Happy Oyster Holidays!

by Kim Steele

 

Oyster Tree, image by Kim Steele, www.kimsteele.com

 

Dear Boulevardiers:

2011 has been an incredible year for us at The Boulevardiers with the launch of our new online publication, and the reception we have received from Boulevardiers everywhere.

We look forward to continuing our progress, to your comments and contributions, and to furthering our Salon of the Streets.

This post is from our Managing Editor Kim Steele, a little end of the year adventure for your amusement.

We wish you all the Happiest of Holidays…from our coast to yours!

 

 

As a recently anointed oyster farmer here in California, I set upon the New England seaboard, in search of the perfect oyster.

 

 

Union Oyster Bar

 

 

The renowned Union Oyster Bar in the historic section of Boston was a huge disappointment!  Sticking to the most common oysters in the East, I ordered the Blue Point Oyster, which originally came from an area off Long Island called Blue Point.  They have migrated to the Long Island Sound closer to Connecticut.  Blue Point Oysters have  become a generic name for any Northeast oyster of indeterminate origin. They arrived with an ice cube on top of each tired oyster, flaccid and weak of flavor.  I asked the bartender if they were “fresh” and he responded “We sell 800,000 oysters a year here, sure they are fresh.”  Next time – the lobster looks better, there was a fifteen pound monster in the tank!  They claim to be the oldest continually operated restaurant in the United States, founded in 1826. Charming looking place, but just pop in for a look and get the bivalves elsewhere. How can a bar that touts its oysters not serve a mignonette sauce???  Unthinkable.

Next on the tour was the home of the famous Wellfleet oysters, on Cape Cod.  A lovely seaside town, with many oyster beds in front of the charming historic buildings and the mainland in the distance.  Mac’s Seafood seems to have a stronghold on the oysters in this hamlet.  He supplies the restaurants, has an eatery on the dock and a carryout place as well.  I selected the Bookstore & Restaurant bar for my Wellfleets.  They were sublime and the best I had on the adventure. So good I ate two dozen.  Sweet as well as briny, the freshness adds to this flavor, with a meaty body that melts on the tongue. Yum they were good, a very tasty mignonette sauce to boot! I had the pleasure of meeting a local gentleman who was an investor with Mac in various enterprises, who informed me of the local lore.  Altogether it was a pleasant encounter.

Just to prove to myself that all Wellfleets are not created equally, or at least not handled equally, I tried another dozen at the tip of the Cape, Provincetown.  Lured into the restaurant by the ‘Happy Hour’ come on from the barker, ‘one dollar Wellfleets,’ in I went.  I ordered the dozen from a wizened gent, who informed me that I could not eat them on the deck where I had already ordered my beer, different concession, but had to saddle up at the smoky old bar.  Hummm. The oysters were as fresh as the air in the bar at Governor Bradsford Restaurant.

 

 

Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York

 

 

Now to the epicenter of East Coast bivalves, the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan’s famous station. Renovated after a damaging fire some twelve years ago, it looks almost the same as I remember, except that the area behind the oyster bar is a bit shorter and a not as dramatically inclined. Shelves of ice containing the larder, with the attendants shucking like mad! This place is famous for its oysters, and the pan roasts. In its old configuration, the globe shaped pots for the pan roasts were recessed in the counter, and now sit behind it. It is like a stew or chowder but with many more ingredients like chili, tomato, and Worcestershire sauces, dabbed with spicy paprika.

After conferring with my new friend at the counter, a  fellow diner and resident expert on oysters, he suggested I try the Malpeque from the local waters of Prince Edward Island, but should definitely try the Clevendon Coast all the way from New Zealand and finish with the French Kiss  from up north, Nova Scotia. The Clevedons were my favorite, similar to a large Kumamoto – sweet and firm – but also with hints of salt, brine, and seaweed. A unique oyster. The French Kiss were a bit smaller and considerably brinier, the Malpeques reminded me more of the Pacific oyster, milder and easy to swallow.  The place was a wonderful experience, especially with the driving rains outside and the friendly company, aside from the brusque service which is to be expected.

 

 

All Images: Kim Steele Photography

 

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