Mar 02, 2009
There was this old Native American guy named Ned, and he lived all alone on a tiny island in Long Island Sound because he liked it that way. Ned is long gone, but the island is forever named for him.
I don’t know if he liked oysters or not, but the waters off his island were thick with ’em. This is the fabled home of Bluepoints, and that’s what you get in a Ned’s Island oyster–a picture-perfect Bluepoint. Bluepoints have a checkered past. They were originally from the Great South Bay on the southern coast of Long Island, but after those were wiped out in the 1800s Bluepoint production switched to Long Island Sound, which had the last great wild sets in the area, and that’s where it really took off. Bluepoints became the most popular oysters in the country. But because the name is not trademarked, soon other regions (Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico) began selling their oysters as Bluepoints, and still do. It’s done a terrible disservice to the name, because a Bluepoint from Long Island Sound had wonderfully firm, briny flesh, while many of the ersatz bluepoints tasted like something the plumber freed from the U-curve under your sink. I still hit these fakes in restaurants all the time.
Ned’s Islands are the real deal, with a lively 27-ppt salt taste. They are harvested by Hillard Bloom Shellfish of Norwalk, Connecticut, the family-owned company that singlehandedly saved Long Island oystering and is synonymous with Bluepoints (the good ones). They are started in a hatchery (using local broodstock), then planted on the oyster beds for two years, where they develop the strong shells and full flavor of bottom-grown oysters. Any oysters that don’t meet the Ned’s Island specs are culled, meaning you get a deep-cupped, 3-4-inch oyster every time. If, like me, you’ve been burned by bluepoints and want to understand what all the fuss was about, have a box of Ned’s Islands shipped to your door.
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