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Homage to Island Creek Oysters Burger

Homage to Island Creek Oysters Burger


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If you haven’t heard of Island Creek Oyster Company, it’s about time you did, and this burger is the perfect way to discover it. To pay homage to the Duxbury, Mass., oyster farm, the authors of Wicked Good Burgers devised this tasty burger recipe that’s topped with perfectly fried oysters and a tartar sauce. We like it so much because of the way they time the recipe — they even tell you when to start heating your oil for the oysters while you’re creating the burger.

Click here to see 50 Best Burger Recipes

Notes

* Visit Island Creek's website to order oysters straight to your door.

Ingredients

For the tartar aioli

  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons minced dill pickles
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dill pickle juice
  • 2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 1/4 Cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 Teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For the burgers

  • 12 Ounces ground pork
  • 12 Ounces beef chuck
  • 1 Teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
  • 2 Teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 4 leaves bibb lettuce
  • Tartar aioli
  • 8 pieces bacon, crispy
  • Fried oysters
  • 4 burger buns

For the fried oysters

  • 2 Cups cornmeal
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 Teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 Island Creek Oysters* (or your favorites), shucked, meats only
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Servings4

Calories Per Serving4397

Folate equivalent (total)391µg98%


Restaurant Review: Island Creek Oyster Bar, in Boston

Island Creek Oyster Bar brings a special twist to the trend of farm-to-table restaurants: the small farms carefully listed next to each dish on Oyster Creek’s menu specialize in aquaculture, the raising of seafood and shellfish. But that’s not all: the restaurant itself is an extension of Island Creek Oysters, a farm founded in 1992 in nearby Duxbury, Mass. So it’s no surprise that though the menu is long and varied, at Island Creek, which opened in October, oysters take pride of place.

On a recent visit, 12 varieties were on offer, mostly from Massachusetts, but with a few from California, Washington and Canada. Our waitress recommended the Island Creek oysters themselves and the Dodge Coves, from Maine. Both are from the same batch of seed oysters, so tasting the two side by side emphasizes the importance of “merroir” — a term the oyster community uses in place of terroir. The Island Creek oysters were large and finished with a melonlike sweetness, while the Dodge Coves were more briny.

“Our nursery is in a saltwater river, where the water is warmer,” said Skip Bennett, the founder of Island Creek and a co-owner of the Oyster Bar. As the oysters mature, they are moved closer to the ocean. Their gentle upbringing produces large oysters with a sweet ocean taste. Shigoku oysters, from Bay Center, Wash., also stood out as particularly bright and flavorful.

Raw isn’t the only option, of course. More oysters, battered and fried, are served as sliders on sweet brioche buns. (The fried versions lack the seawater brininess of the fresh ones, making them a good dish for kids or squeamish novices, but disappointing for true aficionados.)

Island Creek’s seafood preparations extend beyond the oyster. An appetizer of steamed Duxbury littleneck clams, flavored with orange, basil and garlic, was delicious, with a pleasingly firm texture.

Jeremy Sewall, the executive chef and a co-owner, is equally adept at handling terrestrial ingredients, and there is a small section of the menu titled “From the Land.” The Vermont burger with Cheddar and house-cured bacon on a sweet caramelized onion roll is delicious. But it’s no competition for a neatly composed main dish of seared scallops with kuri squash, black trumpet mushrooms and kumquat. The acid in the kumquat brightens and brings together the deep umami flavors of the scallops and mushrooms. It is this attention to flavor composition and ingredient sourcing that elevates Island Creek above the recent spate of new oyster joints.


The Joy Shuck Club

12/2/14 By Elyse Inamine

"There is no pleasanter frolic for an autumn evening, in the regions where oysters are plentiful, than an impromptu 'roast' in the kitchen," M. F. K. Fisher quotes fellow oyster lover Marion Harland in her love letter to the seasonal shellfish, Consider the Oyster.

Yes, indeed. So instead of slurping the briny mollusks raw as the weather turns colder, in this final month that ends in the all-important "R" (if you follow that sort of thing), toss those beautiful bivalves into the oven à la Boston chef Jeremy Sewall.

Sewall, the chef behind Island Creek Oyster Bar, Lineage and Row 34, recently came to Tasting Table's Test Kitchen to show us how to make baked Oysters Gregory (see the recipe), a not-so-distant cousin of oysters Rockefeller.

