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Oyster ToursSeptember 25, 2018

Exploring Maine’s Easternmost Oyster Farm in Corea

According to Mainers, Corea is the real Down East deal. It is one of those best-kept secret destinations that people are kind of reluctant to rave about, fearing that the publicity will inevitably spoil its charm. But since the New York Times beat me to it, here goes nothing. But please, only share this with your very best friends. 😉

Having explored Portland, Casco Bay, the Midcoast, and Acadia National Park numerous times, we wanted to experience a different side of Maine. For our 7th Mainecation in eight years, the hubs, Donut, and I trekked farther Down East than we had ever ventured before.

During our leisurely lobster-filled stay on Beals Island in this uber-charming Airbnb, I couldn’t resist squeezing in a little oyster adventuring. So on a sunny midweek morning, I left my sleepy boys in bed and drove down Maine’s scenic Coastal Route 1 to the Schoodic Peninsula to visit Joe Young’s oyster farm in Corea.

Joe Young Corea Oyster Farm

A few minutes past 10AM, I pulled into Joe’s driveway. A wall of lobster cages and shellfish gear hugged the property like a fortress. I stepped out of my car and was greeted by Joe, who was already outfitted in hip waders. He looked down at my city gal footwear disapprovingly. (Cute sandals were not going to cut it here. Obviously.) Thankfully, I was about the same size as Joe’s wife. After putting on the borrowed boots, we headed towards the oyster pond…

Refresher Course on How to Dress Appropriately to an Oyster Farm

Don’t be like me and keep making the same dumb attire mistakes. Here are some guidelines of how to dress for an oyster farm tour:

  • A quick drying t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.
  • A jacket or hoodie in case it gets chilly on the water. (It usually does.)
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat.
  • Hiking shorts or pants that are water resistant. Avoid jeans and dress pants.
  • If you’re going in the water, wear water shoes at a minimum. Scuba booties if you have them.
  • If you’re walking around a muddy lease: Rain boots or work boots.
  • An extra pair of socks wouldn’t hurt.
  • No open toed shoes or sandals.
  • No sun dresses, heels, anything fancy.
  • Show up in waders, however, and they might put you to work. 😂

On the way over I learned that Joe worked as a lobster fisherman in Corea for most of his professional career, like many of his neighbors. Now in his mid-60’s, he is “semi-retired” and divides his time across multiple endeavors: tending to his oyster farm, experimenting with seaweed (more on that later), and maintaining the seasonal Wharf Gallery & Grill in Corea Harbor.

Corea Maine Schoodic Peninsula

From Lobster Fishing to Oyster Farming

In 2013, Joe came across the Maine Sea Grant’s Aquaculture in Shared Waters program, a federally-funded training initiative that empowers fishermen to start their own aquaculture ventures farming oysters, mussels, clams, and/or seaweed. The idea of aquaculture piqued Joe’s curiosity, and the opportunity to diversify his income sources certainly didn’t hurt either. So the sixth-generation Corean—the Youngs were one of two founding families of Corea—became a first-generation oyster farmer and began raising Maine’s easternmost oyster in their family-owned salt pond.

Corea Maine Schoodic Peninsula Joe Young Oyster Farm

We arrived to the edge of the pond and I took a moment to soak in the beautiful scenery. It looks just like how photographer Damon Winter captured it for the New York Times story, but much sunnier. “When we were kids, this [pond] was our playground.” There was no adult supervision, no guardrails, no electronics, and the only rule was to be back to the house for supper. I could relate to this scenario as I also recall having similar unsupervised, unstructured days while growing up in Indiana. Except instead of a salt pond with periwinkles, I played in a babbling creek with crawdads.

