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


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.


Summer Road Trip - Nova Scotia and PEI

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

I love taking food-centric road trips with family and friends. Before Josh married Rachel, he and I headed north along on Australia’s east coast from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef. Along the way, we sampled local shellfish, seafood and Aussie hospitality. Josh’s now-famous “before and after” food photos began on that trip with an afternoon snack of Sydney Rock, Coffin Bay and Kangaroo Island oysters at Coff’s Harbor. The “before” picture was an artfully presented platter of three dozen oysters; the “after” was our own oyster mound.

On last summer's road trip, my partner Michael and I spent a few days in Bilbao, Spain before we picked up a car and headed off toward Paris. During our week wandering wine country in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley on the way to the City of Lights, we enjoyed the culinary expertise of some of the world’s most creative chefs. Our rented apartment on Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris was a short walk from a great huîtrerie (oyster bar). Enjoying platters of fines de claire, speciales de Normandie, speciales de marennes (the Belons were overpriced) and a few bottles of Sancerre proved to be a wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon.

So when Michael and I began to plan this summer’s road trip, we went in search of some of the world’s best oysters, mussels, scallops and lobster. A little research led us to one place we can find them all. So, we're off to Canada’s easternmost Atlantic Provinces: Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Map of oyster trip around canadaOur itinerary is set -- more or less -- and we leave in mid-August. Upon landing in Halifax we’ll head to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton, driving through Highlands National Park from Chéticamp onto Baddeck. Along the way, we’ll do some hiking, check out a few beaches, visit a raw bar or two and maybe even hop on a boat to see some puffins.

Leaving Baddeck, we’ll drive to the ferry landing in Carabou to cross the Northumberland Straight to Prince Edward Island. There we will be based for several days on the island's northeast coast. We'll also spend a night in Charlottetown.

During our stay on PEI, we'll be zigzagging across the island, meeting with oysterman and restauranteurs, sampling an amazing array of oysters along the way.

Next we'll head back Nova Scotia via the Confederation Bridge, driving down the Fundy Coast to Annapolis Royal. Our stay on Nova Scotia's west coast will include a drive down to Tiverton for some whale watching from Zodiacs off Long Beach.

Winding down our road trip, we'll head back east, visiting Lunenberg and Peggy’s Cove on our way to Halifax where we'll spend our last few days.

With the basic logistics under control, we now have to get ready for a surprisingly wide array of oysters from both provinces, as well as the famous Prince Edward Island mussels, the renowned Digby scallops and the unsurpassed North American lobsters. With the help of a few seafood purveyors in the Northeast and a few raw bars owners here in the Palm Beaches, it ought to be a great trip.

We look forward to keeping you updated along the way with pictures and stories, stay tuned.

Travel Writer
Go Shuck An Oyster.com