Camelot’s Bubbles and Blues on the West Palm Beach Waterfront 

By Rand Hoch, Food Editor,
December 4, 2015

Camelot, a unique restaurant/lounge/night club just steps away from my home, opened after much anticipation in the late Summer, 2014. Having been drawn to the concept of bringing a JFK-inspired, 1960s Palm Beach style venue to the West Palm Beach waterfront, I applied for membership long before Camelot opened its doors.

And as it is said, “membership has its privileges”.

Recently, Camelot informed members that “Bubbles and Blues” would be held every Friday evening throughout Season.  “Bubbles” –  Veuve Cliquot at $9 per flute – to perfectly compliment “Blues” ($1 Blue Points).

Needless to say, there was no way that I was going to miss the inaugural event.

I arrived shortly after five and staked out two seats by the oyster bar. Minutes later I was joined by Don Todorich, one of Palm Beach’s leading REALTORS and a frequent dining companion. Camelot’s newly hired executive chef, Joe Bonavita, introduced himself and started talking to us about oysters.

Chef Bonavita, who grew up in Long Island, New York, told us that from a young age, he often went fishing with his father, afterwhich they would prepare the day’s catch in their kitchen. From a very young age, he realized that cooking was his true passion and that the sea was his source of endless inspiration. It did not take us long to realize that Joe really knows his seafood!

The chef works with shellfish purveyors up and down the East Coast, including Sea to Table, Blue Island Oyster Company and Island Creek Oysters. He also knows individual fishermen who text him almost about what they have caught. These relationships ensure that the freshest oysters, clams, lobsters and fish are flown out each morning, so that the bounty lands at Palm Beach International Airport in time to print up the day’s menu for Camelot’s raw bar program and ever changing menu items.

“I believe fish tastes better when there’s a story and a face behind us,” Chef Bonavita told us. “At Camelot, we only buy sustainably harvested, line caught, or wild seafood.”

Chef Bonavita, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, is a man after my own heart. (I’m willing to bet that Rodney Mayo, the genius behind Camelot and several other successful South Florida restaurants and clubs, has plans for his talents beyond Camelot. (The chef has worked in Boston, Chicago, Miami Beach and New York with chefs Graham Elliot, Grant Achatz and Todd English, including a stint at Alina, a 3 Michelin starred restaurant).

While I generally eat my oysters “naked”, I was curious to see what the secret ingredient was in his mignonette (in addition to the obvious french Champagne vinegar and shallots). It turned out to be a nice SeaGlass Pinot Grigio from Santa Barbara, If was definitely worth a taste.

Despite having advertised the ubiquitous Blue Points, Joseph had obtained Blue Islands ($3 each when it is not happy hour) from Great South Bay, near Fire Island in New York. So, we began ordering by the dozen. The crisp wild oysters were lightly salty, with a sweet body finishing with a hint of celery.

The time came to sample the specialty oysters Joseph had selected for the evening.

He presented us with Tomahawks ($3 each) from Shinnecock Island (just south of Southampton, Long Island, New York), explaining that these were the only oysters produced by Native Americans. The Tomahawks were huge with shallow, jade colored cups. Contrary to what one would expect from an oyster this size, the chewy Tomahawks were pleasantly salty and sweet (almost buttery!) with a slightly herb finish.

Next we sampled medium-sized Black Duck Salts ($3 each) from Hog Island, Virginia. Although saltier than the previously two varieties we tasted, they were perfect the way they are. The crisp, sweet oysters featured an enjoyable grassy finish.

To round out his oyster selection, Joseph offered some farmed Kusshis ($4 each) from Deep Bay, in Northern Washington. While most Kusshis are generally very small, these were slightly larger. The soft, yet meaty, flesh filled the deep cups. The Kusshis had a delicate flavor and a faintly salty finish.

Joe, a master at preparing shellfish and seafood (with a modern flare) using local Florida ingredients, also insisted we try a few items from the day’s menu – Gloucester scallops and perfect Bigeye (Ahi) tuna sashimi.

