oyster100

Aww! Shucks - First Oyster Class Wrap Up and Giveaway

I know several of you missed the class at Whole Foods Market CRP. Here's a taste of what you missed. The first official word of it came to me from Doc, doing his early morning errands, when he texted me that he saw them putting this sign out:

Oyster Class sign

 

Then, I saw the Event Brite Graphic:

event brite Aww Shucks

 

And I kept checking the Event Brite registration. My goal was to sell out. But there seemed to be seats unfilled...I kept Tweeting, FB'g, reminding, cajoling. (Little did I know my view of the Event Brite page only showed me Facebook friends who registered!)

Guess what? We sold out!

My other goals included:  getting folks interested in oysters as a sustainable seafood, introducing them to some new varieties, and in between shucking demos, tastings, to ensure we learned about oysters in a fun, relaxed hour.

I guided the first volunteers through a tasting technique with Salt Aires from Canada, then the entire class tasted through eleven additional oysters.

  1. See/Smell - notice the size of the meat, depth of the cup, amount of the liquor. Close your eyes and smell - is it a warm soft Gulf breeze or bracing snap of salty New England air?
  2. Chew/Notice - while some folks slurp the whole thing down, you actually miss many nuances of flavor and texture if you don't give it a chew. In fact, the enzymes in your mouth will interact with the amino acids in the oyster to bring out a whole variety of flavors you'll miss without a chew!
  3. Finish/Repeat - what is the finish of the oyster? how does it linger? is it vegetal, briny, earthy, sweet, metallic?

We went over time-wise, but people seemed happy. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in the class, Oyster Century Club members (Brian, Ruth, Nehal) and friends (Joseph, Kelley, Cruz, Marcela) and as well to meet new oyster lovers.

Oyster Class photos

The Whole Foods Market (Charles River Plaza) crew did a fantastic job. That's Oscar shucking, he runs the the seafood department and was the first guy I talked to about doing this. His enthusiasm for the seafood and oysters is terrific. I hope you'll go back and say hello. Buy some oysters to shuck at home, the best season for them is starting now! James (the tall one) is now at River Street, but he came back to help out. These two guys shucked over 200 oysters for us!

I handed out flash drives with oyster-centric posts, we had a couple sheets Rowan Jacobsen, A Geography of Oysters, author and oyster guru extraordinaire allowed us to use, and I listed Five Reasons to Love Oysters, shared Oyster Facts and Trivia, and this Oyster Lover's Reading List.

Participants went home with goodie bags including: their own oyster knife, WFM seafood rub, a lemon, other seafood collateral and the Holiday magazine.

Each of the place settings included a laminated placemat to take home, too. Check out these profiles on your own, great fun; are you a Brine Hound or a Grail Seeker?

 

Rowan Jacobsen's Oyster Lover Profiles

 

Aww! Shucks Coupon

 

Last but not least...

Updates:

  • New classes are in the works. Be sure to follow the #oyster100 hashtag for updates on Twitter or Facebook or email  me.
  • COUPONS: If you missed this class, Whole Foods Market graciously offered ten coupons. They're good for $5 off $15 worth of oysters! Get on it. Drop me a line and I'll pop one in the mail or hand it to you at the next Tweetup.
  • Stay tuned for a terrific giveaway sponsored by Whole Foods Market CRP -- coming soon!

 

Oyster Century Club© Reading List

What are the essential books for ostreaphiles, oyster lovers, and cooks who love bivalves? I start here with a handful, which would you add? Special thanks to Jacobsen who's graciously allowed us to share materials from his site in our class.  

Books for Reading

The Big Oyster – Mark Kurlansky

Tracing the history of the oyster in America, specifically New York, Kurlansky introduces us to the characters whose lives were intertwined with the humble oyster. He takes us through rough neighborhoods like Five Points, and explains the relationships of oysters to industry, to captains of industry, to the settlement of Manhattan - all peppered with historic recipes, anecdotes and terrific quotes.

