The third annual New York Oyster Week kicked off yesterday with BK Oyster Riot, a spectacular 10-variety oyster tasting and grower meet-and-greet hosted by W&T Seafood and Charles Sally Charles Catering at the ever-elegant Palm House in Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Although all of the oysters were outstanding, what I really loved about this event was getting to talk to the growers and chefs. Here’s a quick photo-filled recap of the event.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

I arrived promptly at 6:30PM to catch the “golden hour” of sunlight. The balmy weather and grapefruit-tinted sunset created an enchanting ambiance for this special affair. Kevin and Rudi from Oyster Week, along with Nellie, Crystal and Jordan from W&T Seafood were busy greeting and checking in eager guests. Meanwhile, a handful of ticket holders were already making it rain (with oyster tickets) inside the Palm House.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

The Palm House is one of the premier event venues in New York — especially desirable to brides-to-be in the summertime. One glance at the floor to ceiling glass dome and you’ll understand why. Walking in, I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were 8 oyster stations, each manned with a line of shuckers. I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, but strategically moved my way to the most open space.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

Tom Stocks, who works on the Taylor’s retail/restaurant side, was shucking insanely fresh Gigacup Oyster (Burley Lagoon, WA), Shigoku (Bay Center, WA), and Kumamoto (Peale Passage, WA). The first thing that I noticed was that all of his oysters were impeccably shucked. Pristine. Not a single piece of grit or gashed belly to be found. Even when I circled back at a much busier time, the oysters were still shucked perfectly. I remembered having a similar immaculate experience at the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar at Melrose Market in Seattle a few years ago. Why can’t all oyster bars be like that?

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Fishers Island Oyster Farm

After getting a taste of the Pacific Northwest, I headed closer to home and tried some of Steve and Sarah Malinowski’s Fishers Island Oysters from Fishers Island, New York. It was such a pleasure to finally meet Steve and Sarah, who I diligently follow on Instagram. Their oysters are great — a true New York classic — but what I think is even cooler is the fact that Fishers Island supply oyster seed to many growers along the East Coast, including several at the event! The distinctive black stripe on the shell (coupled with the black trim on the mantle), which is signature to that particular genetic strain, makes it relatively easy to identify who’s growing who’s oyster seed.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Coromandel Oysters by W&T Seafood

The first oyster station guests see when they come in is the Coromandel table. Coromandel Oysters from New Zealand are a rare, but satisfying treat. I’ve had them on many occasions and they’ve always been predictably excellent. I almost want to call them sea veggies because they taste very much like a cucumber mixed with celery! The cool thing about Kiwi oysters is that they’re in their prime during our summer (as it’s winter down under).

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Forty North Oyster Farms & Atlantic Cape Fisheries

In the red flannel, Matt Gregg shucks his new 40N Shore Point Oyster for me to taste. It had a nice, full-bodied brininess to it with softer buttery finish. I was particularly giddy about scoring the Forty North “I’m Not a Playa, I Just Shuck A Lot” hoodie, as I’ve had my eye on it for a couple of years now.

Next to Forty North, in the blue, were fellow NJ oystermen from Atlantic Cape Fisheries. They were shucking Cape May Salt Oysters, which are grown at the southernmost tip of the state. Geographically speaking, the position and shape of Cape May sort of reminds me of the Eastern Shore of VA. But they definitely had their own distinctive taste.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Montauk Shellfish Co.

Mike Doall and Mike Martinsen, the exclusive growers of Montauk Pearl Oysters, donned matching t-shirts and mesh gloves. In the last few years, Montauk Pearls have become a truly iconic New York oyster. They possess a potent, clean, and crisp brine that keeps you wanting to eat more. Sort of like oceanic potato chips that are actually good for you.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Duxbury Bay Shellfish

It was fun to reunite with brothers Paul and Matt Hagan, growers of these impressively large-and-in-charge King Caesar Oysters from Duxbury, MA. A few weeks ago, I went out to Duxbury to get a first hand look at how they work (which I will definitely be writing about soon…) The guys brought oysters and gigantic mega Cherrystone clams with them. I was really blown away by the size of both bivalves. Also quite impressed with Matt for missing school to do help with this event! He’s definitely has his priorities right.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Perfect timing: Oystour, a new oyster appreciation app, launched with the launch of Oyster Week. App creators Dana and Steve were at the event, doing some real-time usability testing between every slurp.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Barnstable Oyster Farm

Lastly, trying the Barnstable Oyster from Barnstable Bay, MA was a wonderful taste-down-memory-lane of my recent Cape Cod Oyster Tour. I didn’t get much of a chance to chat with the growers, but we realized that we shared mutual friends: Dave Ryan from WiAnno! Small oyster world.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Star struck: Oyster #Shellebrity / Pro Shucker John Bil came down from Canada to partake in the festivities. I met John at the beginning of this year at the Seafood Expo in Boston. Don’t be fooled by his poker face. He’s a very friendly guy and someone you’d probably want to have on speed dial.

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Shuck It for the Kids! Around the room there were large black bins set up to collect oyster shells for the Billion Oyster Project. I met New York Harbor School founder Murray Fisher along with an amazing crew of teachers and other faculty. Had a great time talking to the guys about the curriculum, teaching experience, and potential BOP parties and merch to come!

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

For more photos, check out the full album on W&T Seafood’s Facebook page!