Green Virginica Oyster from Corea MaineJoe Young Corea Oyster FarmJoe Young Corea Oyster Farm

Lean, Green, Very Clean

Taking care not to step on any live shellfish, we waded slowly through the cool, shallow water. The bottom glistened with oyster shells, mussel shells, periwinkles, crabs, and tufts of seaweed. Joe’s oysters have been so popular with the locals that he’s pretty much run out of market-sized product for this year. He warned me that we probably wouldn’t find many big ones today. His oysters currently don’t have a name, nor are they sold anywhere else but at his restaurant, the Wharf Gallery & Grill. They’re just listed as Joe’s Homegrown Oysters on the menu. Despite this, Joe’s oysters are remarkably distinctive in color and cleanliness.

His farming process is pretty straightforward. Joe grows juvenile seed oysters in mesh bags that are stacked three bags high and held together by metal structures aka “oyster condos.” Once they’re big enough to fend for themselves, Joe broadcasts them across the pond floor. He doesn’t use a tumbler at all, making the cups a touch shallower than what the premium market sort of pines for nowadays. They’re still just as pretty as any boutique oyster though! My favorite part about Joe’s oyster plot is its resident clean-up crew. Periwinkles help keep the oyster shells sparkling clean by grazing the algae growth.

Trap of Invasive European Green Crabs Corea Maine

Space Invaders: Green Crabs

Unfortunately, not all of the pond’s inhabitants are beneficial to Joe’s operation. The pond is currently under attack by the invasive European Green Crab, a super hard-to-kill nuisance and ecological terror that plagues Maine’s coastline and its citizens. They devour oysters and clams like there’s no tomorrow. According to Live Science:

Green crabs probably arrived in North America in the 1800s in the ballast water of ships from Europe. In the past decade, Maine’s green crab population has exploded, a cycle probably linked to rising ocean temperatures, according to the marine resources department. A similar pattern occurred during a warm period in the 1950s.

These crabs are so resilient that even stranding them 100 yards from the water won’t squelch their survival! “I tried dumping them into the woods, but they find their way back to the water somehow,” Joe said, clearly frustrated by the death-resistant pests. He’s resorted to capturing them in cages (see above) and dealing with them in an unconventional, but effective manner. I won’t get into the gory details, but it involves a wood chipper.

I wonder if they’re tasty and could be turned into a marketable product?

Corea Oysters GrowthGreen Oyster Corea MaineGreen Oyster Corea MaineSugar Kelp Farming Corea Maine Joe Young

Seaweed Gardening & Product Development

Just when I thought I had seen everything, Joe saved the big surprise for last. “Wait ashore,” he instructed as he waddled into deeper water. Joe lifted up a thick blanket of frilly dark green seaweed. It was one of the many lines of sugar kelp that he also farms!

Seaweed farming is a booming business in Maine, as well as other coastal states. Being Chinese, I grew up eating seaweed in soups, as snacks, and with congee. Mainstream Americans are finally beginning to embrace its diverse culinary uses and great health benefits. There are number of edible seaweeds available for purchase today. Joe produces dulse, sugar kelp and digitata (aka horsetail kelp). The easy part is growing the plant. The harder part is figuring out how to turn it into a usable form. That’s where the experimentation comes in.

Drying Sugar Kelp Joe Young Corea Maine

We stepped inside Joe’s self-constructed seaweed workshop/dehydrator room. On the left wall hung a line of dried kelp ready to be shredded. On the right sat a sleeping furnace. The room was already pretty toasty, but apparently it could get much, much hotter with the furnace on. Joe’s main focus was on his new toy, a custom-built seaweed mulcher that transforms large pieces of material into small flakes. Like a vegetarian meat grinder, I suppose? I got to see it in action, but Joe wasn’t 100% satisfied with the output. It’s still very much a work in progress for him, and the other part of the work will be to figure out how to market it.

Seaweed MulcherSeaweed Flakes

Corea Oyster Tasting at the Wharf Gallery & Grill

Touring the farm worked up an appetite, so we headed to the Wharf Gallery & Grill for an oyster tasting and lunch. Although the seasonal eatery has become a foodie destination, Joe never intended on owning a restaurant. Selling food was just a (great) way to lure people into the gallery—a showcase for Joe’s aunt Louise Young‘s photography from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s of Corea. The walls are neatly decorated with black and white photos of the town, the working waterfront, and its people (including a portrait of the famous American painter/poet Marsden Hartley).