"Oysters have all summer to get plump, fat and strong, and by fall, the water is still warm enough for them to grow," Sewall explains as he shucks one of the Island Creek oysters he brought in a little cooler. "Now, they're really salty and briny, and when you add sweet, salt and crunch, it really brings out the oyster."

Sewall goes through about 3,000 oysters a day at his restaurants. Oysters Gregory, his salt-baked oysters topped with bacon- and leek-studded bread crumbs, first appeared five years ago as a birthday present to Island Creek Oyster Bar co-owner Shore Gregory when the restaurant first opened. These days, as the seasons come and go, so does the dish, but it's back, at least in recipe form, in Sewall's new cookbook, The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes (Rizzoli, $40).

"I'm just trying to tell the story of a really iconic part of America," Sewall explains as he toasts the bread crumbs in bacon fat, tossing in charred leeks and slivers of tarragon. "There's no other region identified by its seasons as much as New England."

He mounds slopes of kosher salt on a baking tray and nestles the fully dressed oysters on each peak. Then, into the oven they go for a short bit, filling the entire room with the scent of nutty, toasty bacon fat.

"I love cooking with oysters in the cooler months," Sewall says. "They're big and meaty and still have that great soft texture and salty flavor."

The timer goes off, and out come the oysters, still smelling delightful and crowned with crunchy golden brown crumbs. An impromptu roast has never looked so pretty.


28 Raw Bars to Shell-ebrate Right Now

One of our favorite warm weather activities is kicking back with a platter of oysters and some cold beers or a bottle of rosé, a pastime that's been popular for many years, in many places. Restaurants that offer live seafood, or a service known as a raw bar, began cropping up in Europe in the mid-1700s before landing in the United States in the early 1800s. Though the trend originally began with just oysters -- the oldest oyster bar in the United States opened in 1826 in Boston -- it wasn't long before the craze expanded to include a variety of shellfish.

Today, our affection for bivalves is still going strong, with more $1 oyster happy hours and giant seafood towers surfacing at restaurants than ever before. And what's not to like? Though they typically feature mostly uncooked items like oysters, clams, scallops and mussels, many "raw" bars also offer steamed shellfish such as lobster, crab legs and shrimp cocktail, all served cold. Cooked or not, the fresh catch is often accompanied by cocktail sauce, lemon, mignonette sauce or other condiments (plus an awesome drink list). Here are some of the best places to slurp oysters and other raw bar specialties:

Photo provided by Lupulo. Photo by Anna Webber.

With a raw bar located at the restaurant's central, wrap-around dining bar, Lupulo in New York offers oysters, shrimp and other fresh seafood, as well as delicious Portuguese tapas to pair with its 16 craft beers on draft.

Photo provided by Island Creek Oyster Bar.

As its namesake suggests, Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston offers an extensive list of oysters from both the East and West Coasts, plus littleneck clams, jumbo shrimp cocktail, crab claws and lobster.

Photo provided by Strip House Midtown.

While perusing the incredible meat selection at Strip House Midtown, a great New York steakhouse, don't forget to nosh on the seafood platter featuring buttery oysters from both coasts, lobster and shrimp cocktails, littleneck clams and lump crab.

Photo provided by The Hungry Cat.

The Hungry Cat in Los Angeles certainly does seafood right, stacking its platters high with oysters, clams, marinated mussels, green-lipped mussels (a mussel native to New Zealand), shrimp, snow crab, lobster and trout roe.

Photo provided by Lure Fishbar.

Lure Fishbar in New York draws the hungry crowds with varieties of fresh oysters, clams, crab claws and chilled lobster, offered individually or as a shellfish platter that's great for sharing.

Photo provided by The Olde Bar.

A contemporary oyster bar and cocktail lounge, The Olde Bar in Philadelphia features extensive raw bar offerings like a Raw Bar Tower that includes a chef's selection of fresh shellfish and seafood -- think East Coast oysters, middleneck clams, lump crab cocktail and Maine lobster -- to pair with its notable spirits program.

Photo provided by Mussel Bar & Grille Arlington.

Aside from fabulous mussels, Mussel Bar & Grille Arlington also offers fresh clams, oysters, shrimp and lobster with a choice of sauces including apple-mignonette, cocktail sauce, Marie Rose (a blend of tomatoes, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and pepper), Old Bay aioli, remoulade (a French condiment similar to tartar sauce that's aioli- or mayonnaise-based) and salsa verde.

Photo provided by Bar Crudo.

