Sewansecott Oysters

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 staple 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.

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6 Responses to Sewansecott Oysters

  1. Doug says:

    Man, these Sewansecotts are some of the best oysters around. I’ve they’re so fully balanced. Though I have noticed that, when shucking, the top shell does break. What can be done to prevent this? Also, have you tried the Chincoteague oysters? If I can recommend any oyster, it would be the wild ones from this region. So salty, yet sweet. Idk man. They’re the best around. Other than your Sewansecotts. Thanks y’all.

  2. Doug, thanks for the kind words! We’re so glad you enjoy our Sewansecotts! The issue with the shells is one that is directly related to how fast the oysters grow here and the fact that they are frequently tumbled to create a consistent shape. One way to get around it is to go through the bill instead of the hinge. Here is a great diagram from the folks at the Virginia Marine Products Board

  3. Todd B says:

    Been buying these oysters by the case for a few years now…based on the review, I guess as soon as they got back into production I was eating them! They’re fantastic. Chincoteague’s used to be my favorite, but the Sewansecott’s are better with a more consistent sweeter/saltier taste going on. And to top it off, they’re grown by good people! (their clams aren’t to shabby either!)

  4. rowan says:

    Yes, the Sewansecotts are definitely consistently sweeter than Chincoteagues. Haven’t tasted the clams yet…

  5. Jim Brady says:

    My 4 year old daughter and I equally polished off a dozen Sewansecotts (and a 1/2 dozen pungoteagues) today on our back porch. I have to tell you….having grown up culling Connecticut Blue Points, I have a bit of an “attitude” toward southern oysters. Not today! Sewansecotts are fabulous and this seems to be a very good year. Crews like you and the Rappahanock Oyster folks are bringing prominence back to the Bay area. Thank you.

  6. rowan says:

    Yes, Sewansecotts and some others from down south are changing the whole story. Kudos to your daughter! A gastronaut in the making!

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