Joe’s goal is to make Camelot a destination for oyster lovers as well as a nice quiet dinner spot where you can come and have a great meal. But as day turns to night and Camelot turns into a night club, the chef gets creative with shellfish towers, caviar service, even their own version of a "krabby paddy" (but only around midnight on Saturday nights).

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this Season at Camelot.

Camelot Yacht Club
114 S. Narcissus Ave
West Palm Beach, FL
Phone: (561) 318-7675

The Oyster Tasting Journal by Julie Qiu

oyster journal
When Julie Qiu, of In a Half Shell does something with oysters, it's done right. And when she teamed up with 33 Books Co., together they perfected the pocket-sized oyster journal. 

Understanding oysters isn't very different from understanding scotch, or wine, or beer. Each are complex in their own way. 

Oysters grown in different locations will taste differently. The shapes will be different. Flavors can range from buttery to briney, seaweed, nutty and more. Textures can differ as well. I like my oysters firm and crunchy. Some prefer a creamy texture. Oysters are grown and farmed in some of our most beautiful waters where oysters contribute to improving water quality and oyster reefs provide habitat for many fish species. 

The oyster is a complex species. This journal provides a framework for thinking about and understanding the different oysters you eat. And later you have the journal to recall your experiences.  

oysters in New YorkThis journal is done well and will be delightfully enjoyed by all those who use it. Buy one for yourself and consider buying a few to share. They could make the perfect party favor for your next oyster party!

Purchase some today for just $5.00 each online here.

Need some ideas on where to eat oysters in your area? Try this City Guide.

Please Practice Safe Shucking

oyster restoration in MA
"It's just stupid. It's like not wearing a seat belt in the car." - R. Hoch

She's right. It's practically negligent to not wear gloves when shucking oysters. Oyster shells are sharp; they will cut you. When you shuck (open) an oyster, you use a knife. Generally, you are pointing that knife directly at your opposite hand. When and if that knife slips, it might go through your hand.

But, it never happened to me. Until it did.

The Story

There is this amazing person, Sarah, who loves oysters. We have enjoyed many together. She came up with an idea to bring oysters to a local wine store for people to enjoy oysters and wine together and to raise money for the Massachusetts Oyster Project, an organization working on oyster restoration and shell recycling in Boston, Massachusetts. The event was arranged and I volunteered to help shuck 500 oysters.

The day started out perfectly.

We dropped off the kids at Sarah's, as she was pregnant at the time, and had no interest in attending the oyster/wine tasting if she wasn't able to partake.

Off we went to set up and start shucking before guests arrived.

I had about 100 oysters shucked and then BAM!

do you need an oyster gloveMy knife slipped off the oyster and drove straight into my hand.  It was a deep cut, the width of a shucking knife blade.

If you have you ever had a look inside your hand, it's not a sight you will likely forget, nor enjoy.

It seemed to happen in slow motion.  I instantly tossed down my knife down on the table and shouted, "I'm done" and headed to find a first aide kit.  A short while later, feeling dizzy and sweaty, it was off to a health center to be checked out.

Fortunately for me, my first slip of an oyster shucking knife only resulted in glue (not stitches) and nothing more severe.   One would think that night I would purchase a good pair of oyster shucking gloves.

But I didn't.

Fast forward a few years.

Me: "Rach, lets get 200 oysters Saturday and invite a few friends over."
Rach: "That sounds awesome."

Big Rock Oysters supplied the oysters. The East Coast, Cape Cod, East Dennis oysters were out of the water for one day when I received them. So fresh.  So lovely. I washed them, and we started shucking before friends arrived.

Rachel and I were shucking.  And talking.  Enjoying ourselves. Enjoying the weather.  Enjoying life. And then I hear, "aww *&%*."   Rach cups her hand and runs inside. I knew what had happened and I felt sick.  She went inside to clean her wound and bandage it up. Fortunately her cut didn't require stitches but it definitely put a damper on her party prep and her mood that night!

When it happened, and even today, her cut hurts me more than it hurts her. How could I not had oyster shucking gloves for her? We use a towel. A towel holds the oyster. It doesn't prevent the sharp oyster from cutting you when you pick it up and it certainly does nothing to prevent a knife from going through your hand. It's lazy.