Fresh seafood is the name of the game at Bar Crudo in San Francisco, which dishes out platters of bi-coastal oysters, prawns, crab, lobster and mussels, as well as crudo samplers featuring arctic char, scallop, tombo tuna and butterfish.

Photo provided by Townsman.

Depending on your party size, Townsman offers petite and grande shellfish plateaux (French for "trays") stacked with shellfish from local waters, complemented by a selection of cured meats, terrines (a mixture of ground, lean meat mixed with fat like a pâté) and seasonal pickles.

Photo provided by Dusek's Board & Beer. Photo by Clayton Hauck.

The oyster selection at Dusek's Board & Beer in Chicago showcases the differences between bivalves from the East Coast (New Brunswick, Maine and New York) which are generally saltier, and those from the West Coast (Washington and British Colombia) which are typically sweeter.

Photo provided by L&W Oyster Co.

L&W Oyster Co. delivers a fantastic selection of raw and chilled seafood, including bi-coastal oysters, littleneck clams and shrimp cocktail. A variety of crudos, ceviches and tartares can be ordered a la carte for date night or as big platters for groups to share.

A refreshing starter, the half dozen oysters from Spring in Los Angeles are served simply -- with bright lemon wedges and tangy mignonette sauce.

Photo provided by Heritage.

Heritage in Philadelphia offers three different sauces for your East Coast Oysters -- mignonette as the piquant French accoutrement, horseradish if you're looking for a kick and lemon as a fresh, crisp drizzle.

Row 34 in Boston commands respect with its first-class seafood selection, including a robust list of the day's freshest oysters, shrimp, clams and lobster, plus a variety of smoked and cured seafood, crudo and ceviche.

Photo provided by Quality Meats.

Don't be deceived by the name -- Quality Meats in New York offers more than just juicy cuts of meat. Shellfish bouquets made of oysters, lobster cocktail, shrimp and crabmeat are an integral part of its steakhouse-driven menu.

A French bistro, Marvin in Los Angeles shucks a market selection of oysters that pair perfectly with its killer bubbly, white wine and beer selection.

Photo provided by The Dawson.

The Dawson in Chicago offers an amazing assortment of seafood, including oysters with a mignonette and an albacore tuna ceviche with fresno chile and sunchoke (a type of artichoke).

Photo provided by The Merchant.

No meal at The Merchant in Boston is complete without diving into its raw bar, which includes some of the freshest oysters on offer, Pat Woodbury littleneck clams and chilled jumbo shrimp.

Photo provided by The Dutch.

Slurp down oysters at The Dutch in New York, which serves up a Prince Platter of oysters, littleneck, razor clams, lobster, jumbo shrimp and snow crab legs.

A.bar in Philadelphia celebrates bivalves daily, offering an oyster happy hour six days a week, plus shrimp cocktail, hamachi tartare and clams as popular snacks on its menu.

Photo provided by La Brasa.

La Brasa in Boston gives its oysters a kick by serving them with a refreshing beet mignonette and house-made horseradish.

Photo provided by STK Midtown.

Order a dozen of the house oysters on the half shell or a chilled Maine lobster from the raw bar to start your meal at STK Midtown in New York, or bring a smile to the whole table with a shellfish platter that includes oysters, king crab, shrimp and ceviche.

Photo provided by Flores + Sons.

Want to have the best day ever? Sip on a California wine or draft beer, sit on the rustic patio at Flores + Sons in Los Angeles, and order a dozen Pacific oysters or a few prepared Rockefeller-style (topped with various ingredients like herbs and breadcrumbs, then baked or broiled).

Photo provided by The Maiden.

Oysters taste different depending on the temperature of the water they're harvested in. Experience the difference for yourself at The Maiden in Boston, which offers earthy, rich Blue Point oysters from New York, delicate sweet Chelsea Gems from Washington and clean, salty bivalves from Massachusetts.

Photo provided by King Bee.

Though the menu at King Bee in New York pays homage to Louisiana country cooking with creative Acadian -- or Canadian-Cajun -- fare, the restaurant rides the locally sourced train with its East Coast oyster selection.

Photo provided by RM Champagne.

A classic food and wine tradition is oysters and champagne -- the high acidity in champagne balances the saltiness of the shellfish -- and nobody showcases this better than RM Champagne in Chicago. A daily selection of East and West Coast oysters, plus hamachi crudo, salmon tartare, shrimp cocktail, crab claws and Maine lobster, complement its curated bubbly portfolio.

Photo provided by Select Oyster Bar.