 

A Geography of Oysters– Rowan Jacobsen

Really an ostreaphile’s bible, Jacobsen’s Geography is essential reading for anyone who wishes to know more than the fact that they love oysters. It illustrates concepts like terroir or merroir, gives apt descriptions for the various taste profiles and profiles selected oyster growers among the various oysters of note from coast to coast.

Recipes, sellers, oyster bars and more included. Be sure to see his companion website for fun additional materials.

Shucked – Erin Byers Murray

A homegrown story that just happens to touch on a few things we really love: the life of a writer, life-changing mid-course corrections, and an intimate feel for the life of a locally beloved oyster producer through the eyes of a city-girl-turned-oyster-farmer. Reading her journey you can feel the sun on your back (as well as the ache in it) and the cool water around you.

Consider the Oyster: a Shucker's Field Guide - Patrick McMurray

A terrific guide to oyster varieties, maybe the best book for a new oyster fan. Great photos and easy reading style invite you to shuck your own. Known for his shucking prowess, McMurray is more than a world champion shucker, he's also a "publican" pub owner, and author.

 

Books for Cooking

Cookbooks belong here, too. While I prefer my oysters on the half shell, usually with some saké, I've got to admit a few broiled or grilled recipes have caught my eye. For anyone a fan of, or curious about, sustainable seafood cooked at home, I highly recommend the following:

Becky Selengut's Good Fish. With some simple and some more cheffie-style recipes, Becky offers us notes on sustainability and ingredients, as well as wine pairing suggestions. From stunning mignonette to classic Hangtown Fry and some intriguing succotash, she's got oysters covered, too. How about Oyster, Apple, Chorizo stuffing? Yes please!

Barton Seaver's For Cod & Country. "Oysters are what is known as a keystone species, a species that holds together the whole intricate framework of the environment." Without them, Seaver notes, the waters get murky and the whole ecosystem falls apart. In fact, Barton says "eating farmed oysters is our patriotic duty." Try his oysters with peaches and paprika.

Jill Lambert's Good Catch. Great clutch of oyster recipes including oyster leek chowder, and a po'boy sandwich too. Yeah, it's Canadian, go figure.

Rick Moonen's Fish Without a Doubt. His spaghetti with clam sauce technique will change the way you make it.

 

Julie Qiu of In a Halfshell fame, has compiled her own recommended oyster reading list here.

Ingredient Sleuth - Two New Finds You Must Try: Yuzu Kosho and Bonny Doon's Verjus de Cigare

  Today seemed as good a day as any to start something new. Welcome Ingredient Sleuth! This will be a sometimes series in which I'll share new things I've discovered or old things I believe not enough people know about. Today I'm introducing two things that are very old indeed, one is a product originating in Japan, the other harks back to Medieval European wine production. Both are pretty new to me, so I thought maybe to you as well.

Never mind the un-done items already awaiting my attention. Some things are too good not to share. Now is always better than later in my book. In fact, I’m so bad at keeping secrets I'm routinely excluded from news of surprise parties. Let's just say patience is a virtue I'm still working on.

Today I wanted to give you a quick heads up on two ingredients that are fairly new to me, and too good to keep to myself. Both pair wonderfully with Oysters and in fact, paired together really well with a recent Oyster Century Club© tasting hosted at Janis Tester (author of the BiteMeNewEngland blog and hostess extraordinaire). The occasion that brought us together was a fantastic pig roast and the promise of meeting fine folks IRL (in real life) whom we only know in the online world. What a terrific day! Pics and post soon enough but first I must tell you about two things I think you should seek out for your pantry now.

 

Yuzu Kosho

Not the name of a new Red Sox pitcher from Japan - and much more reliable in the "things that delight us" department than those may  be - Yuzu Kosho is going to be the next chipotle in adobo type of ingredient. I doubt it will overtake Sriracha because that is just too convenient and familiar. However, I'm going to make the argument that Yuzu Kosho is poised to break out. At least, I'm doing my level best to spread the word.

