Oyster Dinners & PartiesAugust 12, 2015

The Bounty Delivers for New York Oyster Lovers

Last night, 17 hungry New York oyster lovers quickly filled up two lengthy wooden tables near the front of The Bounty. Three hours later, each of us left feeling satiated and elated. Chef Evan Sloan and his team pulled together a spectacular oyster dinner—one that is definitely going down in NY Oyster Lovers Meetup history.

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The Bounty is a two-year-old restaurant & bar located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Situated just off of the Greenpoint Ave stop on the G train, this nautically-infused seafood den has flown under the radar of most food media… but probably not for long. On their Instagram, you’ll find the usual food porn suspects: perfectly positioned platters of oysters, juicy burgers, and fried things. The images are attractive, but not at all representational of what we were going to be in for. Oh no, were taken on a magical, one-of-a-kind tasting journey that defied the status quo.

Here’s a quick play by play of the meal:

Amuse Bouche

“Oyster & Sherry” featured a round of freshly shucked raw oysters on the half shell, drizzled with near-invisible sherry vinegar. The light touch of this aromatic liquor took me back to my childhood days of eating drunken chicken in the summertime. The platter featured Cape May Salts (NJ), Peter’s Point (MA), and Taunton Bay (ME). I paired the lot with a chilled muscadet. A perfect start to any meal.

First Course

With our appetites properly whetted, the first course of “Oyster & Lemon” arrived. A couple raw East Beach Blonde (RI) oysters perched atop a crispy piece of toast, and crowned with lightly shaved fennel, celery, and dressed in lemon puree, mache, and burnt lemon vinaigrette. It’s hard to make a raw gloop of oyster meat that is out of its shell look appetizing, but this dish seemed to have achieved it. Kind of amazing what a simple sprinkle of green can do!

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Second Course

Most oyster soups and stews that I’ve had are usually thick and laden with butter and/or cream. Chef Sloan’s interpretation was surprisingly light and simultaneously complex. “Oyster & Parsley” featured grilled Malpeques (PEI) wading in a silky parsley root soup, complemented with gremolata, parsley pesto, and briny pops of salmon roe. While I thoroughly enjoyed this course, I’d be curious to see what a creamy Pacific oyster might offer that a Malpeque cannot.

Third Course

“Oyster & Cucumber” featured a zen-like parade of scallop crudo, cornmeal-fried Island Creeks (MA), marinated cucumber, cucumber yogurt sauce, homemade hoisin sauce (seriously?? amazing) and cilantro. This dish won best presentation and flavor combination in my opinion. But the blissful moment quickly turned into panic. What if… what if I never get the chance to eat this dish again?? ? Dear friends at The Bounty: please add this to your regular menu. Thanks!

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Fourth Course

Next came the pasta course—“Oyster & Smoke”—that silenced the room. Between bites, someone would applaud the elegant smokiness of this dish. I barely said a word. I was too busy slurping the noodles! Smoked Bras d’Ors (NS) hid under a wave of hand-cut capellini noodles, toothsome bitter greens, oyster mushrooms, and smoked grape tomatoes & bottarga. Bottarga is a salted cured fish roe and my new favorite seasoning side-kick. Similar to the salmon roe from the second course, the delicate sprinkle of sea and salt really puts you in the oceanic mood.

Fifth Course

“Oyster & Horseradish” was the fifth and final course of the evening. A generous portion of perfectly cooked prime cut flank steak created a podium for a tempura fried Sewansecott (VA) oyster. Holy moly, that was tasty! The composition also featured horseradish, confit potato, creme fraiche, dill, watercress, and dulse—an edible seaweed that supposedly tastes like bacon when cooked. My take? It kind of does. Kind of doesn’t. Either way, it was delicious.

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I’m pretty sure that we all burst into a round of applause BEFORE the meal was even over.

Many thanks to Chef Even Sloan and the entire Bounty team for putting your heart and soul into this meal. You could really feel the love! Also a big thanks to Crystal for organizing this great feast, amongst the 10 million other things on her plate.

If you’re in NYC and would like to partake in these awesome oyster events, sign up to be a member of the New York Oyster Lovers Meetup Group! It’s free to join and we’ll most likely get to hang out.

