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And so. Here we are, settled in to our new life in Nashville—maybe too comfortably, considering how little attention I’ve paid to the blog lately. It’s been 9 months, we’ve bought a house in the Sylvan Park area of town, and both Dave and I are feeling invested in our work. Charlie is a mad man, almost 2 years old and fully running the show in our household. Rex, the family dog, is happier than he’s ever been with his big fenced-in yard and air-conditioned house. It’s a good life in Tennessee. And we’re more than ready for visitors.
There is still so much to learn about this town. Both in the music and media worlds, Dave and I feel ever-so-slightly on the fringe. But when it comes to food, we’re making headway. The food writers in this town, especially, have taken us under their wings (thank you Thomas Williams, Chris Chamberlain, Jennifer Justus, et al) and we have discovered a number of fantastic little gems (putting together Nashville’s 50 Best Restaurants and ranking the top 10 for Nashville Lifestyles this spring didn’t hurt). Arnold’s, Prince’s Hot Chicken, the Catbird Seat, City House, Loveless Cafe… these are iconic for a reason. Need recs for your next visit? Shoot me a line and I’ll give you the greatest hits.
Plus, I’ve found the oyster bar. Not the oyster bar, since other restaurants in this town have oyster programs, but “the” in terms of the one that I’ll be frequenting for the selection, the service, and the atmosphere. The Southern Steak & Oyster (it’s right there in the name) has opened their arms wide to me and, more importantly, to Shucked. This past Monday, the restaurant invited me to guest host their “Oysters In The Round” event, a new program that puts their guests in a somewhat “round” room to eat and discuss a range of oyster varieties.
Fashioned after the songwriter “in the round” nights hosted all over town, the event turned into an educational and convivial one. There are plenty of oyster lovers in Nashville… now it’s time to get them access to more of this country’s incredible oysters. The Southern seems to be one of a few spots that are actively pursuing oyster education—both for their guests and their staff.
I was honored to work with them on this and hope we can turn it into a regular event (especially if they all end with a lineup of oyster shooters made with barrel-aged tequila and chartreuse).
The timing is right, too: Shucked officially hits the market as a paperback this Tuesday, July 2. I’m guessing this version stands as a more appropriate beach accessory than the hard cover—you know, in case you were looking for a beach read.
Things are picking back up on the book front, actually. I’ll be back in Boston for the Brooklyn Brewery Mash on July 14. Brooklyn Brewery works with Togather, a community of authors and readers, to present book events during their traveling beer series. Starting around 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, I’ll be joining Graham McKay of Lowell’s Boat Shop as well as the team from Island Creek upstairs at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks to talk about the book and offer some fun commentary about life on the coast. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come out for a few oysters and a beer.
After that, I have plans to do another book event with Togather, this one virtual, set for July 22nd at 8 p.m. Log in, grab a glass of wine, and let’s talk oysters, y’all.
In the meantime, please know that despite the radio silence, there’s still plenty of oyster exploration going on in my world. Thanks to those of you who are still keeping track.
If only life were as simple as it used to be. Posting items a few times a week, tossing out updates, securing art, and making it all read like a short, pithy little stories. Not so much these days.
But, there is news to share, which means it’s time for a long overdue post. As if having a baby and producing, publishing, and marketing a book in one year weren’t enough… we’ve decided to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve accepted a job to be the managing editor of a pub called Nashville Lifestyles — my family and I leave Boston in just 4 short weeks.
Now, if you’ve read the book, you might be thinking, “Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the career she left way back when to go do this oyster thing.” And yup, that’s definitely true. But… and there is a big “but” here… things are different now. (His name is Charlie – aka: Poseidon — and if you haven’t met him yet, he’s pretty adorable.) Charlie is a major reason why I’ve decided to take this job and we, as a family, need to make this move. Not only will this move get us much closer to all of Charlie’s grandparents, but it will bring some much-needed stability and yes, even a little bit of sanity to our lives.
