It's almost time for the Wellfleet OysterFest! October 14-15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Hard to believe it's now in its 17th year!) Hope you are all coming out for this gala weekend extravaganza featuring oysters, oysters, more oysters, and also Wellfleet clams, chowder and other goodies such as fish tacos, clam cakes, jerk ribs, conch fritters, lobster rolls, Portuguese kale soup, grilled sausage, plus beer, coffee, muffins, cookies, brownies and other sweets, all offered by local restaurants. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Of course the OysterFest is about more than just food. There's a fine arts & craft fair with over 86 participating artisans, educational lectures and walking tours, 5k road race, tennis, family friendly activities, live music and entertainment, and--my personal fave--the Oyster Shuck-Off. The preliminary competition starts on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., and culminates with the finals on Sunday (also 1 p.m.). Prizes will be awarded for the fastest shucker with the cleanest tray: 1st Place-$1,000, 2nd Place-$500, 3rd Place -$250. I am honored to serve as a judge again, along with Canadian pal John Baby and Wellfleet resident Mike May.
The final oysters have been shucked and last balloons have popped. It's the end of another fantastic year at the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. I don't have the stats, but it seemed like thousands attended over the weekend of September 14-17.
The festivities kicked off Thursday evening with the Feast & Frolic event, an evening of food and entertainment hosted by Chef Chuck Hughes that included--along with a Mussels Bar and Potato Bar--an all-you-can-eat Oyster Bar featuring 22 unique oyster varieties across the island. All you can eat! (And I did.)
As if that wasn't enough, the sit down dinner served 420 very happy guests who chowed down on an amazing feast orchestrated by Chef Irwin Mackinnon of Papa Joe's fame. (He delivered piping hot food--including lobsters, steak, baked stuffed potatos and vegetable skewers--out to the entire crown in under 9 minutes!)
Friday, Saturday and Sunday featured cooking demonstrations by celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford, the Tie One On Mussel Competition, the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge, the Potato Seafood Chowder Competition (of which I was honored to be a judge), the Mott's Clamato "Best Caesar" competition, the PEI Shellfisherman Association's creation of the "World's Longest Lobster Roll" (over 200-feet!), live entertainment, and not one but TWO oyster shucking competitions.
The first shuck-off, on Friday night, featured the best on-island shuckers, including Jason Woodside and Bradley Gallant. On Saturday, a local-plus-international roster included competitive shucking luminaries such as Eamon Clark of Toronto, Daniel Notkin of Montreal, and American Robert Daffin, who travels from Panama City, Florida each year with Carolee Ann Carlson-Harper, know to everyone as "Mama."
The joint was packed when the shuckers took the stage for the Saturday night heats. I captured the second to last heat of the competition between Daniel Notkin and Robert Daffin, and posted it to YouTube. The emcee is the always-entertaining Rob Barry. If you've never been to a shucking competition, this video gives a sense of the electricity in the room and the intensity of the competitors. (As well as the rollicking good time had by all.)
The winner of the competition, announced after all the penalties had been tabulated, was Daniel Notkin. Geek stats: 12 oysters shucked in flat time 51 and 65/100 seconds, plus 6 penalty seconds added totaling 57 and 65/100 seconds.
On a reflective note, this past year shucker and oyster farmer Marlene Dowdle lost her valiant fight with cancer. Her husband, George Dowdle, decided to award a $1,000 prize in her honor to the fastest female shucker at this year's festival. Every woman competitor was given a tee shirt that Marlene herself had designed. At the end of the shucking events, the Marlene Dowdle Award for Fastest Shucker went to Melissa Somers. A women's cleanest plate award, donated by Chef Chuck Hughes, went to Coreen Pickering. George Dowdle, his son Cole, and daughter Britteny, were on the stage to hand out the etched glass trophy. You can read more about the Marlene, the Dowdle family and the award in a CBC News story HERE.
Thanks to the wonderful community of PEI for hosting such a terrific event. Fellow shellfish lovers: Mark your calendars for next year's edition of the PEI International Shellfish Festival, September 13-16, 2018!
Oysters! Mussels! Music! The port city of Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is gearing up for its annual International Shellfish Festival, a four-day extravaganza filled with culinary delights and rocking live entertainment. (Sept. 14-17). I'm thrilled to be participating as a judge in some of the seafood tasting competitions.
I'm especially happy to be in town when shellfisherman George Dowdle --of the most delicious Green Gables Oysters --inaugurates a new all-women shucking competition in memory of his wife Marleen. If you haven't signed up to compete, it might not be too late!
Highlights include cooking demonstrations, a big band party, Mott’s Clamato best Caesar cocktail contest, Tie-One-On mussel industry competition, chowder championships, oyster shucking competitions, and more. Day pass: $15; weekend pass $33. http://peishellfish.com/en/
So...apparently this is a thing! Gotta love this report about oyster farmers on the Île de Ré who are using refrigerated vending machines to promote sales of the shellfish. Kinda like the Automats in NYC in days of yore. Anyone remember those? To see the video click HERE.
August 5 is National Oyster Day! With that in mind, I want to share my new favorite ergonomic shucking knife, PUT 'EM BACK™ by Toadfish Outfitters, a manufacturer of oyster knives and fishing products out of Charleston, SC .