What is it already - I can hear you asking, my impatient kindred spirits. Yuzu Kosho is a citrus-chile paste from Japan. Yuzu as you may know already is a bumpy citrus that looks like a gnarly lemon or lime. The zest has a fragrant and very tart scent and flavor, while the "meat" of the fruit is fairly scarce. You can buy dried yuzu zest (never tried) and it's often a component of Shichimi (so actually, I guess I have). I recommend the fresh fruit zested, or this new favorite condiment: Yuzu Kosho. This perky little paste is my new go-to thing when I want to add a green note and some gently assertive heat. This is not like habanero peppers that whack you over the head and announce their presence. This is a sexy heat that sidles up to you, then before you know it, you're smitten.

If you've enjoyed shishito peppers, or been lucky enough to enjoy freshly grated horseradish, you'll love this.

Yuzu Kosho

Of late I have been adding this paste to fish marinades, to mignonette for oysters, and to fried chicken. It is one of these ingredients that makes people go "Oh my God, what IS that?" as they reach for more. Trust me on this one, you'll love it. So far I can only find it at Dean & Deluca where Doc got me this surprise. One of the ingredients in this paste is Kombu which is packed with umami. This amps up the seduction by awakening those "give me more" sensors in your brain. (She's taking some liberties with science here, yes.)

Elizabeth Andoh's Kansha offers a recipe for "Quick Fix Pickles: Crisp and Fiery Chinese Cabbage and Cucumbers" which calls for Yuzu Kosho. It is delicious. It's like a coleslaw without mayo. I think this condiment would also be terrific added to mayo in any old sandwich.

Post Update: 2/25/13 - just discovered this post on yuzu kosho on Harris Salat's very excellent Japanese Food Report. (note to self, read JFR more often!) Also, I used a bit of yuzu kosho with grated daikon and drizzle of soy for a condiment for broiled fish. Also wonderful.

Verjus

Verjus (from the French vert jus literally green juice) is the pressed juice from wine grapes that are thinned out of vineyards before harvest. I like the notion that we might be enjoying something that would otherwise be wasted. I also like things that are tart, acidic and sharp. Verjus I've tried before have been too sweet or too tart without the fullness of vinegar. This one that David (he of EatDrinkRI fame and our very first Oyster Century Club© member!) brought to the oyster shucking pre-party was perfect. We froze it a little while and then found it mixed beautifully with the cucumber-shallot-yuzu kosho mignonette I brought.

Because the grape juice is not fermented it is non-alcoholic and also will not interfere with wines you're drinking the way a vinegar might. I think fully frozen into a granita, this would be a wonderful addition to oysters and kept in the fridge, it could be used to heighten the piquancy of a sauce here or there, added to a salad with some extra good EVOO if you wanted a less acidic and light dressing, or it might be terrific in Sangria. Here's an excellent introduction to Verjus if you want to read more.

Bonny Doon Verjus

 

When the Whole is Greater

So here we are at Janis & Rich's amazing pig roast, with a delivery of 8 dozen oysters from ILoveBlueSea.com (sustainable seafood direct to your door, one flat rate, can't beat it!) and another 2-3 from Matt's (Wicked Random guy, that Matt) local purveyor (Duxbury and Watch Hill RI) several knives, various tools and techniques, ready to rip.

I cut up a lemon which we scarcely touched, David brought the Verjus which we poured into a dish and hid in the freezer) and I brought my favorite mignonette, Janis provided horseradish, too.

Cucumber-shallot-yuzu-kosho mignonette Cucumber, shallot, rice wine, yuzu kosho mignonette.