I wear a seat belt. I wear a bike helmet. Why don't I shuck an oyster while wearing a glove? An oyster shucking glove is essential. I certainly will no longer allow anyone around me to shuck an oyster without a glove (or without a proper shucking knife).

So, if you are going to eat oysters at home (and you should!) find an oyster farm and go get some oysters, or have them shipped to you.  Or go to your local fresh seafood store.  But first, order an oyster knife and an oyster shucking glove.

What glove should you buy? Here are some some popular options among different price ranges and quality:

shucking glove
About $15.00 - Microlane 34007 Cut Resistant Glove

oyster glove
About $9.00 - Cut Resistant Gloves - 100% Kevlar
These are very popular but not my favorite.  They get wet very fast and I find them hard to clean. 

best oyster shucking glove
About $30 - Youngstown Glove with Kevlar
This glove will last you a long time and protect your hand very well.
A popular purchase with good ratings.

Click on an oyster glove photo above for buying options. Get a nice pair of gloves and an oyster knife or two. And please, always practice safe shucking!

The Oyster Jack Oyster and Clam Shucker

Need to open oysters or clams? For personal use or commercial? Have a look at the products by  Oyster Jack. This commercial series of all Stainless Steel Oyster and Clam Shuckers is designed to open oysters and clams in a safer, faster and more efficient manner than traditional methods when operated properly. 

Commerical Clam Oyster Opener
Click here to learn more
 Features include:
  • Wedge on handle is designed with V shape to penetrate oysters effortlessly.
  • All durable material; stainless steel base. stainless steel handle, stainless steel fasteners and food grade UHMW
  • 5 year Limited Warranty - 
  • Proudly made in the U.S.A. 
  • 5 year Warranty also covers the wedge if it becomes worn down.
  • Rubber feet for stability.
 What people say about it:
"It is as advertised and we knocked out two dozen oysters in no time."
"It does a great job and its easy to clean."

"It worked nicely."

"The product is made very well. I was worried all the juice would leak out of the oysters but that did not happen."

fastest oyster shucker
Click her to learn more
Need something a little faster?  Try the Oyster Jack World Record Setting Oyster Shucker

This oyster opener:
  • Shucks oysters fast;
  • Is made with all durable materials; black anodized aircraft aluminum, stainless steel and food grade UHMW;
  • The wedge has a hardened surface for durability;
  • Easy to clean;
  • Set a Guinness World Record of 100 Oysters in 2 minutes 45 seconds!
  • Proudly made in the U.S.A. 

Oyster shucking can be a lot of fun when done with the right oyster openers. Enjoy. 

Get Two Free Audiobooks About Oysters

Have you tried Audiobooks yet?  If not, you're in luck because you can get your first two books free. 

Audiobooks is an Amazon company that lets you listen to books on your smartphone or tablet.  Many people listen to books during a commute, workout, or while doing chores.  If you're interested in oysters,  you can use your two free audiobooks for:
  • The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell
  • Meet Paris Oyster: A Love Affair with the Perfect Food
  • American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
  • Chesapeake 1850: Steamboats & Oyster Wars: The News Reader
  • Chesapeake 1880: Steamboats & Oyster Wars: The News Reader, Book 2
  • The Splendid Table, Bill’s Fried Oysters, Bill Smith and Jesse Griffiths
  • Tales of Fish Patrol
  • The Secret Life of Clams: The Mysteries and Magic of Our Favorite Shellfish
To get your two free audiobooks, simply sign up for an account after clicking on this banner:

Let us know in the comment section below which books you listened to. 


Great Forks for Eating Oysters

Getting ready to eat oysters at home or at party?  Here are some options for small forks that work very well with oysters:

48 Forks: WNA Reflections Heavyweight Plastic Fork - Reflections Fancy Petite Fork

100 Forks: Elegant Petite Mini Tasting Forks

400 Forks: 4 Inch Petites Plastic Silver Tasting Forks

500 Forks: Comet Petites 4.2" Tasting Fork Black
Need an oyster shucking glove?  Click here
Need an oyster opening knife?  Click here
Need a good book about oysters?  Click here