Joe Young Wharf Gallery & Grill Corea MaineJoe Young Wharf Gallery & Grill Corea MaineJoe Young Wharf Gallery & Grill Corea Maine

There’s also a curiosity worth investigating right outside of the gallery. A large rusty kettle, semi-protected by a wooden frame, sits beneath a sign that reads:

When Corea was first settled in the early 1800s, cod was king. The fish were brought in, split, dried in the sun, then salted into barrels. The livers were put into this kettle with a fire under it and rendered down for cod liver oil. This was put into small kegs which along with the barrels were placed aboard sailing vessels for trade.

Joe Young Wharf Gallery & Grill Corea MaineJoe Young Wharf Gallery & Grill Corea Maine

After getting a chance to try Joe’s beautiful chartreuse-tinted oysters, I helped the crew out by opening a few dozen for hungry customers including Catherine Schmitt, Communications Director for Maine Sea Grant. Then I finished my meal and day in Corea with an ooey-gooey lobster grilled cheese sandwich that totally hit the spot.

The restaurant is just about to close up shop for the 2018 season (last day is Columbus Day) so you better hurry in! Joe’s oysters may not be available, however. Part of the coastline, which includes Joe’s lease, has been temporarily closed to shellfish harvest due to the presence of naturally-occurring biotoxins in the water.

Corea Maine Oysters Joe Young

If you’re curious about what thought of Joe’s oysters, check out the flavor notes on my Instagram post!

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Julie Qiu, Oyster Somm (@inahalfshellblog) on

Planning a trip to Maine?

Be sure to check out my extensive Maine Oyster Trail Part 1 post for ideas about where to go for oysters. You can also check out my very first trip to Maine on my old Peek & Eat blog! I also share some goodies here.

Oyster ToursMay 21, 2018

Salt Pond Hopping: Rhode Island Oyster Tour

At only 40 miles long and 30 miles wide, Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the US, but its oysters represent some of the finest in the business. For years, I’ve endeavored to visit an oyster farm in every coastal Northeastern state, and have saved Rhody as the last (but certainly not least) destination.

My First Rhode Island Oyster Memory

I remember my first Rhode Island oyster well. The occasion: Christmas Eve of 2009 at Grand Central Oyster Bar with my then bf, now husband. It was a Moonstone, one of the five Rhody oysters that Rowan Jacobsen highlights in his original oyster bible, A Geography of Oysters. I had the book with me and recall reading aloud his description, tasting the oyster, and then deciding to record my own account.

Moonstone (Rhode Island): As I consumed my first Moonstone, I experienced an elaborate flavor story. First, the saltiness hit. Then it turned subtly sweet and full of mineral flavors. It finished with a crisp cucumber aftertaste. In the book, Jacobsen beautifully describes the lush environment in which the Moonstones may have derived their full flavors from, and also ends with a fun fact about the origin of the name. Has anyone heard of Moonstone Beach, a famous nude beach in RI? 

Rhode Island Oyster Culture

By appearances alone, you might think that oyster farming is relatively new to Rhode Island. But you’d be dead wrong. Oyster cultivation in Rhode Island dates back for centuries! Their native oyster beds shared a similar fate to those of New York. Fortunately, the Ocean State’s passion for oyster aquaculture and appreciation is thriving once again, realizing itself across academic study and industry cooperation to oyster festivals and oyster-centric tourism. There’s even a Rhody oyster CSA from Walrus & Carpenter Oysters that delivers to NYC (read my post about that buying/pick up experience).

In the fall of 2015, I was invited to host an oyster tasting dinner for a landmark hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. True to my nerdy nature, I wanted to source all of the oysters fresh from local farms and earn the privilege to speak knowledgeably about each operation. Selecting the perfect oyster examples wasn’t easy though. Roughly 14% of Rhody’s total land area is made up by large bays and inlets, and I only had enough time to explore three farming locations. I’d like to return one day (hopefully someday soon?) to conduct a follow-up assessment. It would be nice to explore the distinctive Narragansett Bay.