We pretty much tore through about half the oysters when we decided to check on the freezing of the Verjus. It was just forming crystals, and they were great on the oysters. But the pairing of the mignonette and the verjus together was magical. I could have eaten it with a spoon. On the oysters, though, the gentle heat, coupled with the sweet almost-granita really made everything sing.

One Oyster Century Club© member wanted his oysters unadorned. Go little buddy, go!

Oyster Century Club Youngest Member

 

And who can argue with that?

Heaven on a Half Shell - My First Belon

Oysters. Ersters. Oischchures. les Huitres. Whatever you call 'em, I love 'em. I recently had the opportunity to try a new one. And then, to share it with someone special, actually two special someones, and I did feel blessed by the universe. There's just something in my bones, when I enjoy oysters it's deeper and more moving than my normal, out-sized enjoyment of food. Reading Roy Blount, Jr.'s essay on oysters (at the ever-annoying we-don't-pay-writers - okay, we pay some, but generally no, HuffPo) shows once again how oysters are inextricably linked with something deep in our core.

Unlike many, I cannot recall my first oyster. I do recall the first time I had Kumamotos, the first time I shared oysters with my "little sister" at one of Paris' oldest oyster bars, and now, my first Belon.

We'll Always have Paris

On the occasion of her 18th birthday I decided to take my "little sister" to Paris. It was my first visit and I believe hers, although she had lived with a French family in or near Alsace for a school term. I explained that my belief was that Paris was a city that we could explore with only the faint outline of a plan. "Let's wander." I said. "Allons-y!" said she as ever, game for an adventure. And so we wandered. I tried on some impossibly chic suede boots with precisely the right heel and decided they were "trop cher." (too expensive) She later surprised me, somehow, with those very boots for my birthday. We sat amongst the dogs and doyennes in cafes, nibbling our pain au chocolate but declining to smoke. We stumbled on the January 1st sales - who knew? - and vintage post card stores - and fun, beautiful boys dans le Marais.

One of the highlights of trip, maybe only second to being mistaken for localsand asked for directions on the Metro (!) was our stumbling upon an oyster bar in the 8th Arrondissement. Turned out to be the oldest or one of the oldest oyster bars in Paris. We were thrilled. Amongst the hanging nautical kitsch, I imparted what I knew about wines to pair avec des huitres: a crisp Chablis, or a Sancerre; and how to eat them, light spritz of fresh squeezed lemon, maybe, maybe mignonette and that's it.

Island Creek and My First Belon

When Island Creek Oyster Bar opened, it seemed as if we'd waited forever. Finally the day came. We joined the throng (it seemed as if every soul in Boston had to be there opening weekend!) and I was rewarded with the taste of my first Belon.

Belon are quite rare. (Less than 1% of oyster production!) In the 1950s some folks brought the Belons from their native France to Maine to try to cultivate them here. While the cultivation of them in Maine is nearly gone entirely, some wild Maine Belon are found.

Whereas the majority of oysters on the East Coast are Crassotrea Virginica, the Belon belong to the Ostrea Edulis. Rowan Jacobsen described them as "an anchovy dipped in zinc." I think that's a little over the top, but it is a distinctly strong and coppery flavor that the Belon bring to the platter. The oysters, also known as European Flats are indeed a flatter shelled oyster and they hold less liquid because the cup is so shallow.

If you like strong flavors, enjoy wines with a mineral flavor profile, you may well enjoy Belons. With the worldwide Belon population under siege from a unique parasite with the ironic name of Bonamia (sounds like bon amie to me) if you find them on the menu, you should definitely give them a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. At the very least you can check them off your tasting list and impress fellow Oyster Century Club© members with your find.

What Makes a Good Oyster Bar?

cages at Raspberry Cove PEI As we begin to roll out the Oyster Century Club© I'm thinking about my next oyster. Will I shuck and slurp at home? Will I go out for dollar oysters and what will they have available? (Become a member and log your adventures tasting to 100 varieties! The first ten Oyster Century Club© members will receive a free copy of Rowan Jacobsen's definitive guide: A Geography of Oysters.)