Select Oyster Bar in Boston lives up to its reputation as a great coastal seafood eatery, dishing out plateaus of raw and cooked shellfish like oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail, crab salad, Maine lobster, scallop ceviche, tuna tartare and crudo.

Photo provided by Ditch Plains. Photo by Cedric Angeles.

At Ditch Plains, a New York restaurant with a fish-shack vibe, oysters with garlic butter are shucked, broiled and delivered by the half dozen.

For all the latest on food, drinks and restaurants, visit the Reserve blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


NYC's Coolest New Bars to Try out This Summer

New Yorkers, make way for the city's coolest new bars. From the folks who brought you Grand Banks, the effortlessly chic oyster bar on a fishing schooner docked in Tribeca, come two new summer hot spots that you should check out ASAP. As soon as the rest of NYC (and all the people visiting this summer) catch wind of these new bars, the lines to get in will be stacked. So get there before everyone else does.

The first bar, Island Oyster, soft-opened a few weeks ago and just started serving food last week. Expect oysters, lobster rolls, smoked bluefish pâté and a burger from chef Kerry Heffernan, inventor of the Shack Burger. Beer is light and often local (Brooklyn and Montauk breweries are favorites), wine can be found by the bottle but also on tap, and "a spritzer menu is in the works," co-owner Alex Pincus, who owns Grand Banks and the new bars with his brother, Miles, tells us. He's particularly excited that they've found a good Prosecco to put on tap, which makes it more affordable&mdashand all the easier to drink.

But, really, it's all about one thing: location, location, location. Island Oyster is on Governors Island. "It's the only stand-alone restaurant on the island," Alex says. You can now take in the river and city views from a vantage point you previously got only if you went out to the island for a bike ride or food truck refreshments. Just make sure you don't overdo it on the Jungle Bird cocktail&mdashBlack Strap rum, Campari, lime and pineapples&mdashand miss the boat home. (Governors Island is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

At 32,000 square-feet, fitting 600 people, the scale is on a whole other level than Grand Banks, and it's taken some adjusting for the team. The good news for everyone else is that it should be easier to snag a table than at the notoriously packed Tribeca schooner, which is still drawing crowds three years in.

Pilot, the next oyster bar, is set to open later this month or some time in August. Like Grand Banks, "it's an oyster bar on a historic boat, but we also wanted to bring in some of our New Orleans heritage to the restaurant," Alex explains. That means cocktails with a "Southern profile" and soft-shell crab po'boys. The more than 100-year-old wooden boat will be docked off Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, bringing even more action to the growing tourist destination that's exploded in recent years.

As if you needed another reason to check out the new digs, you can also feel good about spending long afternoons drinking and eating oysters at the Pincus brothers' projects. Sustainability has always been important to the two, so following their sourcing practices at Grand Banks, all seafood at Island Oyster and Pilot will be sustainable, too.

"We purchase fish from fisherman that we know. Same goes for our oysters. We only use two oyster suppliers: Island Creek and Blue Island," Alex says. Island Oyster is also currently working with nonprofit Billion Oyster Project, which is also based on Governors Island and works to clean the rivers by building oyster reefs.

Get to Island Oyster now before it closes up shop for the season (at the end of September) and look out for Pilot's debut.


The New Wave of Oyster Bars

LOS ANGELES — On the surface, Connie & Ted’s is the sort of hot new restaurant you’d expect in West Hollywood. Its chef and co-owner, Michael Cimarusti, is an established culinary star. Its imposing building looks like a ski chalet outfitted with repurposed NASA parts. The busy valet-parking attendants see few economy cars.

But at its heart, the restaurant is quite modest and old: an oyster bar. Mr. Cimarusti, who cherishes memories of eating oysters during childhood summers in New England, made them central to its identity. The raw bar is a prominent design feature, and Mr. Cimarusti papered the walls with more than 4,000 oyster receipts — the tags attached to shipments of fresh shellfish — that he has collected over the years at Providence, his other restaurant here.

“To me, oysters are one of those perfect foods,” said Mr. Cimarusti, who regards their appreciation as a national character trait dating back to early Native Americans. “Connie & Ted’s is really a celebration of American seafood. It just seemed like it was perfectly right to have a big oyster bar and to make oysters a big focus of what we do.”

Countless chefs across the country have come to a similar conclusion, and the result is a crop of ambitious new restaurants that start with the humble oyster bar and take it in fresh directions, applying all the precepts of the modern culinary canon: a focus on seasonality, an eagerness to surprise, and a commitment to cooking styles that maintain regional identities even as they breach national borders.