In the meantime, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at three iconic Rhode Island oysters and their growers: Matunuck Oysters with Perry Raso, Quonnie Rocks with Jim Arnoux, and Watch Hills with Jeffrey Gardner.

Matunuck Oyster Bar & Farm

Serious oyster lovers should not pass through Rhode Island without stopping by Matunuck Oyster Bar. This charming “pond to plate” seafood haven is located in South Kingston, perched next to the Matunuck Oyster Farm on Potter Pond. Btw: Matunuck Oyster Farm is one of the few farms in Rhode Island that offers public tours. (401 Oyster Company is another.)

Perry Raso is the owner and operator of Matunuck Oyster Farm, Matunuck Oyster Bar, and Matunuck Organic Vegetable Farm (oh my!). Since childhood, Perry recognized untapped opportunities in the water. Whether its clam digging, eel trapping, or diving for steamers, Perry developed an expertise in harvesting wild shellfish. Yet after spending a lot of time doing this, he realized that the bigger opportunity is actually in aquaculture—so he turned to oyster farming.

I took the train from Penn Station, NY to Kingston, but amateurishly overestimated Amtrak’s ability to get me there on time. 25 minutes late, ugh. This was not how I imagined my first meeting with Perry to go (my track record with trains is officially awful). Nevertheless, Perry was patiently waiting at the station for me with his monster-sized pickup truck. On the way to his restaurant, we talked about his journey from digging for littleneck clams as a kid, to studying aquaculture & fisheries technology at the University of Rhode Island, to opening an oyster bar without any restaurant know-how. Although the details of his story have faded in my memory, it is undeniably clear that Perry is an incredibly focused and productive individual. He gets stuff done.

Matunuck Oyster Farm began as a one-acre operation in 2002 and has since grown to seven acres. To get a closer look, we  boarded a small workboat and quietly drifted into the mid-morning mist across Potter Pond. Once we approached the floating lines of bags, Perry hopped into the water and towed the boat himself. We examined a few bags of juvenile oysters no larger than poker chips. Future Matunuck oysters! They will require at least another growing season or two, but were well on their way.

For the oysters that are ready to harvest, a good number of them are sold at the raw bar several hundred meters away. You really can’t get any more local than that!

Quonnie Rocks of Quonochontaug Pond

Think fast: how do you pronounce Quonochontaug? (I believe it’s “KWON-uh-kuh-tawg.”) Quonochontaug is a small beach community nestled between Ninigret Pond and Quonochontaug Pond, and their respective barrier beaches. Quonochontaug Pond is the deepest and most saline of southern Rhode Island’s salt ponds, and this is where Quonnie Rock Oysters, the first commercially grown and harvested oyster in that pond, are matured.

Haven’t heard of Quonnie Rocks? You may know Jim’s other oyster brand, the East Beach Blonde from neighboring Ninigret Pond. Although the two ponds are physically close to each other, they are quite different as oyster growing environments. As Jim puts it, Quonochontaug exchanges a lot of its water during every tide, while Ninigret does not. This results in Quonnie Rocks being exposed to more consistent ocean-like conditions, while Ninigret goes through phases.

As a teenager, Jim used to earn money clamming in the Great South Bay, a longstanding family tradition that he would continue into his collegiate years at the University of Rhode Island. Today, like Perry, Jim is fully committed to oyster farming and supporting Rhode Island aquaculture in his role as president of the Ocean State Aquaculture Association. (Not to mention that he’s already showing his young daughter the ropes!) The organization recently relaunched the Rhode Island Oyster Trail (RIOT) website and is a beneficiary of this weekend’s Newport Oyster Festival.

When we (myself plus oyster buddies Paul & Matt Hagan) met up with Jim in 2015, his lease in Quonochontaug was still relatively new and experimental. Since then, he has added a few more acres to his lease and aims to produce more bottom-cultured Quonnies. To get a closer look, Jim towed the three of us—plus his super cute daughter—out to the nursery and grow out site. Is hand towing a thing here? He pulled up a market-ready tray containing some very handsome green-tinged Quonnie Rocks. We shucked a bunch and each one was a knock out 10 out of 10.