Jon Rowley of Oyster Wine fame, recently Tweeted an open question asking what an oyster tastes like. I answered, "The ocean. And possibility." That is always the beauty of oysters for me. No matter where I'm at before my first oyster of the day, the second one finds me in a much better state. You feel alive with that sense of anticipation -- all things seem possible.

Rapsberry slurp Here I am in PEI, on a boat in Raspberry Point, downing oysters just pulled from the water. Doesn't get any fresher than that. Somehow I'm smiling and slurping!

I have gotten pretty good at shucking at home and I have my own favorite mignonette, but the truth is I often get so excited about the oysters, I forget it!

• Why not have an oyster tasting at home? Both I Love Blue Sea and Taylor Shellfish will deliver oysters right to your door. Invite friends to bring a dozen along and shuck, slurp and sip while you compare notes about the flavors and pairings. Mark your new varieties tasted on your Oyster Century Club tasting sheet.

What Makes a Good Oyster Bar?

I love going out for oysters. It seems so luxurious. I thought it might be a good post to start us off on this tasting adventure to ask from my fellow lovers of bivalves, what do you think makes a good oyster bar?

1. A good shucker is key. No one enjoys the ptht ptht of spitting out bits of shell.

2. A nice selection. I like to see at least one or two from each coast. Hopefully, one I haven't had before.

3. A wine selection that includes French Burgundies - Chablis, Sancerre. And Saké which pairs really well with oysters.

4. Someone on staff that really loves oysters. It's always fun when you find a tasting guide, someone on staff who's enthusiastic about their oysters. Can they teach me something new?

 

 

And there's always with oysters, that sense of possibility. Maybe you'll meet someone interesting sitting on the next stool. Maybe you'll find your new favorite oyster or discover a surprising pairing.

What is your favorite oyster bar and why?

Eating Local as an Act of Intimacy

 

Living in downtown Boston, a stone's throw from South Station Train Station, we like to brag that it takes less time to take the train to Providence than it does to drive across town. Maybe a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

I was glad to be invited to join part of the first annual Providence Food & Wine Festival. With such a vital and engaged group of chefs, farmers, growers and a loyal local dining following, this is sure to become a regular event.

I was particularly moved by Chef Vestal's lovely way of capturing his devotion to local food. He says "eating local is an act of intimacy." That makes my heart swell - a perfect turn of phrase to capture the thrill of that connection between us when enjoy local food, food that has a sense of place. The shared moment that is both fleeting and lasting - fleeting because that one meal cannot last beyond its enjoyment. Lasting in that the memory of it, the feeling of it, can last and give us more that the actual dietary components consumed. It nourishes us in a deeper way.

We listened to and then joined in the conversation of this excellent panel of local producers, hosted by Chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers and moderated by David Dadekian, local food writer & photographer of Eat Drink RI.

 

Oyster lovers and Oyster Century Club© members should swing by New Rivers for their $1 oyster night and try the Plum Points! Don't miss the Blackbird Farm burger, either. Food that makes you happy in the most intimate way.

Seaweb's 9th Annual Seafood Summit

Greetings from Vancouver!

Here to participate in the Seafood Summit - this year's theme "Responsibility without Borders" includes many stellar presenters and panels and some side trips to fisheries, all with the "with the goal of making the seafood marketplace environmentally, socially and economically sustainable." I'm looking forward to learning a lot. One goal is to understand the fisheries from the other side of the pole. What have the challenges been for the spot prawn fishermen? The Seattle halibut fishermen? What are the international management issues affecting this fishery and what socioeconomic conditions in this area, this culture?

With renowned scientists, experts in aquaculture, fisheries managers, ground-breaking journalists, and leading conservationists all exploring the issues up and down the supply chain, we'll explore how to build sustainable fishing practices and communities and look at the roles of policy, market forces, consumer actions and aquariums. Who and what are affected by the choices we make every day?