Fishing With Dynamite, across town in Manhattan Beach, is just such a place. An oyster bar dominates the tiny 33-seat space, and the restaurant’s chef and owner, David LeFevre, estimates that 65 to 70 percent of his customers order seafood from it. Mr. LeFevre opened his surf-punk casual restaurant last spring, weeks before Connie & Ted’s started shucking.

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“Oyster bars are definitely a trend,” said Jeff Nace, a co-owner of Neptune Oyster in Boston, a gleaming tile-and-marble restaurant where the wait for its 44 seats runs up to two hours. Neptune opened in 2004, and Mr. Nace noted the flurry of Boston oyster houses that have followed, including Row 34, which opened in November — a spinoff of Island Creek Oyster Bar, the perpetually congested three-year-old restaurant near Fenway Park. The prominent Boston chef Barbara Lynch opened her own, B & G Oysters, in 2003.

Granted, the oyster bar has been around awhile, particularly in Boston, home to the Union Oyster House, founded in 1826. And for more than a decade, oyster farm revivals on the East and West Coasts have spawned countless raw bars and oyster happy hours. “We had a doubling of oyster production in the last five years,” said Bob Rheault, executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

But the oyster’s newfound popularity and year-round availability have also inspired restaurants with much bigger budgets and aspirations that see the tradition not as a fixed template but as an opportunity to reinvent. Collectively, they are the brainchildren of chefs and restaurateurs who came up through more conventional fine-dining restaurants. (Both Mr. LeFevre and Mr. Cimarusti are former executive chefs of the venerable Water Grill in Los Angeles.) Their marine ingredients are as rigorously scrutinized, and fetishized, as the coddled produce at any farm-to-table establishment, and their menus tend to underscore the seafood’s subtle nuances.

In the words of Bryan Rackley, oyster bar manager at Kimball House in Decatur, Ga., they make the case that “there has never been a better time to love oysters.”

Tradition has not gone out the window. Like earlier oyster houses, these restaurants agree on the beauty of hard surfaces. Marble, brass, tile and Formica are found, in varying combinations, inside places as old as the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan, which just celebrated its centennial with a renovation and a Brooklyn expansion, and as new as Kimball House. The latter opened in September, a month after Bon Appétit named the Optimist, in nearby Atlanta, one of the country’s best new restaurants both offer more than 20 different oyster varieties.

Yet within the old framework, American chefs have demonstrated an uncanny ability to innovate. They take advantage of airfreight to showcase fresh shellfish from nonlocal waters, not only allowing East Coast restaurants to serve West Coast oysters (and vice versa) but also bringing the shellfish to landlocked cities like Nashville, Minneapolis and Denver.

When the Japanese-themed oyster bar ICHI Kakiya opens in San Francisco this summer, it will serve West Coast oysters, though not exclusively. “Wherever the oysters are good for that season, that’s what we’ll have,” said Tim Archuletta, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Erin.

What to Cook This Week

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • A salty-sweet garlic and scallion marinade enhances these Korean beef burgers with sesame-cucumber pickles from Kay Chun.
    • If you can get your hands on good salmon at the market, try this fine recipe for roasted dill salmon.
    • Consider these dan dan noodles from Café China in New York. Outrageous.
    • How about crispy bean cakes with harissa, lemon and herbs? Try them with some yogurt and lemon wedges.
    • Angela Dimayuga’s bistek is one of the great feeds, with rice on the side.

    The cooked dishes at these oyster houses are more diverse as well, reflecting the palates of a widely traveled generation of chefs and, in some cases, the ethnic makeup of the communities they serve.

    The Atlantic blue crab in the crab cakes at Fishing With Dynamite nods to the summers Mr. LeFevre spent as a child in Onancock, Va. But his cooking is equally influenced by the Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine he has encountered in Los Angeles. Ponzu and pico de gallo are served as oyster condiments, along with cocktail sauce and mignonette. In February, a special sandwich containing a pork-and-shrimp cake flavored with curry and Kaffir lime was called “Pretty Thai for a White Guy.”

    “My goal with Fishing With Dynamite was to combine the East Coast love of seafood with the West Coast vibe,” Mr. LeFevre said.

