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.
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.
Chef Eddie came over to the table to say hello and confess just how nervous (!) he was for this meal. In fact, it seemed like his entire team was on edge — a good edge. The overall excitement and anticipation of what was to come kept us all very chatty. All of the oysters being used were sourced through W&T Seafood. Crystal and Adam were there to both help explain the product and experience it for themselves.
The first curveball of the night was a surprise oyster shot! The raw Matunuck oyster — the chef’s “absolute favorite” type of oyster — sat atop a small shot glass. The elixir was made of vodka, bloody mary (I think), and beef drippings (OMG!). It was also accompanied by a rather untraditional corn dog — or should I say “oyster dog”? The chef fell in love with the Matunuck oyster after visiting the farm, which is very understandable.
The plate of raw oysters featured Matunucks and Shigokus, to get a taste of both East and West coast. There were a variety of condiments available to us: cocktail, mignonette, cholula hot sauce, and homemade tarragon mayonnaise. I tried a little bit of the tarra-mayo mix, but quickly concluded that I’m just a purist through and through. The Shigoku oysters were also used in a hearty oyster pan roast. The thick, buttery soup consisted of a few poached oysters that added a depth to the flavor and texture.
By this time, everyone’s appetites were prepped and stretched, ready for more. Oh, we definitely got MORE. Texas-style sliced beef brisket with oyster cornbread stuffing. Then came heaps of slow-cooked pulled pork with mac & cheese. Followed by giant pieces of Applewood-smoked chicken with sesame cole slaw. Lastly, a trio of desserts swooped in to seal the deal: key lime pie, chocolate cupcakes, and seasonal cobbler crisp with homemade ice cream. This was a feast of epic proportions, and it hard garnered many envious looks from across the restaurant.
When Chef Eddie came out for the forth and final time, an enthusiastic round of applause arose from our table. Many thanks to the entire Blue Smoke team for putting this meal together. Also thanks to Crystal for organizing!
This is a very atypical post, but a really exciting one! The inaugural New York Oyster Week is coming up soon (Sept 22nd – 27th) and I have the opportunity to give away two tickets to the Oyster Farm Field Day that’s happening on Monday, September 24th. Read on for details of the trip and how to enter.
On Oyster Farm Field Day, a small group of 20-22 Oyster Lovers will visit a working oyster farm and learn ALL about Oyster Farming and the ecology of the Great South Bay. It’s a great day out on the water at Blue Island’s rather guest friendly oyster farm. Believe me, I know — I was there a few years ago.
The farm is a singular place just off of Captree State Park in a tidal channel that rips between Captree and Fire Island. The farm itself is basically a big, stationary dock-island built on pilings in the middle of the channel. At one end there is a small building where we can sit and eat if it’s a bit to chilly to sit and eat outside. Blue Island Shellfish Farm CEO Chris Quartuccio and his gang will undoubtedly fill you with bivalve knowledge, NY oyster industry history, and — of course — the little shuckers themselves.
GIVEAWAY : WHAT IS IT?
Here’s an overview of the event:
NY Oyster Week 2012 Oyster Farm Field Day
Monday, September 24th
11am – 6pm
Blue Island Shellfish Farms in the Great South Bay
Meeting location: Captree Cove Restaurant / Marina @ 3500 Ocean Parkway, Babylon, NY 11702. This is the spot where those who drive or take the train out with gather and then go to the farm by boat, kayak or stand up paddle board. Driving directions can be found on the NY Oyster Week website.
Unlimited local oysters
Lunch paired with local craft beers and wine (see details below)
Roundtrip water taxi from Captree Cove Restaurant
Water activities such as Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboarding
Optional Lighthouse visit
FOOD & DRINK
NY Oyster Week will be putting out a really nice lunch featuring unlimited Blue Island Oysters, Lobster Rolls, Steaks, Local Corn and Potatoes paired with local Craft Beers & Local Long Island Wines
KAYAK & SUP
If the weather is good, some of us can kayak to or around the farm from the meeting place at Captree Cove Restaurant. If you are a capable Stand Up Paddle Boarder (read: done it once and are confident you won’t fall in!), you are welcome to paddle out. Paddle Boards courtesy of MASHOMACK Stand Up Paddle People! http://mashomacksup.
THE FIRE ISLAND LIGHT HOUSE
Time and weather permitting, we’ll cruise over there by boat, check out the beach, take the stairs to the top and slurp some oysters there too! http://www.
$99 before 9/21 or $125 afterwards
GIVEAWAY: HOW TO ENTER
I have a pair of tickets to give away for FREEEE to this awesome event. The winner will be chosen at random from all of the entries that I receive via social media (whether it’s on my blog, Facebook or Twitter) by Friday, September 21st.
To enter, simply do the following:
- Post a comment on this entry about why you love oysters! (Simple, right?)
- LIKE New York Oyster Week’s Facebook Page and (if you haven’t already) LIKE In A Half Shell’s Facebook Page
For an additional entry to win, tweet to @InAHalfShell with the following phrase “I want to win #OysterWeekNYC tickets to Oyster Farm Field Day! Enter to win at InAHalfShell.com”
P.S. If you don’t see your comment show up immediately, that’s because I need to moderate them in order for them to appear on the website. So don’t fret!
Good luck and happy slurping!
B and I went to St Lucia in mid-May… and we got engaged!
He proposed on our first day there, during the sunset by our private plunge pool that overlooked the Caribbean Sea. (No oysters involved, but he did splendidly with the ring!) So since then, I have been a little more pre-occupied with life outside of work and slurping bivalves. In fact, this post will be an oddball exception to my usual oyster-obsessed entries. It’s going to talk a little bit about my oyster discovery in St Lucia but mostly just about the trip. The next post will definitely be all about oysters though, so stay tuned!
