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Oyster Events, Oyster PeopleOctober 8, 2017

The Spirit of the Oyster South

It’s an opportune time to be an oyster enthusiast in the South. Although many Gulf and Southeastern states have longstanding oyster ventures, the industry is being shaken up by new faces, places, and ideas. A new entity has emerged from this energy. Its name: The Oyster South. Its purpose: building a community around southern family oyster farms.

Oyster South is a non-profit organization that’s comprised of oyster farmers, academics, restaurateurs, and media folks who are committed to the growth of southern oyster culture and community. The cross-sector collective not only fills a geographic gap between the ECSGA and PCSGA, but also reflects the new collaborative spirit between producers, operators, and consumers. I flew down to Atlanta in January and hitched a ride with Oyster South co-founder/board member Ted Golden, aka @FoodieBuddha, to Auburn University to participate in the inaugural Oyster South Symposium.

The gathering consisted of a diverse swath of stakeholders, from professional oyster shuckers to Sea Grant representatives. The agenda was packed with interesting talks. Each state had an opportunity to share updates about the development, or lack thereof, in their aquaculture sector. Louisiana and Alabama are the trailblazers of the oyster farming movement, and North Carolina and Florida also are growing rapidly. Things (legislation, namely) seem to be more complicated in other states such as Texas and Mississippi, and marine resource representatives admit that there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Chefs also had a voice during the two-day symposium. Chef Ryan Prewitt (shown above) from Pêche in New Orleans shared his perspective about working closely with local growers to source the best oysters for his raw bar. His thoughts were echoed by Bryan Rackley, partner/co-founder of Oyster South and Kimball House’s Oyster Situation Director PersonJim Smith, Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and Top Chef contestant also offered up some great suggestions about how to work with your state government to promote oysters. It was a real treat to have such a stellar group of chefs and foodservice professionals at the gathering, and being able to spend more time with them at the Alabama Oyster Social in the evening.

For oyster farming to happen just about anywhere nowadays comes down to one key component: seed. That is why I found the presentations, “Oyster Hatcheries in the South” by Scott Rikard from Auburn University and “Bottle Nursery Components and Operation for Small Oyster Seed Production” by John Supan from Louisiana State University to be especially interesting. If you’re thinking about starting up an oyster business, it’ll be worth your while to watch.

After the first day of class—the venue made me feel like we were all going back to school—the group was let out to refresh themselves in the brisk 40-degree January air. It certainly felt nice, but I wasn’t expecting Alabama to be this chilly!

Jay Styron of Carolina Mariculture lugged out a large white and blue sack of his Cedar Island Selects to the courtyard. As soon as he and Bill Walton had an oyster and knife in hand, a cluster of hungry symposium attendees started circling around the two. The Cedar Island Select—not to be confused with Cedar Islands from Rhode Island—was a brand new specimen for me. It would be my second-ever North Carolinian oyster encounter (the first being Cape Hatteras), and I was very eager to try it.

Bill handed me a pillowy cream-colored oyster. It had a lovely deep cup and felt heavy in my hand. The Cedar Island Select’s icy, ocean-breezy brine tastes more saline than I had imagined it would be although not overbearing. The fully opaque, about-to-spill-over-the-shell meat had marvelously dense and springy texture. The freshness was palpable. I felt a strange sensation while enjoying this oyster. It didn’t actually feel like I was eating an oyster at all! Instead, I was snacking on a luscious sea scallop or lump crab meat. Sea-sweet, supple, and savory. The Cedar Island Select is what I imagine when I hear the phrase, “fruit of the sea,” and I couldn’t get enough.

Although our hands and toes were growing numb from the cold, my senses were wide awake.

I’m newly convinced that not only is it better to enjoy oysters when it’s cold but also eating them in the cold (and maybe while you’re cold). Oysters in the summertime is sooooo overrated. 

Side note: if you are ever handed a freshly shucked oyster by Bill Walton (aka Doctor Oyster), I suggest you accept it. There aren’t many times in your life when you’ll be offered a perfectly shucked oyster sprinkled with super fresh oyster knowledge.

On day two, I gave my presentation, “#OysterLove: 2017 Trends Forecast,” which focuses on a few trends that I see are impacting consumer and B2B marketing efforts. Since that talk, I’ve seen some growers take my advice to heart and really up their marketing and social media game. (Btw: if you’re interested in getting access to the presentation, shoot me an email.)

All and all, I learned a TON at the Oyster South Symposium. More importantly, I got to meet some remarkable growers, chefs, and thought leaders in the oyster space. It’s a really unique networking opportunity and would definitely go again.

Should I Join the Oyster South?

The short answer is Yes. You and anyone who is interested in supporting the growth of the southern oyster industry should join. If you are a current grower or aspiring one based in the South (or have a business that supports the oyster industry), membership is currently just $35/year. Sign up at on their website.

