Thrilled to share my story about the Canadian oyster shucking National Championship, available online--for free!-- in this month's TraveLife Magazine! Read the story HERE. See page 32. Happy reading and slurping!
It’s almost time for the 7th Annual Oysterfest in Montreal (Aug. 29-30). I have yet to get to what is hear is a wonderful freewheeling oysterlicious event but I plan to one of these days. If you’re heading to Montreal, for the festival or otherwise, make sure to stop by Notkin’s, the new oyster-bar-kid on the block.
I visited in May for a celebratory birthday batch of bivalves and was served by my shucking pal—and Notkin’s owner—Daniel Notkin.
The space is a new build—all snazzy angles and glass—a kind of retro/futuristic interior dominated by the long curved bar for drinking and dining. (Très sexy!) We sat at one end where we could watch the oysters being shucked and chatted with Daniel and his competent staff.
We slurped a selection of Canada’s finest bivalves. Sorry to say I didn’t take detailed notes (hey—it was my birthday!) but I did take photos. Check out these beauties! The dropper bottle is filled with hot sauce.
On your next trip to this fabulous city, make sure to stop by Notkin's. Order a dozen—and say hello for me!
Notkin’s, 1101 Bleury street, Montréal, 514-866-1101, http://www.notkins.com/en
So excited for TONIGHT'S pre-screening of SHUCKERS...an inside look at the world of shucking competitions featuring the most eccentric, crazy and well-known oyster shuckers and restaurateurs in the business including Rodney Clark, Patrick McMurray, William "Chopper" Young and Daniel Notkin who attempt to shed some light on the mysterious and fabulous world of oysters.
Where/When: Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, 2357 Route 6, Wellfleet, 7:30 p.m. Free!
It was a spectacular day on Sunday in Boston: sunny, warm (well, warmish in the mid-50’s), and over 500 oyster lovers all partying for a good cause—raising money for the Barbara Lynch Foundation—at the B&G Oysters 5th annual Oyster Invitational.
The 5-hour extravaganza paired shellfish farmers and purveyors with chefs and restaurants, and guests could sample both raw and embellished bivalves.
I was honored that B&G asked me to judge the shucking competition (along with the incomparable Annie Copps), and between my hourly duties I made the rounds of each oyster station, slurping and sampling my way along the street, down in the garden-patio, throughout the interior of B& G Oysters, and across the street along Lynch’s the Butcher Shop. (Apologies in advance to any vendors I may have missed in the crowds. And mea culpa, dear chefs, if I describe your creations and misreport an ingredient detail.)
First up: I met Dave Roebuck, the man behind the Shuckin Truck in Boston and Rhode Island. “We bring oysters from farm to plate, as in license plate,” said Roebuck. He was serving his own farm-raised Salt Pond Oysters, from Point Judith in Rhode Island. Nicely salty and bright, the oysters are “well flushed in a tidal pond” and go straight from the pond to the truck, along with scallops (from his brother’s boats) and lobster (from his dad’s traps). Salt Pond was paired with Neptune Oysters, presided over by sous chef Daniel Karg who offered me an oyster with a bright red spot of pickled beet juice and tiny sprig of chervil.
Next I met a trio of farmers from Riptide Oysters in Westport, Mass.: Kerian Fennelly, John Ryan and Christian Minnock. The oysters themselves held a triple medley of flavors: I tasted salty first, then sweet with a grassy finish, an analysis confirmed by Ryan: “There’s a little freshwater spring nearby. They (oysters) seem to like it quite a lot.”
Chef Seth Morrison of the Gallows served these oysters soaked in buttermilk with a ramp dressing, pickled mustard seed slaw and a fleck of crispy chicken skin on top.
American Mussel Harvesters were shucking Beavertail Oysters from Rhode Island (nicely plump, not too salty, and sweet), and Myers & Chang topped these bivalves with saki kimchi ice and pickled cucumbers.
Matunuck Oyster Farm—also from Rhode Island—served oysters packed with flavor and high salinity, and were paired with…themselves (Matunuck Oyster Bar), adding a drop of wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger and micro greens grown outside their restaurant.
Around this time my sister Melon showed up and joined me in an eating frenzy, only pausing to buy a tee shirt at the Shuckin Truck.
Chris Quartuccio, owner of Blue Island Oyster Company brought along a (nearly) naked singing cowboy to promote his wild (as in not farmed), diver-harvested Naked Cowboy Oysters. “With a name like that, could it be anything other than wild?” he asked. Um, nope. Nearby, the Biltmore Bar & Grill stuffed these oysters in a kind of scallop mousse roll topped with a black garlic puree.
Last but not least, Pangea Shellfish served small and tasty (plump, metallic and salty) Salish Sea oysters from British Columbia. Chef Tony Messina, of Uni Sashimi, topped these with oxalis mignonette, pressed cantaloupe, shallot essence and a Darjeeling tea espuma.
In case anyone (me) was still hungry after all-you-can-eat oysters, B & G was serving its famed lobster rolls, Guchi’s Midnight Ramen handed out kickass-good fish tacos, the Shuckin Truck slapped down scallop rolls, and all kinds of other foods—including veggies, burgers and sausages—were being grilled, skewered, fried and roasted. Wellfleet, Mass. was represented by Barbara and Pat Woodbury, serving their salty-sweet, perfect littleneck clams, and Picco scooped ice cream to end the day.
Oh yeah, and the wine was fab too.
And I almost (almost) forgot to mention the shucking competition, a relaxed event by most standards (only eight oysters!) but fun nonetheless. After hourly heats featuring oyster farmers, B&G staff, and guest restaurant shuckers, the winner, edging out steep competition from the Summer Shack, was Daniel Notkin, representing Pangea Shellfish. A bit of an out-of-town ringer from Montreal (he came in second in the Canadian Nationals last summer), Notkin donned his winning crown and medal and in true shucker spirit, raised his beer glass to the sky. It was the perfect end of a perfect day.
Many thanks to all involved, especially the B&G staff who all deserve a round of applause (and a nice big bonus check) for keeping things running so smoothly and with a smile.
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.