Frankly, I had never seen such big, beautiful and meaty oysters from Rhode Island before. (It also didn’t hurt that we had a pro shucker on deck.) In NYC, the Rhody’s that I usually encounter at the raw bars are typically petite, and frankly, a little wimpy. Perhaps Ocean State oyster lovers are just keeping the good stuff for themselves. I wouldn’t blame them.

Watch Hill Oyster Farm

“What do oysters and bears have in common?” Jeff Gardner, grower of Watch Hill Oysters quizzed the three of us as we pushed off from his dock. I knew where he was going with this, but before I could get to the punchline, Jeff schooled us on the shared metabolic behavior of these two creatures.

For over 25 years, Jeff and his family have been growing Watch Hill Oysters in Winnaupaug Pond in Westerly, RI—another one of Rhode Island’s famous salt ponds. A stroll down the shell-laden driveway will paint a vivid picture of the investment that Jeff has made. A good swath of his gear is custom-made (read: DIY), as the farming gear wasn’t quite as abundant—nor affordable—back then as it is now.

We approached the Watch Hill lease at low tide. A dozen rows of tidy oyster trays slowly revealed themselves to us in the distance and I admired how perfect they looked against the colorful assortment of beachfront homes. The hum of ocean waves rumbled just beyond, about 100 yards away. As I peered down, I could clearly see the green and brown speckled pond bottom. We were floating by in no more than a couple feet of water and the chances of getting stuck were fairly high. Fortunately (for me), Paul and Matt were there to assist as Jeff’s unofficial boat crew that afternoon.

The market size oysters that we sampled right out of the water had a mollusc-y sweet and earthy taste, the same kind that you find in a good clam. We slurped silently and listened intently as Jeff told us stories of his past life as a record store owner, and his transition into the world of aquaculture. I could’ve stayed on the water for the rest of the afternoon, but the winds were starting to pick up and we were not prepared to get caught in the rain. Although we opted to take shelter that day, the Watch Hill farming crew would not get such opportunities. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, they are working the farm and harvesting year round.

Discover Other Northeast Oyster Farms

Rhode IslandOyster Trail

Maine & New HampshirePart 1, Part 2 (Coming soon…), Oyster Wedding, Oyster Trail

MassachusettsPart 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

ConnecticutPart 1, Part 2 (Coming soon…)

New YorkPart 1, 2, 3

New JerseyPart 1, 2

Oyster ToursAugust 18, 2017

Do You Know About the Oyster Trail of Maine?

I’m not sure how I stumbled across this treasure map years ago, but I freaked out (in a good way) when I did. The Oyster Trail of Maine is the brainchild of Catherine Schmitt and Dana Morse from Maine Sea Grant, and it’s growing into something much bigger.

The hope is to turn this directory of oyster goodness below into a full-fledged Oyster Trail of Maine website that visitors, locals, and food professionals can use to organize their own fabulous Maine oyster adventure.

Check out the landing page to learn more about Maine oysters. You can also navigate the points of interest using this key below!

Red pin: Oyster farm tours
My faves being: Nonesuch Oyster Farm, Damariscotta River Cruises

Yellow pin: Buy oysters
My faves being: Harbor Fish Market, Browne Trading Market, and Glidden Point Oyster Farm

Green pin: Eat oysters
My faves being: Eventide Oyster Co., BP Shuck Shack, Scales, Roberts Maine Grill

Blue pin: Know oysters
My faves being: Johns River, Bar Harbor Selects, Glidden Point, Pemaquid, Otter Cove, too many others to list!