    If any one event marked the dawn of this kind of oyster house, it was the 1997 opening of Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village. Rebecca Charles, its founder and chef, had written multiple business plans for white-tablecloth restaurants that failed to materialize. But on a visit to San Francisco she came across Swan Oyster Depot, an 18-seat seafood counter that had opened in 1912. “I thought, ‘Wow, a counter operation would be great,’ ” Ms. Charles said.

    The simple New England oyster bars and clam shacks her family had visited on vacation provided a convenient model for Pearl’s cramped original space, which contained a small kitchen, a counter and a single table. But the restaurant has always been more than just a folksy homage to coastal Maine. Ms. Charles chose to serve fried oysters instead of clams, she said, “because I loved New Orleans.” She included bouillabaisse, wine-steamed mussels and whole grilled fish because she believed they dovetailed well with the rest of the menu. In her words, she wanted “to do it the way a chef would do it.”

    Pearl was wildly successful, spawning a modest expansion and local imitators, most notably Mary’s Fish Camp, opened in 2001 by Ms. Charles’s former partner, Mary Redding. The next several years saw the emergence of chef-driven, melting-pot American seafood restaurants centered on raw bars. Johnny’s Half Shell in Washington, D.C., was an early example, followed by Neptune in Boston, the Hungry Cat in Hollywood and Anchor & Hope in San Francisco. All induced nostalgia with dishes like lobster rolls, clam chowder and gumbo, but put them in the hands of chefs trained on more-complicated fare. At the same time, the raw bars offered an argument for paring the cooking back to bare essentials. “It’s taking out that one ingredient you don’t need, or that extra garnish,” Neptune’s chef, Michael Serpa, said. “Fish tastes awesome with lemon on it, and not much more, just like oysters.”

    More recently, restaurants like the Ordinary in Charleston, S.C. the Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle and GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago have abetted traditional oyster-house fare with a wide array of smoked fish, crudo and seafood terrines, ceviches and tartares.

    In late March, Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans — in addition to offering oysters from Washington State, Louisiana and Alabama — listed three different specials based on wahoo from the Gulf of Mexico: the head (dressed with salsa verde), collar (pepper jelly) and belly (chili-soy glaze).

    “We consider ourselves a traditional south Louisiana seafood restaurant,” said Ryan Prewitt, the chef and co-owner. “We just didn’t think New Orleans needed another fried seafood place.” (Pêche Seafood Grill was named the best new restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation on Monday, and Mr. Prewitt was named a co-recipient of the Beard award for the best chef in the South.)

    The oyster bar is proving so mutable that it has produced at least one subgenre: the raw-bar-and-haute-cocktail-saloon. In New York, the Leadbelly, ZZ’s Clam Bar and Maison Premiere offer distinct visions of that fusion, as do Kimball House, whose four principal owners come from bartending backgrounds, and Pearl Tavern, which opened this year in downtown Chicago.

    One evening, the tavern’s chef, Chris Lorenz, multitasked, shucking Sunken Meadow oysters from Cape Cod Bay and fixing absinthe-scented razor clams with trout roe and shaved fennel. Adolfo Garcia, the owner, sat at the marble-top cocktail bar, recalling how raw oysters had been at the center of so many gatherings in his native Huatulco, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

    “People here, they’re treating them the same way,” he said. “They’re coming in from work and ordering a dozen and a Sazerac. And the Chicago community, they’re thinking outside the box. They’re not just ordering Blue Points. They’re ordering Miyagis. They’re going oyster crazy.”


    The Space

    Space designed by Dianna Lynn along with Ken Andrews from Arch1.

    Diners are first greeted by Blue Island’s opulent oyster shell entrance. Gray woods and muted blues envelop the expansive 100-seat space. The focus is the lavish raw bar and bordering open kitchen. While the restaurant features an installation above the bar that resembles oars and chairs that are seemingly constructed with driftwood, the coastal influences are lighthearted and refined. Blue Island is equal parts beachside oyster shack and Cherry Creek elegance.

    What truly sets Blue Oyster a part from other seafood joints, however, are its subtle reminders of the origins of its sister farm. A detailed, full-wall rendering of the Great South Bay lines the western wall. Photographs of Quartuccio and his team of divers—including a shot of Dave Gum, a guy who Quartuccio tells me was one of the first divers on Long Island—are dispersed throughout the space. And the oysters are displayed directly on the bar in traditional shucker’s baskets.