Oyster Dinners & PartiesNovember 14, 2013

“Grand Central Oyster Bar Classics” Dinner & Cookbook Celebration

To celebrate the newly released Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Cookbook, Executive Chef Sandy Ingber hosted a wonderful 6-course dinner and wine pairing last night for New York’s most avid oyster fans.

   

The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant is unequivocally the most iconic oyster institution in all of New York City. Uniquely situated in the Terminal’s lower level, with the famous “Whispering Gallery” at its entrance, the Grand Central Oyster Bar is a must-visit establishment for locals and visitors alike. Having turned 100 years old earlier this year, it was only appropriate to commemorate the occasion with a dinner of timeless Oyster Bar favorites. Most, if not all of the dishes are also captured in the new Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Cookbook.

Our first course of the evening featured a diverse raw bar selection of three oyster species: the GCOB Bluepoint, Kumamoto, and wild-harvested Maine Belon. Oh, and a tasty little Topneck Clam joined the party too. The oysters paired beautifully with the Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from Sonoma Valley — especially the potent and punchy Belon. The taste of the distinctively metallic European flat oyster took me back to Ireland

The second course was a poached Norwegian farmed salmon filet with cucumber dill salad and sauce verte, paired with the Heidsieck & Co Monopole “Blue Top” Champagne Brut NV. This chilled dish was a great transition between the raw and the cooked. I loved the texture and “bite” of the salmon, as well as the pickled tanginess of the cucumber salad.

Our third course showcased cooked oysters in two ways: fried oyster in the half shell with tartar sauce and GCOB’s Oyster Rockefeller. Now, I prefer my oysters raw and naked, but man, were these oysters well cooked and “dressed!” Both used GCOB Bluepoints as the oyster of choice. The bites were paired with a Chateau St. Michelle “Eroica” Riesling 2012 from Washington State. I think this was around time when I started feeling tipsy from all of the pairings.

   

The fourth course featured the always-amazing oyster pan roast with buttered toast. This decadent, silky dish was sublime. I swirled the paprika powder around the soft oyster bellies before taking a spoonful in. The whole bite just melted in my mouth. If you could have only one thing from Grand Central Oyster Bar, I would strongly recommend ordering this. While I love their clam chowder and fried oysters, you might have a hard time finding a pan roast like this anywhere else. It’s a great dish and a great piece of New York food history. In the new cookbook, there are a couple of pages dedicated to the oyster pan roast, including a list of seafood variations (you know, just to mix things up.) This dish was paired with a Antica Chardonnay 2011 from Napa Valley.

The fifth course was a perfect portion of broiled Florida Mahi Mahi filet with wild mushroom crust, chive beurre blanc, and rice pilaf. It was paired with Francis Ford Coppola “Votre Sante” Pinot Noir 2011 from California, which was a very approachable, light red. It was also accompanied by a couple stalks of crisp asparagus, which I thought was nice textural contrast to the fish.

The sixth and final course was dessert. Out came two slivers of cake put side-by-side like as if they were a couple. The Grand Central Oyster Bar Key Lime Pie and the Cheesecake work surprisingly well together as a single bite! Our sweet ending was topped off with the Ferrari-Carano “El Dorado Gold” 2008 from Sonoma, which I remember having when we were visiting their winery back in 2009.

Now with our bellies full and glasses nearly all finished, we sat back and enjoyed the warm and bustling ambiance around us. Even when this restaurant is empty, I still feel like it’s busy. It’s one of those places that possesses a New York soul — perhaps from all those many years of serving countless hungry, oyster-craving mouths. Nowadays, I have to admit that I rarely drop by the Grand Central Oyster Bar for raw oysters anymore, but when I do, it’s like re-experiencing my first oyster-enlightened tasting again.

Chef Ingber came around and signed my copy of his new cookbook. The book itself is nicely designed and contains just about every single restaurant recipe you’d want to get your hands on. From pan roasts to Oyster Rockefeller, gazpacho with Maine lobster and corn to basic dipping sauces… this book has quickly become my new go-to seafood cooking guide. (I got really excited when I randomly flipped to a page about oyster shooters. ) If you’re looking for a new coffee table book to add to your collection, make sure to put this on your holiday wishlist.

As a sneak preview, here is the Oyster Rockefeller recipe by Chef Ingber.