 

READ POST: Blazing the Maine Oyster Trail Part 1

Oyster ToursJune 29, 2017

Blazing the Maine Oyster Trail: Part 1

According to NOAA, Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline (ranking them 4th across all states). That’s a lot of oyster potential! I’ve been helping Maine Sea Grant to blow out their Oyster Trail concept, and what better way to get inspired than to experience the trail for myself? For Part 1, I am republishing a piece that I wrote for Portland Magazine’s Summer Guide 2017 based on a solo road trip that I did in Summer of 2015 with some additional notes.

As an international oyster fanatic, I find it wise to be diplomatic when I’m asked, “Where do the best oysters come from?” encouraging the asker to remember that every oyster-producing region can grow exceptional oysters. I can rave over an oyster from anywhere, as long as it’s served in peak condition.

But I’ve got a confession: I secretly favor Maine oysters over all other regions in North America. Maybe I’m biased from happy childhood memories of Acadia National Park and romantic summer trips with my then boyfriend, now husband. Maine has always served us well as a place of relaxation and renewal. We even got married in Stockton Springs and toasted our new life together with champagne and local oysters. Objectively speaking, I think the pristine environment and bracingly cold waters of the Gulf of Maine make the oysters here taste a cut above the rest. You just can’t deny the crisp brininess and bone-broth savoriness of the oysters that come out of these waters.

Oysters aren’t that different from fine wines insofar as they are site-expressive, meaning their taste is shaped by the characteristics of their growing environment. Where wines have terroirs, oysters are defined by “meroirs.” Water salinity, temperature, the type of algae present in the water, and seabed characteristics all factor into an oyster’s flavor.

Day One

I land at Portland International Jetport and get right down to business. First stop: James Beard Award-winning Eventide Oyster Co. for a midday snack. My first meal of the trip features new discoveries from Brown Point, Otter Cove, and Schoodic Point farms. A plate of fluke crudo with wild blueberry and hoisin sauce is a delicious addition to my oyster-centric diet.

Temporarily satiated, I head south to meet up with Abigail Carroll, the “accidental oyster farmer” who grows Nonesuch Oysters near Scarborough, and I’m immediately fascinated by her approach to the craft. Scrappy and innovative, she has repurposed old lobster traps as makeshift oyster nurseries. They seem to perform just as well as traditional gear.

Look at the oyster babies!

I sample some of Abigail’s bottom-planted oysters, bag-cultured oysters, and a couple of her Nonesuch Flats–a variety that is native to Europe (Ostrea edulis) but also exist in Maine. They have a robust, savory flavor and metallic finish that is completely different from our native Atlantic species (Crassostrea virginica).

2017 Notes

If there’s an unbearable wait at Eventide, try their next door joint Honeypaw. Insanely tasty shared bites and noodles. Or if you’re craving classic seafood, try Scales or J’s Oyster. At J’s, however, I would recommend their bucket-o-steamers over their oysters any day of the week.

Day Two

As soon as I set foot inside Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, I automatically float over to the stainless-steel raw bar beneath the cathedral ceiling. Now that’s what I call an oyster theater! Executive Chef Brandon Blethen and Tom Robinson from Taylor Lobster Company and I begin discussing oysters over a round of beers. We sample a platter of two dozen oysters from several appellations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia. I whip out my 33 Oysters on the Half Shell tasting journal, and we proceed to compare tasting notes like college kids cramming for finals week.

The complex, layered seaweed and mineral notes of the Cape Blue oysters from the Damariscotta River are wonderful, but the real showstopper of the day is Chef Blethen’s cold, hickory-smoked Glidden Points. The smoky brine takes this raw oyster to a whole other level.

Detour: New Hampshire Oyster Farm Tour

Kittery is awfully close to the New Hampshire border, so I couldn’t leave the area without checking out the new brand oyster farming scene in Great Bay. Tom arranged an outing with Jay Baker, co-founder and grower of Fat Dog Oysters. (What a great name!!)

We toured Jay’s upweller system, which was elegantly concealed under a dock, and then his grow out location. Jay uses off-bottom cages that can only be brought to the surface with a wench. We all waited with baited breath as each emerald green-gilded cage emerges from the steely blue water.