    ORIGINAL PLATTER FOR TWO 42.99
    6 oz. Shrimp, 6 oz. Scallops 6 oz. Oysters, 2 Deviled Crabs, 1/2 lb. Flounder Filets

    BIG MATE’S PLATTER 25.99
    3 oz. Shrimp, 3 oz. Scallops 3 oz. Oysters, 1 Deviled Crab, Flounder Filet

    CEDAR RIVER TRIO 19.99
    Any Combination of three items:
    Shrimp, Scallops, Deviled Crab, Flounder Filet, Clam Strips or Calamari
    Substitution of any 1 item above with Oysters 21.99

    SEAFARER’S COMBO 16.99
    Any Combination of two items:
    Shrimp, Scallops, Deviled Crab, Flounder Filet, Clam Strips or Calamari
    Substitution of any 1 item above with Oysters 18.50

    LOBSTER FOR ONE Market Price
    Lobster Tail, Shrimp, Oysters, Scallops, Deviled Crab

    LOBSTER FEAST FOR TWO Market Price
    4 Lobster Tails, Shrimp, Oysters, Scallops Deviled Crab


    A Beginner's Guide to Eating Oysters

    Salmon, shrimp, tilapia, clams — they're all good seafood options, of course. But for many, the pearl of the edible underwater world is the oyster. For seafood novices and connoisseurs alike, however, oysters can be a bit of a mystery. To get to the meat of the oyster you must unlock the hard shell (easier said than done), which not only holds the tender, cool bivalves inside but also the saltwater-like juices, aka the liquor of the oyster.

    Friday night, FN Dish was on hand at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Oyster Bash at Lure Fishbar right in South Beach. This sold-out soiree put one particular oyster in the spotlight: Island Creek Oysters, which hail from just up the Eastern seaboard in Duxbury, Mass. On their own these briny beauties boasted a clean, crisp, slightly salty taste, and they were being shucked on-site as quickly as festivalgoers could throw them back. Area chefs were on hand as well to dress them up, and what resulted were half-shells filled with flavors like smoky chorizo, rich lemon butter and bright saffron.

    We caught up with a host of the event and the executive chef of Lure Fishbar, Josh Capon, for an oyster primer. Read on below for an introduction to these slurpworthy treats.


    How Three Indigenous Chefs in Toronto Are Paying Homage to Native Cuisine

    Courtesy of Toronto Tourism

    Speaking from behind the stove in his hallway of a restaurant, Pow Wow Cafe, chef Shawn Adler has one message above all about serving the food of his Indigenous heritage: “It isn’t a trend it’s a culture.” In the Kensington Market neighborhood of Toronto, Adler serves the Indian tacos commonly seen at the pow wows he went to growing up Anishinaabe (a large group of culturally related Indigenous tribes in Canada), but his fine-dining training and Native studies degree bring depth and intricacy to a food that has rarely claimed its proper space in urban dining.

    In Toronto, Adler and two other Indigenous chefs—Joseph Shawana of Kū-Kŭm Kitchen and Johl Whiteduck Ringuette of NishDish Marketeria and Catering—each work to celebrate traditions that have previously been ignored or purposefully stamped out, using their heritage and native ingredients to inform their menus.

    Born in the fall of 2016, Pow Wow Cafe is the brick-and-mortar version of the Indian taco stand Adler used to set up at music festivals, stuffing Indigenous and Indigenous-inspired ingredients into deep-fried pieces of bannock, the common bread of Canadian First Nations people adapted to colonizer-supplied ingredients—much like frybread in the U.S. There were a few restaurants around town serving Indigenous foods, but nobody was doing Indian tacos, and he knew from the success of the stand that he was onto something. (Regarding the name “Indian tacos,” Adler says it’s an unfortunate misnomer that just happened to stick, especially among generations like his grandmother’s. But when it comes to the food, he insists that is what they are called—in the world and in his restaurant: “It’s not a racist remark, just an uneducated one. But you go to any pow wow in North America, and you’ll have some version of the Indian taco.”)

    The menu at Pow Wow Cafe is small, with just three appetizers and four types of tacos, but it shows a deliberate integration of Indigenous ingredients: the seafood taco with salmon, mussels in dill corn chowder, sumac tartar sauce, cedar mustard, and, for dessert, maple cornbread with crystallized wild ginger and birch syrup.

