Notebook

Check back here for new oyster tastings and reviews of oyster bars and festivals.

Blue Pool and Shigoku Take Best Oysters Prize

November 17th, 2015

Oyster Showcase Results

 

At the North American Oyster Showcase last week, a truly impressive panel of hardcore oysterheads convened for what is to date the most thorough and inclusive blind tasting of oysters ever. There were chefs and other experts from the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. The results, as you can see on the board above, are fascinating food for thought. My takeaways are below, but first, here are the results again in descending order:

Rank 

Oyster

Score

State

1

Blue Pool

93

WA

2

Shigoku

92

WA

3

Kusshi

89

BC

4

Totten Inlet

86

WA

5

Isle Douphines

86

AL

6

Murder PT.

85

AL

7

Point Aux Pins

84

AL

8

Kumamoto

82

WA

9

13 mile Oysters

82

FL

10

Champagne Bay

82

LA

11

Coast Kumos

79

CA

12

Beauregard Island

79

LA

13

Island Creek

79

MA

14

Hog Island Sweetwater

78

CA

15

Sewanscott

78

VA

16

Moonstone

77

RI

17

Matunuck

76

RI

18

Snowhill

76

VA

19

Fanny Bay

75

BC

20

Raspberry Point

71

PEI

21

Moon Shoal

71

MA

22

Single Lady

71

SC

23

East Beach Blond

70

RI

24

Kumiai

64

Baja CA

25

Misty Points

61

VA

26

Rappahannock River

58

VA

What I take away from this:

–The Pacific Northwest destroyed everyone else, despite the fact that the panel was heavy on Gulf/Southeast folks. Blue Pools, Shigokus, Kusshis, and TIVs are all extraordinary oysters, and no one can ever argue with that again.

–The top three were all intensely tumbled oysters. That’s where it’s at, folks.

–Alabama, having swept the next three spots, is now officially on the map. They are making superb oysters down there, and if you haven’t tried any yet, you are missing out big time.

–Not a good day for the East Coast, neither Virginia or Northeast. This should be a good time of year for them, too.

–The two Kumamotos did surprisingly poorly, proving once again that they are contrary oysters, good when others are not and vice versa.

–Let’s all say it together now: Blue Pools, best oyster in America until proven otherwise. (And Shigokus will be gunning to do just that, I’m sure.)

–This all whets my palate for more ratings controversy, so please head over to Oysterater and weigh in on any of these that you’ve had, as well as other gems overlooked here!

–Can’t wait for next year’s tasting! Count me in!

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Oyster Flight Nights at Blue Plate Oysterettes 11/17 & 18

November 10th, 2015

I’ll be hosting “Rowan’s Choice” nights at the spectacular Blue Plate Oysterettes in Los Angeles (Nov 17) and Santa Monica (Nov 18). They’ll be offering my hand-picked “Oyster Flight” of six of the world’s great oysters (plus a bonus Olympia) for the insanely good price of $15. All the oysters are being airlifted in for the event, so they’ll be super fresh. Swing by, grab a beer with me, and catch your flight. Here’s the rundown:

 

Blue Plate Oyster Flight Night

 

Island Creek

Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts

The quintessential Northeast oyster. As briny as it gets. Tastes like a New England clambake in a shell.

 

Moon Shoal

Barnstable Harbor, Cape Cod

Highly coveted oyster farmed in tiny quantities by full-time fireman Jon Martin in Barnstable Harbor, which was named Port aux Huitres (“Oyster Harbor”) by Samuel de Champlain when he discovered it in 1606. Deep-cupped oysters with a lobster-bisque finish.

 

Puffer’s Petites

Wellfleet Harbor, Cape Cod

The most famous oyster ground in New England is Wellfleet, known for intensely briny, earthy, full-flavored oysters, and the best are grown from wild-caught spat by father-and-son team Irving and Jake Puffer. Two freshwater streams balance the classic Wellfleet brine with a sweet minerality.

 

Northern Cross

Fishermen’s Island, Virginia

A unique hybrid cross of two royal lines of oysters: Island Creeks from Massachusetts and Chincoteagues from Virginia. Farmed oceanside near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay by a man named (I kid you not) Bubba Frisbee. Very salty and vegetal with a walnut finish.

 

Kumamoto

Chapman’s Cove, Puget Sound

Kumamotos are a small, notoriously finicky species of oyster from Japan. They grow happily in only a few places on earth, and their favorite place of all is a tiny little bay tucked into the very, very bottom of Puget Sound called Chapman’s Cove. These are them. Amazingly sweet and fruity with a melon-rind finish.

 

Shigoku

Willapa Bay, Washington

The latest innovation in oysters is tumbling: The oysters are grown in bags attached to floats that spin in the tides, tossing the oysters around and polishing their shells into smooth, gleaming gems. It also gives the oysters a workout, resulting in plump, firm, extra-sweet nuggets with a clean cucumber bite. Shigokus are the tumbling stars.

 

Olympia

Totten Inlet, Puget Sound

The only oyster native to the West Coast, Olympias used to grow from BC to Baja. Now they are found in just a handful of places and are one of the rarest oysters in the country. They are tiny, but pack a powerful punch of tomato water, celery salt, and Worcestershire sauce, like pint-sized Bloody Marys.

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Video on Rappahannock River Oysters

November 2nd, 2015

Just in time for Virginia Oyster Month, my friend Jenny Hwa has crafted a gorgeous two-minute video featuring Ryan Croxton of Rappahannock River Oyster fame. Savor it with a plate of your favorite Virginia bivalves.

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20 New Rules of Oyster Eating

August 25th, 2015

Over the past year, I’ve been visiting oyster farms and oyster bars across North America for Oysterguide’s sister site, Oysterater, as well as a new book called The Essential Oyster. Where there used to be a few dozen places in the country from which you could get great oysters, and a few dozen in which you could eat them, now there are hundreds. But with every bored banker throwing a few oyster cages off his dock, and every dive bistro reinventing itself as an oyster bar, oyster know-how hasn’t kept up. I’ve never seen so many scrawny, mangled oysters going down so many clueless gullets in my life. So it seemed like high time for a primer. The good folks over at Lucky Peach, the new gold standard for thoughtful food writing, agreed. I settled on twenty rules for choosing—and dispatching—oysters. Use them, set your friends straight, and for God’s sake tell your servers. Viva la revolución.

20 New Rules for Oyster Eating: A Minor Manifesto

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Glidden Point Woodblock Print

August 16th, 2015

Morgan Scully is the daughter of Barb Scully of Glidden Point oyster fame. She’s done every aspect of oyster farming, and she’s now a student at Kenyon College studying art and psychology. She’s been interning at Villard Studios in Boothbay Harbor, studying woodblock printing, and she just produced this stunning hand-watercolored block print of one of her Glidden Point oysters. To me, it captured the essence of an American oyster perfectly. Morgan says, “Growing up as Barb’s daughter, with the oyster farm being such a large aspect of my childhood and my family’s identity, it seemed fitting to create an oyster woodblock to carry my knowledge of oysters over into other aspects of my life.” You can buy a print from Morgan ($50 unframed, $75 framed) by emailing her at morgankscully@gmail.com.

Glidden Point print

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