oishi sauce, and sesame and crisp sour apple.

Having dined exclusively on seafood thus far on the roadtrip, we opted for something that would go well with a 2005 La Fiole du Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape that caught our attention on the wine list.

Michael opted for the Atlantic AAA beef strip loin, served atop semolina and a cake of aged cheddar. I chose the Avondale Meadows Farm lamb tasting. As with everything we saw emerge from Inn's kitchen, both were beautifully presented. And both surpassed all expectations as well!

After ending our meal with our desserts, we climbed the stairs up to our tower suite and passed out contentedly.

Cape George Scenic Drive and The Cabot Trail - Nova Scotia

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

“We’ll get a convertible,” I told Michael when we began planning our road trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He smiled, knowing that I say that every time we rent a car.

Stepping out of the airport in Halifax in mid-August, we knew we made the right choice. There really is no better way to explore the eastern Atlantic Provinces – by land – than cruising with the top down.

Heading north along Veteran’s Memorial Highway (Highway 102) in our Sebring towards the Northumberland Strait, iPod set to his 'Road trip' playlist (Lady Gaga, La Roux, songs from Glee, etc.), we began our seafood-centric adventure.

Oysters, lobsters, scallops and mussels take note – we’re on our way.

Heading east on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 104) towards Cape Breton Island, we eyed a sign which read, “Sunrise Trail - Cape George Scenic Drive.”

“Detour!”

Veering north onto Route 245, hugging the coast, we drove through several fishing villages overlooking the Northumberland Strait. We passed through Arisaig, a lobster fishing village and then followed the signs to the Cape George Day Park, climbing the rolling hills towards the peak. We took the short hike from the park to the Cape George Point Lighthouse and took in the view across the water to the Cape Breton Island highlands.

After our short break, we continued along Route 337 towards our original route, passing through Ballantyne’s Cove, which we discovered is the world’s leading supplier of Bluefin tuna. Being sushi lovers, we stopped, only to learn that fishing season begins in September.

Ballantyne’s Cove
At the end of our detour, we stopped for a great lunch at Gabrieau's Bistro on Main Street in Antigonish. We then rejoined the Trans-Canada Highway and continued eastward crossing the causeway over the Strait of Canso that separates the mainland from Cape Breton Island.

Heading north, we followed the winding Ceilidh Trail (Route 10) along the western shore of Cape Breton Island. Passing by seaside communities and the Mabou Highlands, we enjoyed views of the rugged coastline and cliffs, bays and harbors, and an abundance of farms along the way.

Crossing through Margaree Harbor, we admired the two lighthouses protecting the village. Just past the harbor, we began our drive along the Cabot Trail, as we traveled north to the Acadian fishing village of Chéticamp, our stop for the night.

After checking out the local restaurants, we were dismayed to learn that not one had any oysters. Since the closest place that was serving them was one-half hour away in Pleasant Bay, we drove north into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, over the mountains, towards the Rusty Anchor Restaurant.

With the sound of the surf crashing against the cliffs below, Michael and I took in the incredible views of not only the ocean below, but also the park's highlands and mountains.

Just minutes after we laughed at our first "Moose Crossing" sign, we noticed a car pulled over to the side of the road. As we approached, we saw a couple taking pictures of a female moose nibbling on a roadside shrub.

We slowed down to admire the moose, but kept on driving towards our oysters.

At the restaurant, owner Donna Timmons explained that many of the local oyster beds had been damaged a few years ago. As a result, she served her customers whatever oysters she could get her hands on. Fortunately, her supply of Malpeques had arrived that day, so Michael and I ordered those along with our lobster rolls.

We hope that we won't be limited in our oyster selections during the rest of our stay in Nova Scotia.

Arising early the next morning, we drove north back into the park along the Cabot Trail.
We passed through Pleasant Bay and a few picturesque fishing villages, occasionally heading towards the cliffs, hoping to spot some whales. Unfortunately, none were to be seen.

After only a short time in the car, we passed a “Bog Tail” sign, so we pulled off the highway for a short hike. Eagles flew overhead, as we hiked along the trail. While we expected to see another moose (which we did) and perhaps a black bear (which we did not), we were surprised to find a variety of orchids in bloom.

Heading south along the Atlantic coast, we drove past lighthouses and fishing villages such as Neil’s Harbor, where piles of lobster traps covered the wharfs. Harbor after harbor sported brightly painted boats adding splashes of color to the scenery.

Along the way, we kept seeing signs for puffin boat tours.

Having nothing better to do, we followed the Donelda's Puffin Boat Tours signs towards Englishtown.

Michael and I and another couple joined Donelda and her husband on a two and one-half hour cruise around the Bird Islands.


We learned that Atlantic Puffins are actually very small birds, about the size of sparrows. I'm glad we brought a camera with a zoom lens!

