Food & Drink

Happy Shucking Season!

Oysters arrive just in time for fall boating!


As leaves turn to orange and red, we bid farewell to summer crabs and welcome plump oysters to the autumn boating festivities. Even though modern aqua farming extends the bivalve season to year-round, tradition still calls us to celebrate oysters during the months ending in the letter R. If you’re cruising the Chesapeake Bay or heading south to the ICW this fall, be sure to enjoy the region’s prime time for oyster shucking and make a few stops to feast on these local delicacies.  

To prepare you for the season, Marinalife consulted oyster expert, Dylan Salmon, owner of Dylan’s Oyster Cellar in Baltimore, MD. Check out the following excerpt from the Chesapeake Oyster Lovers’ Handbook to plan your mid-Atlantic autumn oyster experience:

Oyster Sidekicks: Cocktails Required, Toppings Optional

By Dylan Salmon, Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Baltimore, MD

Dylan Salmon shucking at a Baltimore oyster festival | Credit Susan Elnicki Wade

When you belly up to an oyster bar, it’s time to begin your plan of attack.  Let's say the raw bar offers three different kinds of oysters that day, all harvested in local waters.  You and your oyster-eating companion should try all three varieties to experience their subtle taste differences. 

Here is my trick:  Make sure you both sample at least two of each oyster, so you can try each one naked. That’s right — in the nude (not you, but your oyster). Try each variety completely on its own devoid of sauce to truly savor the flavor profile of that specific oyster and its body of water. 

Feel free to guzzle a beer or sip wine in between to cleanse your palate and explore flavor pairings. When you have a mental note of their tastes, you can play with condiments accordingly. Consider hot sauce and lemon on a sweet oyster and maybe mignonette on the salts. 

The fact of the matter is oysters are supposed to be fun, celebratory and primal.  Disregard rules and regulations dictating how to eat them or what to drink with them.  People have their own set of preferences and traditions that guide them around the icy tray.  So, experiment, enjoy yourself and eat a few naked. You’ll be surprised just how delicious Chesapeake Bay oysters taste all by themselves.

Tantalizing Topping

Cocktail sauce, Tabasco, lemon and mignonette are the norm, but here are condiment stand-outs you’ll want to try:

Chesapeake Oysters shucked  | Credit Susan Elnicki Wade
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper:  Commonplace in Portugal, it’s a unique garnish especially with a dry sherry.
  • Fresh grated horseradish:  When grated fresh, this is a sublime topping washed down with an earthy stout.
  • Slurp ‘n Burp:  Dump six oysters, hot sauce and cocktail sauce into your pint of beer, stir it up and chug it down.  Rocky would be proud.
  • Cracker sandwich:   Put a Bay oyster on a saltine cracker, garnish as you like and top with another cracker.  Great for kids and adults alike.
  • Vinegar and a slice of hard-boiled egg:  This might sound weird, but it’s an old Baltimore tradition and can be pretty good if done right.
  • Drawn butter:  This is a bad idea!   Cold oysters make butter congeal, which is pretty unappetizing.

*Read the full story in the Chesapeake Oyster Lovers’ Handbook by Susan Elnicki Wade and Bill Wade.

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