Tonight marks (in no particular order) the end of June, the unofficial start to what will be a four-day holiday weekend for a lot of people, and Edible New York’s final event in 2011’s Eat/Drink/Local Week: East End Oysters Night at Jimmy’s No. 43. Last night Eddie “Oysters” (who is currently in training to be the world’s fastest oyster shucker) gave us a preview of the great oysters that will be served up courtesy of Blue Island Oysters (all you can eat tickets are $35; get yours before you head over to the bar). Let’s just say these are some damn good oysters!
Today, we’ll get to meet Blue Island’s founder and CEO, Chris Quartuccio, who was nice enough to answer a few questions about the oyster world (because we’re a reputable blog that doesn’t take what doesn’t belong to us, you’ll have to go here to see a really cool pic of Chris). Who knew oysters were a diet food?
So, your wild-caught oysters are known as “naked cowboy oysters.” We’re guessing there’s a story behind the name. Do tell…
The oysters that we diver-harvest from the Long Island Sound, just off of Port Jefferson, NY, are very special to us and we wanted to give them a name that consumers would never forget. So we thought a lot about it. We wanted a name that would convey the determination, boldness and sheer guts required to dive for oysters in the icy waters of the Long Island Sound. We also wanted a name that exemplifies New York and embodies the timeless qualities of passion and boldness. Finally, we wanted a name that people could have fun with. When oysters are consumed au naturel (uncooked, or unadulterated with sauces), they are almost universally referred to as being “naked.” So, we have a bold, gutsy, naked oyster from New York. What better name could there be for that than the Naked Cowboy? He personifies Times Square New York. He is out there in the snow and the rain, just like our divers. He is a passionate, gutsy guy who looks good in underpants. The choice was clear. And now, the Naked Cowboy is the world’s most celebrated oyster. I think we chose well.
The old wives’ tale is only eat oysters in months with an “r”. It’s June. Does that mean we’re at or getting to the end of the season? What’s the truth (that’s truth with an “r” in it)?
As opposed to “truth” with a “y”? Perhaps you were going for “truthyness” a la Stephen Colbert?
Here’s the scoop—with a “p.” In New England, oysters spawn during the summer months. Spawning oysters can have a soft creamy texture and post-spawning oysters tend to have thinner, more translucent meats than an oyster that is not in spawning mode. As a result, oysters are generally not at their best before, during and after spawning. This period of pre-spawning, spawning and post spawning can last from June to late August. Oysters in May are terrific. The waters are still cold coming out of spring and the oysters are not yet close to spawning. But none of this should be interpreted to mean that there is any danger to eating oysters during the summer months. It is just important to recognize that they will be at their peak when they are not in spawning mode. Doesn’t all of this talk about spawning make you want to go get some oysters?
What’s a Tomahawk Oyster, and why does it come with a registered trademark?
Tomahawks are beautiful, delicious East Coast oysters produced by the Shinnecock Indians of Southampton, NY. The Tomahawk Oyster comes with a Registered Trademark in order to prevent (or at least minimize) oyster identity theft, which sadly, can be a problem when you are dealing with high quality, highly sought-after oysters like we do.
How did you get into diving for oysters? Did you SCUBA before you became an oyster man?
I was a diver before I started diving for oysters. I had been diving for years and learned that there was a beautiful set of wild oysters just off of Port Jefferson in the Long Island Sound. So I grabbed my gear and went after them and they were as advertised: plump, briny with the perfect texture and firmness. In truth (with an “r”), diving is the most efficient way to harvest the best wild oysters.
What would you say are the main differences between wild caught and farm raised oysters?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Wild oysters grow more slowly than farm-raised oysters and as a result their availability can sometimes be more sporadic. However, the slower growth exhibited in wild oysters produces an oyster with a harder shell and firmer meat. In addition, the flavor of a slow growing wild oyster tends to be more complex and intense than that of farm-raised varieties. That being said, farm-raised oysters, such as our Genuine Blue Points, grown at our farm in the Great South Bay, or the extraordinary Shibumi Oyster from the West Coast, can be truly enchanting and delicious.
What beer do you pair with oysters, and do you drink different beers with different oyster types?
I usually drink Guinness Stout with oysters, but oysters can be enjoyed with all kinds of beer. I like drinking Blue Point Beer when I enjoy my Genuine Blue Point Oysters, and I really enjoy India Pale Ale (usually Magic Hat) with the Shibumis.
What was the first beer you ever drank at Jimmy’s No. 43?
I’ll tell you tonight—it’ll be my first time at Jimmy’s drinking beer. I’m very excited. Any recommendations? (Editor’s note: If it’s still on tap, try the breakfast stout… but don’t blame us if you’ll never go back to Guinness again!)
Anything else you want us to know?
Oysters have only 10 calories each, so enjoy!