An upcoming Oyster South event that you definitely need to know about is Landlocked on Sunday, October 29th in Decatur, GA (just outside of Atlanta). This magnificent feast of oysters from all three coasts and whole hog BBQ will benefit the University of Georgia Shellfish Lab & Oyster South Partner Farms. Just take a gander below at the growers and chefs involved. I’m going to be there. You should be there. Let’s party!

Tickets are $100 (VIP tickets that get you in the door 1 hour before General Admission is $150).

Grab them here.

 

Oyster EventsOctober 17, 2015

Ryleigh’s Oysterfest IX Recap

It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, or which side you fall on the eternal “sauce or no sauce” debate, anyone can have a great time at an oyster festival. Last weekend, I took a train down to Baltimore to partake in the 9th Annual Ryleigh’s Oysterfest. Here’s a quick recap of my shuckin’ good time.

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Ryleigh’s Oyster in Federal Hill is a popular destination for Baltimorean’s most dedicated oyster fans. For the last eight years, Ryleigh’s has celebrated the opening of the Chesapeake Bays’ prime oystering season by hosting an annual fundraising weekend for Oyster Recovery. New and seasoned Chesapeake Bay & Eastern Shore oyster farmers were out in numbers, shucking for an energetic crowd that seemed to have an endless appetite for these delicious morsels. A few “far away” oysters also made an appearance, but the main focus was definitely on Maryland and Virginia varieties.

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Oyster EventsOctober 11, 2015

Washing Back Oysters with Scotch

Interestingly, when you search the keywords “oysters” and “whiskey,” not a whole lot of inspiration comes up. Most people are confused as to whether or not it would make a legitimate pairing at all. During the Whiskey Washback tasting event last Friday, I had a chance to find that out for myself. Here’s a quick recap of the experience:

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At Bowery Collective’s Whiskey Washback event last Friday, guests were invited to sample over 75 (!?) types of premium whiskey, bourbon, scotch, rye, and more. If you’re a super lightweight like me, you had to be pretty selective about what to try. Fortunately, the team at Sustainable Seafood Week curated a unique trio of farmed seafood and scotch pairings.

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Oyster EventsOctober 3, 2015

12 October Oyster Events You Should Know About

Oystober is here! If you don’t have at least a couple oyster events on your calendar yet, here are some options around the country to consider. The ones marked with * means that I’ll see you there. 🙂

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OCT 3 : Halifax Oyster Festival in Nova Scotia : visit website

OCT 4 : Washington OysterFest & Shucking Competition in Shelton, WA : visit website

OCT 9 : Whiskey Washback* at The Bowery Hotel, NYC : visit website

OCT 10-11 : Ryleigh’s Oyster Fest IX* in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD : visit website

OCT 10 : Chincoteague Oyster Festival at Tom’s Cove Park, Chincoteague, VA : visit website

OCT 17-18 : Long Island Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay, NY : visit website

OCT 17-18 : Wellfleet OysterFest in Cape Cod, MA : visit website

OCT 17-18 : St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival & National Shucking Championship in St. Mary’s County Fairground, MD : visit website

OCT 18 : VA Shell-Raiser’s Shindig at Seven Springs Farm, Manquin, VA : visit website

OCT 18 : NYC Wine & Food Festival Oyster Bash* at The Standard Biergarten, NYC : visit website

OCT 21-23 : Oyster Omakase LA* by In A Half Shell x Blue Plate Oysterette : coming soon!

OCT 21-23  : International Oyster Symposium in Cape Cod, MA : visit website

Fridays & Saturdays : Virginia Oyster Academy : visit website

Did I miss anything?

Oyster EventsSeptember 13, 2015

No Slurp Till Brooklyn: BK Oyster Riot [Photo Recap]

The fourth annual New York Oyster Week has arrived and my friends at W&T Seafood got the party started with another fun-filled Brooklyn Oyster Riot. To contrast the romantic choice of venue last year, this year’s event was held in the super chill Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg. Here are some photo highlights of the evening:

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Loved Montauk Pearl’s oyster & shell display!

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Well, hello there lovely ladies! Nellie Wu & Crystal Cun from W&T Seafood.

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Brooklyn Brewery delivers great non-oyster goods: beer and plenty of food.

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Mike & Mike, exclusive growers of Montauk Pearls.

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On the right is Brian Harman from Atlantic Cape Fisheries, growers of Cape May Salts in NJ.

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Each table was equipped with a handy oyster fact sign by Pearl App.

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It was great to see Rich Terry from H.M. Terry, grower of Sewansecott oysters from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

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Pete Malinowski, director of Billion Oyster Project, handing every stall an oyster recycling bucket.

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Forty North Oyster Farm‘s display of Forty North farmed oysters and their new “Wildling Bastards.” Guess which ones are wild?

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Oyster Week co-founders Kevin Joseph and Rudi Ehrlich.

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Marco Pinchot from Taylor Shellfish repping the new branding! (Very nice indeed.)

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