The thing I love about the knife, other than it's wonderful to hold and is a stylish blue, is that the company is eco-active, meaning it is dedicated to protecting the saltwater environment and keeping it healthy, and educating customers to better understand the cause and effect of over-harvesting versus replenishment.
I'm not the only one in the house who loves this knife. "It's an awesome shucking tool with nice opening leverage and clean cuts inside the oyster." said Jim Gilbert, my personal live-in shucker who kindly opened these Wellfleet oysters for the photo shoot.
Founded by Casey Davidson,Toadfish is committed to donating a portion of its earnings to coastal preservation and oyster reclamation. For every product sold, Toadfish plants 10 square feet of oyster beds and to date has planted approximately 2600 square feet of beds.
Additionally, Toadfish has partnered with the Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina and has recently donated twenty thousand dollars to the organization's habitat efforts. With a motto of "shuck, recycle, rebuild," Toadfish strives to live its mission of being a good corporate citizen.
Check it out! PUT 'EM BACK™ Oyster Knife $38.
Toadfish Outfitters, 813 Weir Street, Charleston, SC
One of my favorite species--Ostrea Edulis--aka the native European flat--is being introduced into the waters around Scotland for the first time in more than 100 years.
According to BBC News, overfishing caused the European flat to become extinct in most areas around the coast of Scotland in the 18th century. Today, the food industry around the country mainly farms non-native oysters.
This is now changing as "a team from Heriot-Watt University has returned 300 natives to the Dornoch Firth as part of a water-purifcation project. If the oysters survive, the plan is to create a reef covering four hectares."
Here's hoping they survive and thrive! Read more of the story--and see a video of the project--HERE.
Sad news! According to my sources, Miami's oyster social has been cancelled: "The Southernmost Oyster Social, unfortunately, did not sell enough tickets and the organizer had to pull the event." WAH.
*Thanks to my artist pal Tabitha Vevers for this image of ""Shell Series: Pearlmaker." You can see more of her lovely paintings HERE.
So excited to learn about Miami Oyster Week! (January 20-28, 2017) Billed as a "curated collection of oyster-centric event," the week's festivities are produced by The OysterHood, the dynamic duo of Rudi Ehrlich and Kevin Joseph who also created and produced such phemon events as New York Oyster Week and International Oyster Day.
Of the many events in Miami this week, I'm pleased to be invited to the Southernmost Oyster Social. The party takes place at the Mondrian South Beach Hotel's chic event space, offering sweeping views of the sunset over Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline.
The OysterHood has chosen Miami to kick off it's National Touring "Oyster Social" Concept. What's that, you ask?
"An Oyster Social is an EPICurean Oyster Experience where various rare & exotic ultra-premium oyster species are paired with premium libations of all kinds. Expect us to Pop Up the Best Raw Bar on Earth paired with various other passed DelicaSEAS as well as craft beer, boutique wine and creative cocktails."
The Southernmost Oyster Social will be presented “Miami Style," meaning it will be featuring several ultra-premium oyster varieties from best the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific regions along with a selection of craft beers, boutique wines and creative cocktails.
Sounds like heaven to me. Tickets are still available! Prices $85 - $195. Get tickets HERE.
Mondrian South Beach, 1100 West Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139
Saturday January 28
4:00- 7:00 pm
(Photos by Tess Gostfrand)
So excited to hear that the duo behind Edgewater’s neighborhood oyster bar Mignonette is expanding their seafood shrine to North Miami Beach! Mignonette Uptown is housed in a former-1980s aluminum-sided diner along Biscayne Boulevard. I loved the diner that was here before but I'm looking forward to checking out the new incarnation.
From the press release: "Known as a fun oyster bar and seafood haven, Mignonette offers a dynamic menu of quality dishes as well as down-home options. At its heart, Mignonette is a place to slurp oysters, sample fine caviar, dig deep into a fried shrimp po'boy, savor one of Mignonette’s beautifully-rendered main plates, and enjoy a craft beer or a glass of wine from the award-winning wine list."
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
The 16th annual Wellfleet OysterFest, produced by Wellfleet SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, Inc.), is happening--as scheduled--this weekend, October 15 and 16 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. each day.
I say "as scheduled" because--sadly--the festival is being hosted without any oysters! Due to a public health concern with shellfish in Wellfleet’s harbor – and in response to a closure issued by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (Mass. DMF) – SPAT has decided not to serve any raw shellfish at this year’s festival. The closure is not related to recent closures due to “ASP” nor is it Vibrio-related.
The good news? The annual Shuck Off is going on with oysters sourced from outside, open shellfish areas. Additionally, food vendors at the event are dishing out a lot of other tasty treats including conch fritters, pumpkin bisque, fish tacos, roasted sweet corn, grilled swordfish, savory crepes, steamed mussels and even barbecue.
Check out this succulent slice of grilled swordfish from Hatch's Fish Market! I hear today they are grilling scallops--but you have to get there early!
I'm thrilled to report that the crowds on Saturday were epic! So many people came to support the festival--and made donations to the fund for all the oyster farmers who are losing a huge chunk of their income this oysterless-weekend. The music is terrific--the crafts booths are fab--the beer is flowing--and the shuck off continues today at 1:00 p.m.
Canadian chef John Baby and yours truly are honored to be judging the oyster competition. So come on out!
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.