Oysters Rockefeller (serves 4)

This is one of our signature dishes. Chef Scott Conant featured this dish on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, calling it “old school cooking at its best.” As he said, every component needs to be perfect.

You’ll have some spinach left over. It could be a cook’s treat, or you could prepare another eight oysters.

24 Bluepoint oysters on the half shell

Creamed spinach (page 202)

Hollandaise Sauce (page 207)

Position an oven rack in the top position and heat the broiler. Remove the oysters from their shells.

Place the shells on a rimmed baking sheet and spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the creamed spinach into each shell. Set the oysters on top of the spinach. Broil until the edges of the oysters are just starting to ruffle, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the broiler, top each oyster with about 1 tablespoon of hollandaise sauce, and return the pan to the oven. Broil until the sauce browns, 1 to 1½ minutes.

Using tongs, divide the oysters among 4 dinner plates and serve immediately.

    

Lastly, just for the record, I hijacked my fiancé’s dinner plans for us this evening to do this. B rarely plans anything — mostly because I enjoy planning things and tend to take over his plans anyway. Don’t get me wrong, we both had a great time tonight. But I just wanted to let him (and everyone else) know that he’s the best sport ever for putting up with my oyster shenanigans!

Disclosure: All photos were taken with my iPhone 5S and posted to Instagram. My and my fiancé’s dinners were on the house, but endorsements were not paid for by Grand Central Oyster Bar or any of its affiliates. All opinions and feedback are my own. 

Oyster Dinners & PartiesAugust 5, 2013

National Oyster Day Nosh

It’s one of my favorite days of the year! National Oyster Day will always have a place in my heart. To celebrate, I am going to share a recent oyster feasting experience with you all.

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My friend Niyati is a fellow oyster lover. Like me, she’ll take any opportunity to enjoy them. For her birthday, a friend had offered to buy her a good sum of oysters from The Lobster Place. True to form, Niyati decided to turn this gift into an opportunity to host a fabulous affair — and so the 1st Annual Oyster Nosh was born. I was invited to attend this lovely Saturday afternoon gathering, partly because it’s been too long since I’ve seen her, partly because I also loved oysters, and partly because she needed an experienced shucker (not going to lie). More

Oyster Dinners & PartiesOctober 7, 2012

Bivalves & Barbecue at Blue Smoke

Oysters and BBQ might go hand in hand in the south, but it's rather uncommon to see it in the Northeast. At Blue Smoke however, they're trying to change all of that. They called in the NY Oyster Lovers Meetup Group to be the first testers/guinea pigs of Chef Eddie Montalvo's bivalve & barbecue creations.

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There were ten of us that night and none of us knew what to expect. We had seen a preview of the menu, but it was hard to predict just how everything would be executed. Blue Smoke is well known for their lip-smacking barbecue, but oysters? Word on the street is that they’re looking to dive into the oyster scene, quite literally. More

Oyster Dinners & PartiesMay 9, 2012

Five Species Oyster Sampler at Dressler

Uber kudos to Chef Polo Dobkin at Dressler for putting together a delightful menu for the New York Oyster Lovers meetup. It was the first time that I've ever experienced all five species of oysters sold in the US on the same plate!

The Menu at The Dressler Oyster Dinner

I just glanced at my NYOL Meetup count and apparently this is my 17th (!!!) event. Who knows how many other oyster tastings I’ve been to outside of the group. So it should provide you with some context as to how rare this 5-species sampler is by learning that this is the FIRST time that I’ve ever come across this offering. The fab five (see logo) all in one place? Too good to be true. Credit and thanks must be given to both Chef Polo Dobkin and the W&T Seafood crew for hooking him up with the goods. So thanks guys!

I’m going to keep my comments brief as I am under the weather today. Below is a quick recap of the courses and oysters that were showcased.

Cape May Salt Oyster Shooter w/ Tomato Water, Bloody Mary, and Mezcal Adam Picking Up a Shooter

First course was a simple and tasty Shooter featuring a plump Cape May Salt Oyster from the Cape Shore of Delaware Bay, NJ and a small glass of tomato water, bloody mary, and mezcal. The combination was potent and refreshing. The Cape May Salt was simultaneously succulent and firm. Also you can’t go wrong with starting with a little booze. Smart move for a Meetup.