As well, we'll be meeting old friends and new, making future plans, catching up and slurping oysters.

There are so many aspects to the issues, so many impacts from the choices we make, impacts even from how we frame the issues. Recent events prove that teachable moments can come from some unlikely sources. Even those who mean well can be mislead, or misleading. Rarely is the topic as simple as some would have you believe.

Some of the topics to be covered in this conference include:
  • How Far Can and Should the Sustainable Seafood Movement Go in Improving Worldwide Fisheries?
  • Succession Planning - Exploring International Approaches by Chefs and Fishmongers to Embed Sustainability on the Demand Side.
  • The Next Generation of Salmon Farming - Exploring the Business of Land-based Closed-Containment Salmon Aquaculture.
  • Gatekeepers to Cuisine Consciousness: Chefs Explore Their Influence on and Responsibility to Sustainability.
  • Is Environmental Sustainability Enough? Addressing the Social, Economic and Community Needs of Fisheries and Their Participants.

 

Be sure to read the startling San Francisco magazine piece, The new school of fish. Think your purveyor really knows where that "sustainable fish" comes from and how it's caught? This is an example (several examples) of the need for better transparency and traceability.

 

Indian Summer Treat - Jason Bond's Native Corn and Oyster Chowder

Executive Chef Jason Bond of the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro serves this Native Corn and Oyster Chowder through September.

 

It chowder blends multiple flavor profiles using fresh local ingredients including sweet Native Corn, Onions and White Carrots. Chef Bond includes Beavertail Oysters from the Saltwater Farms of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Chef Bond shares his recipe to try at home:

 

Native Corn and Oyster Chowder:

 

Sea Salt (pinch)
4 Ounces Dry-cured pork belly, rind off, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
12 Ears Locally grown sweet corn (shucked)
2 Fresh Onions, (Brunoise)
1 Fresh Hot Chili, (Seeded)
1 Branch Celery (Brunoise)
1 White carrot (Brunoise)
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
24 Peppercorns
12 Caribe Potatoes
2 Quarts Chicken stock
1 Onion, (julienne)
2 Quarts Half & Half
40 Beavertail oysters, or other full flavored fresh live oyster
1/2 Cup Dried Sassafras Leaf, Crushed to a Powder (home-made file powder)

 

Directions:

 

In a Dutch oven, render the pork belly and the skin until it slowly begins to brown.  Add the onion, celery, carrot, chili, bay, sassafras, salt and peppercorns. Cover the pot and sweat over low heat. Grate six ears of corn on a box grater. Cut the kernels off the other six. Combine the creamed corn and the kernels and set aside. Place the 12 corn cobs in a stock pot and cover with the chicken stock. Add a pinch of salt and the sliced onion and bring to a simmer. Next, dice your potatoes and add them to the Dutch oven once the other vegetables have softened. Cook for five minutes and add the corn/chicken stock through a strainer, discarding the solids. Bring to a simmer. While the stock is heating, shuck your oysters. Separate the oysters from their juice. Strain the juice and add it to the pot. Once the liquid is at a simmer, add the half & half and the reserved corn and return to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Divide the shucked oysters evenly between the serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup over the oysters and serve immediately. 

# # # 

Try it at home or if you're local, get in to BHHB and try the menu, much of which is sourced locally and grown organically.

Wine & Dine on Monday Nights:

They're also starting a Monday Night Wine Series, four courses chosen to pair with the wines of the region highlighted, for $55 pp (excl. tax and gratuities). The series is fun, family style seating and co-lead by the charming Cecilia Rait (co-owner of BHHB) and Tracy Burgis of M.S. Walker - they'll bring you from region to region and explain the complexities of each selection. All levels will enjoy. The Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro| 25 Charles Street, Boston, MA | 617-723-7575 | www.beaconhillhotel.com