We saw several puffins bobbing in the water, and a few mid-air. Dozens of both Great and Double-breasted Cormorants sunned themselves along the rocky shores of the islands. Young bald eagles occasionally perched along the islands' peaks.

Off in the distance we saw what appeared to be floating footballs in the water. As we got closet, we were pleasantly greeted by playful seals -- lots of them.

Returning to shore, we hopped back into the convertible and continued south through several more towns, finally reaching Baddeck, our home for the night.

Our summer road trip is off to a great start. We'll write more in a few days, stay tuned.

Inn at Bay Fortune and Colville Bay Oysters

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor
Inn at Bay Fortune PEI CanadaTime for a confession. . .

Our road trip is planned around spending time at the Inn at Bay Fortune.

Located on 46 acres along Prince Edward Island’s scenic Points East Coastal Drive, the inn sits on a rise overlooking the mouth of Bay Fortune, the harbor and the Northumberland Strait. Some of the island’s best beaches are just minutes away. Researching for the road trip, my partner Michael, an actor, was drawn by the Inn’s theatrical history. Originally the home of Broadway playwright Elmer Harris (Johnny Belinda), the Inn subsequently was owned by the two time Tony winning actress Colleen Dewhurst (A Moon for the Misbegotten and All the Way Home). As for me, I was more impressed with what Innkeeper Dave Wilmer has managed to make of the property over the past two decades.


In recognition of the efforts of Wilmer and his staff, the Inn at Bay Fortune has been recognized in Where to Eat in Canada as "the best place to stay on the Island, and certainly the most exciting place to eat.

"Being foodies, both Michael and I were impressed that chef Warren Barr’s efforts have earned the Inn at Bay Fortune the exclusive Four Diamond Award from the American Automobile Association. Chef Barr, known for his emphasis on fresh local ingredients that reflect an intensely regional cooking style, captures the essence of Prince Edward Island. Personally, I’m hoping that during our stay, he will feature his lobster carpaccio with pickled carrot and a spiced carrot sorbet. Dave also promised to have the world-renowned oysters from nearby Colville Bay available.

Additionally, thanks to the efforts of sommelier Jean-Sébastien Morin, for the third consecutive year, Wine Spectator has bestowed its coveted Award of Excellence to the Inn for his wine list and wine program. Michael and I look forward to dining at the Inn.

Bay FortuneThe Inn's architecture reflects its maritime setting. The weathered shingles, sloped roofs and traditional details caught our attention. Since this is a bit of a working vacation (I’m in the process of restructuring my law practice), I advised Dave that we would need some space to work, and some inspiration. After being tempted with a variety of rooms, we booked the spacious suite onColville Bay Oysters the top floor of the Inn’s north tower. Dave assured us that we would be able to see all the way to Cape Breton from the balcony. Ever the accommodating innkeeper, Dave also mentioned setting us up with Johnny Flynn of Colville Bay Oyster Co so we can spend time with him and learn about the distinctive teardrop-shaped moss-green oysters he farms nearby. Michael and I are looking forward to that!

Inn at Bay Fortune, here we come!

A Tease of North Atlantic Oysters from American Mussel Harvesters

By Rand Hoch - Travel Editor
Having read about our road trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, James Power – one of the island’s leading oyster growers – invited us to the Raspberry Point Oyster festival on August 21st. When I told James that we would be exploring the Fundy Coast that weekend, he offered to personally show us around during our stay on Prince Edward Island.

James and Scott Linkletter run Raspberry Point Oysters. Their small farm is on New London Bay, bordering Prince Edward Island National Park on the island's north shore. The two also grow Pickle Point and Shiny Sea oysters, and as you can see from the video, they have fun doing it.



Since the oysters are exclusively distributed in the United States by American Mussel Harvesters, I contacted sales representative Matt DiMatteo for some inspiration.

To assist me in my research for the road trip, Matt shipped an assortment of oysters Michael and I would encounter on our road trip: Raspberry Points, Pickle Points, Shiny Seas and Canada Cups from Prince Edward Island, and Cape Bretons from Nova Scotia.

For good measure Matt sent along some oyster knives made specifically for American Mussel Harvesters. The knives are available online by clicking here.

My friend Don Todorich, a REALTOR who, in a previous life managed food and beverage services at one of Palm Beach’s private clubs, hosted our poolside sampling at his home. I invited two native Alabamans – Tim Horn and David McRoy – in the hopes that the taste of North Atlantic oysters would take their minds off the devastation occurring to the oyster beds along their beloved Gulf shores. Rounding out our group Scott Simmons, Managing Editor of the Coastal Star.

To accompany the oysters, we had several bottles of Veuve Clicquot, along with a 2008 Domaine Pinot Gris from Oregon’s King Estate and a 2008 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc.

