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 always Oyster Time at Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto. I’d say that family-run Rodney’s is a fixture in the oyster-scene in the city but that would be like saying Christmas is a feature of the holidays, and most Torontonians would most likely respond, “Well, duh, yeah.” (Or the Canadian equivalent.)
Rodney Clark, the elder statesman of oysters in Toronto, (and multiple Canadian shucking champ) now farms oysters in PEI. In Toronto, I met with his son Eamon (another champion shucker), daughter Bronwen, and Julius Chapple who manage his eponymous no-frills oyster bar founded in 1987, as well as running the catering and wholesale side of the business.
Eamon estimates they sold 1.4 million oysters last year, including close to 13 thousand a week at their oyster bar that features east and west coast oysters of the Americas, European, and beyond.
Like at other establishments, sustainability is on their minds.
“We’re worried about what’s going to happen next year. The future of the premium oyster is more in demand, It’s hard to find fishermen who want to hold onto oysters for an extra year to grow larger,” said Bronwen.
That said, fans of Rodney’s flock back for their selection and consistency. We have the largest selection of oysters, day in an day out,” said Julius.
“We serve carefully curated oysters, and focus on education. Our crew can talk about the product,” said Bronwen.
The lower level, wood interior has a maritime feel, as if you’re below decks in an old boat. Wood tables, chairs and a long bar create a casual vibe but don’t let that fool you: People here are serious about their oysters.
“We’re a boutique oyster house that doesn’t look boutique—but our product is,” said Eamon.
We tasted a far-flung selection. Check out these beauties!
1. Kelly’s Virginicas, from Ireland. Taste went from sweet to grassy to metal. 2. Rodney’s Oyster Depot, from PEI. Firm and sweet. 3. Cotuits from Massachusetts. Deep shells, plump, briny, and sweet. 4. Kaiparas from New Zealand. Creamy, citrus with cucumber finish.
Bronwen paired the bivalves with two perfect beverages: Izumi, a hand crafted saki distilled in Ontario; and Sea Legs, a white wine blend developed by Rodney’s with Cave Spring Cellars in Jordan, Ontario. (Bronwen works with the vintner to produce one oyster-compatible wine each year.)
“Rodney wanted to build a business that would last 200 years, “ said Julius.
Oh goody—174 years to go!
(Rodney’s Oyster Bar, 469 King St. West, 416-363-8105, http://rodneysoysterhouse.com/toronto/)
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.