Seafood is popular on the island, but it mostly revolves around fish and crustaceans. Most of the towns around the island are fishing villages, so no modern aquaculture yet (that I know of). However, I managed to find one restaurant that offered raw oysters called The Edge, a “Eurobean” fusion joint that focuses on seafood (including sushi!) Unfortunately the sushi chef was on an emergency leave of absence when we went, but the regular menu held its own. I was particularly excited about the Caesar salad with roasted oysters from Newfoundland. Canadian oysters in the Caribbean? Check.
At The Edge in Rodney Bay, B and I also shared several other tasty apps and entrees including: jumbo local prawn with squid ink pasta ravioli, shrimp and scallop skewers, red snapper, and jerk-marinated steak.
Outside of this fancy meal (and another swanky one at Rainforest Cafe, Marigot Bay), we had a blast exploring the local eats. We ventured into the Anse la Raye Friday Night Fish Fry with a group of Brits and went to town. I loved the fried mackerel on a stick — despite never having tried one like it, it tasted like something from out of my childhood.
When we weren’t stuffing our face with food and local beer (Piton beer is awesome), we were working off the calories scuba-diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing… among other things. St Lucia was an incredible destination for a vacation, let alone an engagement. We hope to visit again someday soon! I’ll just leave you with some of my favorite photos from the trip. If you’re curious, you can check out the rest on Flickr.
This was my very first time scuba diving so I was very grateful to have such a good instructor! Thanks Andre
One of our favorite things to do during the day was to sit in the plunge pool and watch the boats go in and out of the bay.
A glimpse of the exquisite view from Emerald Hill Villa, adjacent to our suite. The owner of the property was kind enough to let us use the entire villa when they didn’t have other guests.
Kayaking through ominous weather = couples bonding.
Hanging around never felt so good.
Just one of the many breathtaking sunsets that we witnessed. Can’t believe I got engaged to this view!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
City Grit is New York City’s premiere culinary salon — essentially a supper club, but cooler. This month featured several dinners designed by Chef Dave Santos. The chef graciously invited me to his Ode to the Oyster feast several weeks ago, which showcased a five-course tasting of historic oyster dishes with a modern twist (plus an ‘oyster-themed’ dessert).
City Grit is a wonderful venue and I hope that I can persuade you to check out their offerings. Co-founder Jeremie Kittredge ran the “front of the house,” while Chef Dave Santos kept busy in the underground schoolhouse kitchen. Meanwhile the culinary club’s founding chef, FOOD&WINE Home Cook Extraordinaire Sarah Simmons, was away at SXSW having a grand old time collecting elusive Foursquare badges (not that I’m jealous or anything.)
Before the commencement of the dinner, Chef Santos popped out of the dungeon to give an energetic and detailed overview of the journey ahead. It was one about the long-enduring oyster cuisine that incorporated his Portuguese influences. Needless to say, he embraces and materializes his heritage wholeheartedly. Despite having a lot of love for oysters, Chef Santos grew up in a region of Portugal where oysters weren’t prominent in the culinary culture. He could’ve fooled me! The integration of the oyster in these dishes were marvelously crafted. The collaboration of two ends was a hit.
We started off with a delicate amuse (not pictured here, but on Flickr) of Elderflower-cured Sea Trout with oyster-absinthe gel. After an absinthe and oyster pairing experiment at Maison Premiere from a long time ago, I had concluded that those two things did not go well together. Surprisingly, Santos has proven me wrong! The flavors actually do well together if their intensities are on par. Drinking absinthe while slurping oysters I feel may be still too overpowering.
The second course was a plate of three raw oysters — Wild Deepwater Wellfleets from Massachusetts that live in 60 feet of water or more. Wellfleets is a classic East Coast oysters with punchy brininess, a crisp sweet finish, and firm meat. These deepwater varieties delivers on the same profile — high on salinity, with a dash of minerality. They decently meaty, but certainly not fat. For wild oysters, these Wellfleet shells were surprisingly manicured.
Next up: Pickled Giant Peale Passage oysters from Washington in a Pork Belly Salad with onion fondue, arugula, and red cabbage. This course was probably my favorite of the night. The oysters were thoroughly marinated in tangy pickling juices, making them almost take on the brininess of an East Coast oyster! The soft meat complimented well with the crispy pork belly, and the greens helped cut through the richness.
The fourth course was an Oyster Stew made with Salt Pond Oysters from Rhode Island, smoked paprika oil and celery leaves. The creamy butter-colored broth was carefully poured over the celery at the table. The rich, heart-warming stew was one of those things that you’d crave after a rainy or otherwise shitty day. Unfortunately there were no actual pieces of oysters in the stew. It could’ve been easily enhanced with some real oyster meat, giving it more of that great chewy texture that I love.
The fifth course was a fried Oyster Po Boy made with select Louisiana bayou oysters, accessorized with Portuguese potatoes, spiced tomato marmalade, and pickled red onion. I have yet experience a raw Gulf oyster, but can safely say that they’re great when fried! I really enjoyed the casual elegance of this dish. For oyster newbies, it’s an approachable way to get into the shellfish.
Lastly for dessert we had a “New York Cheesecake” with oyster cracker crumble and poppyseed meringue. Clever, clever! It’s probably my second all-time favorite oyster-themed dessert, coming after the chocolate oyster from Lure. The “cake” was also a bit more like pudding, but nonetheless delicious.
Here’s to another memorable oyster dinner for the books. Oysters or not, I highly suggest you give City Grit — and Chef Santos’ own supper club Um Segredo — a try! Besides experiencing new flavors and cuisines, it’s also a wonderful way to meet new people. I swear they need to make a dating service revolved solely around food… it’s such a no brainer.