We all geeked out over the custom-built tumbler, which was not only sleek and stylish, but very quiet!

Day Three

A long drive from Southern Maine to Mount Desert Island is richly rewarded with some of the tastiest wood-fired pizza I’ve ever had and a round of freshly harvested oysters from Western Bay, Mount Desert Island at Sweet Pea’s Cafe.

I met with oyster rancher Matt Gerard, the owner of Bar Harbor’s Sweet Pea Farm, who is a generous and entertaining host. His personal approach to oyster farming can be described as laissez-faire: they are bottom-cultured and exposed to the elements and predators.

Later that afternoon, I have a chance to tour a nearby oyster lease with Brian Harvey, grower of Mount Desert Island Selects. These are some of the sweetest and meatiest oysters  I’ve ever found in Maine. Their umami taste actually reminds me of cured ham. Prosciutto of the sea, anyone?

Baby eel SQUEEEEE!

Day Four

The Damariscotta River is like the Napa Valley of shellfish. After a scenic drive down the eastern bank of the river, I arrive at Mook Sea Farms. No other farm exemplifies both the art and science of oyster farming as well as this one. A scientist, inventor, and climate-change activist, founder Bill Mook is an amalgamation of Bill Nye, Jacques Cousteau, and Willy Wonka. 

Mook Sea Farms primarily uses a floating cage system to cultivate their oysters. The wave action and plentiful food allows their oysters to grow quickly and produce clean, manicured shells.

One of Bill’s inventions: the auto bag flipper.

Don’t Miss: Boothbay Harbor

If you have an extra half day, make sure to drop down to Boothbay Harbor. This peaceful little town revs up quite a bit during peak summer months, but it is just right around August/September. Definitely check out Ae Ceramics, one of my favorite pottery studios. I discovered Alison’s gorgeous oyster plates on a previous trip to Bar Harbor and later received a beautiful one from my husband as my wedding gift!

Day Five

I can’t leave Maine without a proper “shuck your own” experience at Glidden Point Oyster Farm. I try my hand at shucking an XL Glidden Point, and it certainly puts up a fight. But nothing is more satisfying than shucking your own briny lunch right at the source.

I make my way back to Portland in search of one last indulgence before I leave. My last stop on this whirlwind Maine oyster tour is at the corner of Commercial and, appropriately, Pearl Street.  If hot dog and pretzel stands are iconic to New York, then Brendan Parson’s BP Shuck Shack fills that role in Portland. Brendan’s oyster cart has everything you need for a great al fresco raw bar experience, including a detailed map of the Damariscotta River.

2017 Update: BP Goes Brick & Mortar

Brendan will be opening a brick & mortar Shuck Shack in Damariscotta-Newcastle later this year.

That’s a wrap for now. If you’re itching for more Maine oyster stories, check out the full Portland Magazine 2017 Summer Guide!

Oyster ToursMarch 26, 2017

Los Angeles Oyster Crawl

After 5.5 hours of flight time, our pilot came over the intercom with a friendly weather update. 73 degrees, partly cloudy, great visibility. Welcome to Los Angeles! I was totally ready for a week of Southern Californian oyster bliss.

In the fall of 2015, I had the honor of hosting my first-ever West Coast Oyster Omakase at Blue Plate Oysterette and decided to make a work-slash-research-slash-reunion trip out of it. My best friend moved from NYC to Santa Monica earlier that year and we—along with a few other NY-transplanted buddies—were due for some hang out time.

Don’t have time to read it all? Get the oyster highlights: Los Angeles City Guide.

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Descending into LAX on a clear day was pretty cool, but walking through the palm trees in Palisades Park during sunset was even more magical. Anne’s apartment was literally across the street from a swaying outdoor palm court… lucky girl!

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It also happened to be a timely visit. The inaugural Downtown LA Oyster Festival, hosted by The Oyster Gourmet at Grand Central Market, would be happening. Oyster lovers and growers united under one roof to enjoy the fresh harvest. The lines for oysters were a bit long, but it was worth the wait.

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