World Oyster Opening Champion, Patrick McMurray--aka "Shucker Paddy"--presides over Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, a cozy seafood restaurant and oyster bar featuring a unique assortment of oysters including European oysters you can’t get in the U.S., like Clarenbridge from near Galway, Ireland. (“Tastes like salted fois gras!” said an enthusiastic McMurray.)
Above the long bar, topped with oyster shells encased in resin, seven clocks relate the hour at oyster bars across the globe, including Union Oyster House, Boston and Osteria, Shanghai. Chatting with McMurray is like sprinting across a universe of ideas, with topics racing from a possible Toronto Oyster Week to the 1835 opening of the Erie Canal (and the first oysters carted to Toronto) to teaching Sri Lankans to grow oysters to shellfish recycling projects to cancer research regarding oysters to his new project, an oyster stout.
I’d make another trip to Toronto just for Scrimshaw Oyster Stout. It’s made with the entire bivalve—shell, meat and liquor—using only PEI Green Gables oysters. The dark, thick stout had a light mineral clean sweetness up front with a roasted flavor underneath.
We matched the brew with a half dozen Green Gables, a marriage made in oyster heaven.
McMurray shucked the next batch on his signature hockey puck with his newly redesigned knife. (Hopefully available soon in a gourmet kitchen store near you.)
Beausoleil, N.B.; Merigomish, N.S.; Clarenbridge, Ireland; PEI clams; Kumamotos, WA (“Taylor’s, one-hundred percent purebread.”) Yum-O-Rama.
After a day filled with oyster bliss, it was time to find my hotel and crash. After all, I had more oysters on the schedule tomorrow. (Patrick McMurray, left; John Baby, right)
(Starfish Oyster Bed, 100 Adelaide St. E., 416-366-7827, http://www.starfishoysterbed.com/)
Gearing up here for my three-day oyster-eating extravaganza in Toronto next week. I’ll be toured around town by shucking judge extraordinaire John Baby, and hope to meet up with Canadian champs Patrick McMurray and Eamon Clark.
Our schedule is shaping up to include the following oyster-eateries: Diana's; Hopgood's Foodliner; Pure Spirits; Starfish; Oyster Boy ("Mollusks for the Masses"); Fishbar; Wallflower; Chase Fish + oyster; John and Sons; Ceili Cottage; Rodney's Oyster House; and Big Daddy's.
That’s allota oysters!
I grew up spending part of every summer in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, which included eating many oysters. After stumbling into an oyster shucking competition in Miami Beach in 2006, I’ve become a fan of the sport and have written about local, national, and international competitions for the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, American Way Magazine, and the Huffington Post. I've also written oyster-centric stories for Rustik and Modern Farmer. I’ve never met an oyster I didn’t want to eat.