Blue Island Shellfish Farm Tour
A few days after the New York Oyster Lovers Meetup at Essex Restaurant, eight of us, lucky ducks, gathered in front of Penn Station on a Saturday morning with coffee and bags of food.
We were bound for Sayville, a small town across from Fire Island, where we were to rendezvous with Chris Quartuccio, owner of Blue Island Shellfish Farm and longtime oyster enthusiast.
Chris and his friends were gracious enough to give up a gorgeous Saturday in order to host our little party. Since the farm is stranded in the middle of the Great South Bay, we had to travel by boat. Before the main trek, Chris took us around the office, storage facility, and nursery.
The nursery is relatively new for Blue Island Shellfish Farm. They've revamped an old processing facility and outfitted it with rows upon rows of deep troughs. Water from the bay is pumped directly into the troughs and simultaneously pumped out. The baby oysters (see above, aren't they adorable?) are then able to gorge themselves with fresh nutrients from the ever-changing water. Once they are ready to handle the elements, they are then transferred to a mesh tray that is suspended in the open waters of the Great South Bay. It was amazing to see my favorite food in its infancy, completely unaware of how their future will unfold. Now, I should disclaim that this process does not apply to their new celebrity product: The Naked Cowboy oyster.
The Naked Cowboy oyster, formerly known as the Blue Island oyster, was inspired by no other than the Naked Cowboy of Times Square. Based on what you know about the unabashed modern minstrel of Manhattan, can you imagine the oysters to have been farm-raised? No? I didn't think so. The Naked Cowboy's are wild-caught oysters from the Long Island Sound, which Chris and his team regularly dive to find. They have been hitting many raw bar menus in NYC and have been enjoying increasing popularity since their inception.
Ironically, we didn't eat that many oysters out on the farm. The Blue Points had just spawned and so their meat was very thin and flimsy. I managed to consume half a dozen, and was encouraged to toss the shells over my head, back into the bay. "It's for good luck!" said Chris. After a hearty lunch of sandwiches, fruit, cheese, crackers and wine, we took to the water for a little swim. Just kidding, we were on kayaks. Chris led three to four person kayaking tours around the oyster growing area. We were able to float right above of the oyster trays and peer down into the extensive layers of rock-like creatures. The first group even jumped out of their kayaks and dug for clams with their feet. While the water was shallow enough to stand in, that didn't stop some people (*cough* Bridgette *cough*) from getting completely soaked.
After a sun-soaked day of learning, eating, and enjoying the cool bay breeze in our faces, we headed back to the city—and I, straight for the bottle of aloe in the fridge. Many thanks again Chris & crew for sharing this wonderful day with us!