Since I recently received my Oyster Aficionado Certificate of Achievement before we began shucking, we drank and toasted to Richard D. Rush, Professor of Edible Oysters and Editor in Chief of the Oyster Information Newsletter who awarded the certificate.

Don had made his famous mignonette, which he had let standing at room temperature overnight, as well as a standard red sauce with horseradish. While I prefer my North Atlantic oysters totally naked, my friends assured me that both sauces worked perfectly.

Together we spent a wonderful Florida night shucking and slurping these perfectly salty oysters from points North.

The exceptionally sweet Raspberry Points had just the right amount of salt, as did the plump Shiny Seas, which also had a distinct sweet finish.

The oyster liquor surrounding the fat Pickle Points brought me back to my childhood days, swimming in the salty waters off northern New England’s beaches, taking in more water than I should have.

The beautifully formed Canada Cups were a touch less briny, but still incredibly flavorful.

We found the Cape Bretons from Nova Scotia firm meat to have taken in less salt than those from Prince Edward Island.

After the last of the oysters and wine was finished, I called Josh, Owner of Go Shuck An Oyster, on Skype to pose a question asked by Don.

“What do you call a group of oysters?” It is a legitimate question since we were pretty sure the answer wasn’t a “school.”

Grinning, Josh replied, “a snack.”

But after tonight’s festivities, I have another suggestion; “A tease of oysters.”

So, thanks to James and Scott for growing such great oysters, and for American Mussel Harvesters for teasing us tonight.

Michael and I are look forward to spending time in New London Bay next month, taking in all things oyster.

To purchase a tease of your own, contact Matt DiMatteo at:
matt @ americanmussel.com

American Mussel Harvesters

165 Tidal Drive
North Kingstown, RI 02852
401-294-8999

                      

Annual Milford Oyster Festival - Volunteers Welcome

The Annual Milford Oyster Festival is right around the corner (August 21, 2010) and the organizers are seeking volunteers including: cashiers, runners, judges, timers, crowd management specialists, hawkers, fry chefs and soda sales people. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Kathy Rhodes.

More about the Festival:
Started in 1975, the Annual Milford (Connecticut) Oyster Festival is held on the third Saturday of August every year and attracts local residents and visitors from around the globe who want to enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes and history of Milford at a family-oriented festival.

For the fifth consecutive year, the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA) will be a major player in the festival. Thanks to ECSGA member companies, they are able to serve a wide variety of oysters and clams including raw bars on Friday evening and Saturday. They expect to sell almost 20,000 oysters and clams, and more than 1,000 portions of cooked shellfish, too, from a 60-foot long food booth staffed by about 50 volunteers.

2010 marks the 36th Annual Milford Oyster Festival. The festival has grown from a tiny local one-day celebration of the oyster and our wonderful seaside community into one of Connecticut’s summer highlights. Today the many facets of the festival include various high caliber entertainment acts seen free of charge, over 200 arts and crafts vendors from around the country, our non-profit area that brings awareness to the local non-profit civic, health and environmental groups, a "Main Street" area which helps to promote the local small and medium-sized businesses, children's amusement rides and games, a classic car show, canoe races and the tremendous food offered by many local non-profit civic organizations to help raise money for each of their causes.

It is through ECSGA’s participation that the Milford Oyster Festival is again living up to its name. For a number of years the oyster was virtually absent from the Festival. ECSGA have restored it to its rightful place. The festival participants can now enjoy eating oysters if they so choose and can cheer on some of the fastest shuckers in the world in the shucking contest. And a whole bunch of people will know that oysters, like wine, come in many different varieties and flavors.
The oysters you can expect to find at the festival include: Norm Bloom & Son, Muscongus Bay, Pangea Shellfish, Matunuck Oyster, Island Creek Oysters, Moonstone Oysters, The Ocean State Shellfish Coop., Atlantic Capes Fisheries, CherryStone Aquafarm, Bivalve Packing, Cowart Seafood and Salt Pond Oyster Co. and perhaps more!
For more information about the festival or about volunteering, contact Kathy Rhodes or visit the event website.

So Many PEI Oysters, so little time!

By Rand - Travel Editor

I have always lived by the ocean and for years, my choice of oysters was dictated by my locale.

Growing up in Massachusetts (with relatives on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard), I could choose from Cotuits, Cuttyhunks, Duxburies, Martha’s Vineyards, Tomahawks, and of course, Wellfleets. While attending college in the nation’s capital, my oyster world expanded to include Rappahannocks, Yorks and Chincoteagues – all from Chesapeake Bay.

But when I moved to Florida, the only local oysters were Apalachicolas. As a result, they were all I ate locally for decades until a local restaurateur, John Spoto, opened his first eponymous oyster bar just steps away from my home in downtown West Palm Beach. (Having outgrown that location, John moved the restaurant to a more accommodating space in Palm Beach Gardens a few years ago).