Five Species of Oysters on One Plate

Second course was a platter of five flawlessly shucked raw oysters that came chilled on a bed of crushed ice. Years ago I learned about these five species from Rowan Jacobsen’s book A Geography of Oysters. It took thousands of oysters later to finally meet them all at once, together, face to face. The group decided to start with the Kumamoto, a West Coast fan favorite, and work our way to the East. The reason for this technique is that the brininess of the East Coast oysters tend to linger on the palette, so it’s best to start with lighter ones first. Basically the same protocol as any other tasting, whether it’s cheese, wine, sake, etc.

Kumamoto (Crassostrea sikamea) from Chapman’s Cove and Totten Inlet, WA
Some oyster connoisseurs snub the Kumamoto because it’s just “too easy to love.” It’s true, but that doesn’t stop me from showering it with affection. Famous for its deep cup of plush, pillowy, fruity meat, this Kumo fit the bill perfectly. After a couple of chews, the distinct melony sweetness began to emerge fully on my tongue. Great way to start!

Olympia (Ostrea lurida) from Totten Inlet, Southern Puget Sound, WA
Petite and darker colored, this oyster used to cover the entire west coast of North America. Overharvesting, disease, and industrialization practically wiped them out completely. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts and sustainable farming, this little guy is coming back in force! They are about the size of a quarter but has the punchy flavor of a new penny. Coppery, earthy, bold. Non-apologetic.

Shigoku (Crassostrea gigas) from Washington Coast, Willipa Bay, WA
The name sounds Japanese and that is exactly where this species originated from. It was imported from Japan when the Olympias started to dwindle. Now the gigas is synonymous with the West Coast oyster (not to mention that its cultivated around the world). The Shigoku was the quintessential West Coast oyster: ultra creamy, clean, slightly minerally, and grassy/vegetal.

Wild Goose (Crassostrea virginica) from West Passage, Narragansett Bay, RI
Virginica oysters are native to the North American East Coast and take on a much different flavor profile than its West Coast counterparts. The oysters from Rhode Island are consistently at the top of my list of being the most sweet, plump, and complex of all Virginicas. The Wild Goose did not disappoint. Its liquor was bright and briny and the meat was chewy, earthy, and mildly sweet.

Belon (Ostrea edulis) from Damariscotta River, Edgecomb, ME
The belon is native to Europe, but has been successfully grown on the East Coast. I’ve have Belons from Maine before, but also from Ireland and France. They are also referred to as “plate” or “flat” oysters in Europe due to their shape. The shells are almost round and scallop-like. The taste is unlike any other oyster there is. Powerful, bold, briny, and extremely metallic. The abrasive zinc-flavor hits your salivary gland like a thundershower and STAYS. It can be overpowering and polarizing for some. I happen to crave it. Partially because of the flavor and also because of the firm texture.

Crispy Po'Boy with Sewansecott Oysters Patrick Eating the Petite Olympia

The third course was a dainty open-faced crispy po’boy using Sewansecott Oysters from Hog Island Bay, Willis Wharf, VA. I love raw Sewansecott oysters, but the fried version ain’t bad either! I wish that there would’ve been a little less herb dressing though. It slightly overpowered the delicate arugula.

Dashi Poached Montauk Pearl Oyster Lemon-Orange Blossom Sorbet

The fourth course was a dashi poached Montauk Pearl Oyster from Montauk, Long Island, NY with braised pork belly, enoki mushrooms, simmered in a broth of dashi, daikon, ponzu, and chives. The broth was amazing. I wish I could have it every morning for breakfast or every evening as a night cap… or both!

Lastly, the dessert was a lemon-orange blossom sorbet accompanied by an almond biscotti. Refreshing, mildly tart, and pleasantly sweet. A wonderful way to bring this wonderful tasting to a close.

I’m so glad that I decided to trek to Williamsburg for this meal despite being sick. I experienced one of the best raw oyster tastings that I have ever encountered and met some very interesting people as well. For those who are in New York and lust over these meals, stop watching and start joining in!

In other news, I am leaving for a week-long relaxation fest in St. Lucia this Sunday with B. Looking forward to some sun, snorkel, scuba, kayaking, sailing, and eating! I wonder if they’ll have oysters on the island… somewhere. If there are, I will be sure to find them out and report back.