    Pow Wow Cafe, in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood Courtesy of Tourism Toronto

    The dessert is elaborate and evokes more of Adler’s fine-dining background (he’s owned a half-dozen restaurants) than it does a humble taco spot. It would, perhaps, fit in even better at Kū-Kŭm Kitchen, a high-end restaurant where refined techniques and visually delightful plates meet Indigenous ingredients, manned by chef Joseph Shawana. Shawana grew up on the Wiikwemkoong Reserve on Manitoulin Island in central Ontario, foraging with friends for walnuts, picking apples and berries, and watching his mother cook entire meals over open fires. Subsistence living still informs his culinary outlook: “You just take what you need to help you survive.” From his mother and grandmother, he learned about medicinal plants, inspiring him to serve cedar tea, a refreshing cup of evergreen aromas that he considers a cure-all for coughs and colds. The restaurant occupies a modern room in midtown Toronto, spare save for a colorful mural that dominates the back wall, depicting three Indigenous women standing in a stream as fish dance around them.

    Those fish are represented on a plate of three tartares at the restaurant, including one that brought Kū-Kŭm Kitchen a bit of trouble. “Activists got word that we were serving seal meat,” Shawana recalls. “And that blew up.” The seal, served raw along with buffalo and salmon meat, is dark and iron-y nutritious and flavorful a bit oily but rather lean. And, importantly, to Shawana, it’s part of a long tradition for Canada’s native people. Unlike historic pelt harvesting, however, which has long been met with ire from animal rights activists, the annual commercial seal hunt is a highly regulated and humane practice. “Everything just went to a thousand real fast,” he says of the chaos. Luckily the counter-protesters came through just as furiously, keeping the restaurant packed every night with customers ordering braised bison legs wrapped in caul fat, venison stew with bannock, and rainbow trout sourced from the island Shawana grew up on, served alongside roasted corn succotash.

    The restaurant is a departure from Shawana’s previous cooking experience—he moved to Toronto in 2006 to step up from the burger-and-fries joints that made up the tourist-based economy of his hometown. He dropped out of culinary school because he was already moving up in the industry, eventually working his way up to junior sous chef at the Roger Center (home of the Blue Jays), where he was feeding 10,000 people a day. As he worked through various large restaurant groups, he eventually found a place where the owner—Ben Castanie, now his business partner—supported his ambitions. They did a one-off dinner for National Indigenous Peoples Day (a June holiday in Canada) in 2016, and it sold out the large space quickly and impressively. They planned to repeat it the next year, but in September, Shawana decided to ask Castanie to open a restaurant with him. They opened the following June, just in time to celebrate the holiday in their own restaurant.

    Kū-Kŭm Kitchen’s tartare trio is plated for service Courtesy of Toronto Tourism

    Just a few months before that, Johl Whiteduck Ringuette watched 800 people gather outside the opening of his tiny, 21-seat NishDish Marketeria. Within the cozy shop, customers can flip through Indigenous-authored books, buy First Nations-made crafts, and purchase Native-produced foods as they wait for their meal. The counter-service café serves dandelion green salads, three sisters soup (made with the squash, corn, and beans that are the staples of Indigenous cuisine), and venison stew. At breakfast, bison, boar, and veggies come in wraps, omelettes, or sandwiches. And while the café might be small, it has strong roots: Whiteduck Ringuette, like Adler, is Anishinaabe, and comes from North Bay, Ontario, where his father hunted and fished and his mother cooked and baked with wild game, fish, and seasonal berries—often over an open fire. That upbringing, along with knowledge he gained from his medicine teacher, Mark Thompson, inform the chef’s work as a First Nations “food sovereigntist.” This, he says, means “identifying, sourcing, relearning, and reclaiming what the traditional Anishinaabe diet is.” It includes the café and catering operation, public speaking, and planting medicine gardens, but also the founding of the Toronto Indigenous Business Association and the Ojibiikaan Indigenous Cultural Network—groups designed to help Indigenous restaurateurs and entrepreneurs like Adler, Shawana, and himself.

    This progress, as Adler said, isn’t a trend, but a rich moment in culinary history. “My mom, aunt, and uncle, their generation all went to residential school,” he says. “They had our language, our foodways, and our culture removed.” But he and his peers grew up attending pow wows, eating Indigenous foods, and dancing as their ancestors did—“things my mother made sure we were exposed to.” He points out that the same renaissance is occurring across industries—the Polaris prize, the biggest music award in Canada, has gone to Indigenous performers two years in a row multiple Indigenous artists made the shortlist for the Sobey Art Award and 2018 saw Indigenous authors on every bestseller list in Canada. “In every profession, Indigenous people are getting to shine because of where we are in history. I’m happy to be a part of it.”