During my first visit to Spoto’s Oyster Bar in 1997, John suggested that I try the Malpeques. They were buttery smooth, a perfect balance of sweetness and ocean brine. I’ve been hooked on them ever since. Every time I have been to John’s restaurants since, oysters from PEI have been on the menu. So, in a way, John Spoto is responsible for this summer’s road trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
In need of research for the blog, I asked a client to meet me at Spoto’s last Sunday. It turned out to be a wise decision. Not only were oysters from Sunberry Point, PEI being featured, but also 2 lb. lobsters were on a Sunday Special for $29.75 each.

Now, I know my lobster. My hometown of Swampscott, MA, which was established by disgruntled Pilgrims in 1629, has a rich lobster history.

After more than a century as a seafaring center in the New World, Swampscott’s townsfolk became innovative leaders for the fishing industry. Lobster harvesting was revolutionized in 1808 when a townsman, Ebenezer Thorndike, invented the lobster pot. In 1840, another townsman, Theophilius Brackett, invented The Swampscott Dory -- a fishing boat used to row and to pull lobster pots. After 170 years, the boat is still widely used by lobstermen worldwide. More importantly I had friends who spent their summers working on lobster boats. So, on good days, we were able to get lobsters fresh off the boats. Back in my high school days, life just didn’t get much better than that.

Our knowledgeable waiter at Spoto’s was Wolfgang, who has been with the restaurant for almost 4 years. Although he guided us through the entire oyster selections, we ended up with a platter of the Sunberries – with a few Wellfleets to keep them company.

Harvested in the crystal clear waters of the Northumberland Strait, Sunberries look like most oysters from PEI’s Northumberland Strait, with nicely sized brown, green and white shells. However, because the frigid tides provide a constant flow of nutrients, we found the oysters possessed a unique and wonderfully briny flavor. As for the lobsters, they were incredibly fresh. The meat was sweet. The lobsters were perfectly prepared and artfully presented with lemon wedges held upright in each claw. (I ended up having two of the 2 pounders.) A reasonably priced 2009 Simi Sauvignon Blanc rounded out our dining experience. All combined for a wonderful way to conduct business and research for the blog.

Leaving my GoShuckAnOyster.com business card with Wolfgang, I asked him to pass it along to John, who in turn, might spend an hour or so with me before the road trip, talking about – and sampling – oysters for the blog. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll have some time in the next few weeks.

Preparing for our culinary pilgrimage next month, I have learned that Prince Edward Island Oysters were judged the world’s tastiest oyster at the Paris exhibition in 1900. Michael and I look forward to seeing if, after more than a century, the reputation still holds water.

As a result of my research, I now know that PEI’s oyster world extends far beyond Malpeques and Sunberries. Dozens of other oyster brands are now growing – and being cultivated – in the cool waters around PEI, including Alpines, Bedeque Bays, Blackberry Points, Canada Cups, Canadian Coves, Carr’s, Cavendish Cups, Colville Bays, Cooke's Coves, Chedabuctos, Conway Cups, Conway Royals, Cooke's Coves, Gooseberry Bays, Green Gables, Hurricane Harbors, Indian Creeks, Lucky Limes, Mermaid Straits, Mill Points, North Points, Northumberlands, Osprey Points, Pickle Points, Pipers Points, Raspberry Points, Red Points, Rocky Bays, Rocky Points, Rocky Shores, Salvation Coves, Salt Aires, Salutation Coves, Shiny Seas, Stanley Bridges and Summersides.

While Michael and I hope to sample a wide variety during our stay on the island next month, tasting all of them will be impossible, as some will not be harvested until the Fall. So, we’ll have to be patient, and place our orders for those to be enjoyed later this year, back at home.

So many Prince Edward Island oysters, so little time!

The Quarterdeck in Falmouth, MA

Quarterdeck Falmouth MAWhile visiting friends and family on Cape Cod this raw oysters, falmouth chatham pemaquid, waquoitweekend, we had the chance to sample oysters and clams being served at The Quarterdeck Restaurant in Falmouth, MA.

The menu offered local oysters from Chatham and Pemaquid and clams from Waquoit Bay, so naturally we tried them all.

They were shucked to order, fresh, tasty and well presented.

I highly recommend oysters from the Quarterdeck in Falmouth, MA aQuarterdeck restuarantnd I look forward to returning!

I hear they often serve oysters from different locales. The rest of the menu looked great as well, but it is always hard for me to get past the appetizers.
Go, and enjoy. And say hi to the Falmouth Track Club members who frequent the bar on Friday nights, after their weekly 5 mile race, The Coffee-O Five.