May 25, 2012
Aficionados of Grand Central Oyster Bar may have noticed that for several years now a Virginia oyster called Sewansecott has been a stable on the menu. It’s actually one of executive chef Sandy Ingber’s favorites. Last week I finally got to try some, and I can see why: They were the best Virginia oysters I’ve found, big and full-flavored, with a big hit of umami and a nice lingering touch of sweetness to balance the Atlantean brine (which is undoubtedly the attraction for Sandy, who is a bit of a brine hound). The only knock against them was the shells, which had a tendency to break during shucking (probably because they are cage grown, and because they grow to market size in just a year–a testament to the richness of the waters).
Sewansecotts are farmed by H.M. Terry, a famed fourth-generation oyster company, which has been at it for 106 years. They bailed on oysters in the 1980s, when things got bleak on the Chesapeake, but revived their Sewansecott brand a few years ago. (They still use the retro Indian head logo from their old oyster tins, a nice touch, though it actually looks kinda like me with feathers in my hair.)
Sewansecotts are grown in Hog Island Bay (not to be confused with the California Hog Island oysters, or the Maine Hog Island; apparently pigs got around once the sailors dumped them), which is on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore, an area so pure that it has been designated a United Nations Biosphere Reserve. Certainly a nice thing to think about as you down your second or third dozen. Look for them at GCOB and many other East Coast saloons, or order them directly.
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