We’ve been talking about a move to the South for years. For as long as Dave and I have been together, actually. Our parents are in Hilton Head, SC and Knoxville, TN. My sister is in Charlotte. We’ve always talked about raising our kids in the South and as soon as Charlie arrived, we knew we needed to make that happen pronto. This opportunity came up midway through the summer and after a phone interview and a whirlwind trip to the NL offices, I was offered the job and the decision was made. It’s time. After 11 years in this city, I can honestly say that it is officially time.
The past year has been a trip. We went from living this non-stop, deliciously crazy, excitement-filled life to one that was suddenly dictated by a very sweet (and handsome) but very demanding little blonde dude. He’s always up for an adventure, sure. But letting his mom drop everything to go work on a farm or, ahem, giving her the luxury of sitting down to dwell over the nuances of blog post? Nuh-uh. The kid is not having it.
This is, of course, all completely fine because a year into Charlie’s life, I can tell you that whatever he is doing, or picking up, or jabbering about, or pushing around with sticky fingers, or pulling himself up on, or watching, or sleeping in, or even breathing near is WAY more intoxicating than that old life we left behind. (I guess that’s what all the fuss is about.) It is hard to imagine anything better in the world than our life with him. Even if that means life without Boston.
This year has taught me a few things about myself. The first, and biggest lesson, is that I desperately need structure. Structure makes me a better person, a better wife, and a better mom. It gives me the confidence that tomorrow will go smoothly and that Charlie will be a happier kid because of it. This new job will give me structure, as well as a creative outlet; it will give me a magazine to craft, and shape, and edit, and enjoy…much like a book would, only shorter and with more to offer the world on a regular basis. This job is a very good thing and I can’t wait to get down there and get started.
But it will not be easy. I am not ready to say goodbye to this place or the people, who have become my family here. We are deeply rooted in this city: in its restaurant culture, music scene, media, and literary world. In its people, its politics, and yes, even its sports. We love this city and we always will. It will be forever burrowed inside of us and influence all that we do.
But all of this makes the move even more exciting for both of us. The promise that we will get to know a new city and hopefully have the opportunity to fall in love with it just as deeply as we did with Boston has re-energized us. Dave will be making his way in Music City — a dream he’s had since he first started teaching himself guitar in Knoxville — and returning to his home state. I will be going back to a full-time career in media, a world I’ve missed (albeit sporadically) since leaving it that fateful day so many years ago. Yes, we’ll be closer to family but we will also be closer to a life that we’ve always wanted for ourselves.
The only real question that remains is: Where will I get good oysters down there? Oyster bars? Brasseries? I’m open to suggestions…or perhaps a promise from my friends at Island Creek that they will one day open a Southern version of ICOB. A land-locked girl can dream, can’t she?
For now, stay tuned. There is more news to follow (soon, actually) and plenty more oyster eating to be done.
So, it’s official… I am a published author (cue: cheering crowd). As another writer said to me last week: They can never take away your Library of Congress number. So, there’s that!
It’s been a wild few weeks since the book’s release. I’ve had a handful of signings in and around Boston where I try desperately to come up with something witty to write inside people’s books. It’s tough to be clever on the spot but I’ve settled on one or two catch phrases that seem to both make sense and flow quickly (essential when there’s a line of people–yes, a line!–waiting for your signature). What’s more daunting is staring out into a room full of people who are there to buy my book. I have to let that sink in…
Ok, deep breath. Yes, it is a surreal, out-of-body experience to sign my own book. I keep having to remind myself that it is, in fact, my book and not someone else’s that I’m vandalizing with a foreign signature. I also have to get used to talking about myself and this entire experience in a way that isn’t rambling or disjointed or um, nerdy. Because I can get kinda nerdy when I talk about oysters. I know this because people’s faces glaze over the minute I start talking about upwellers and algae blooms. So I try to keep those parts of the conversation to a minimum and just nod my head vigorously when they ask me if I still love oysters or if I found the experience to be hard work. Both of which are very much true and easy to compute. Upwellers=not so much.
But really, what’s great about this whole experience is that I get to share my love for Island Creek Oysters with lots of people every single day. When I was writing the book, my head was down and all I could think about was the finished product. Now that it’s out in the world, I can sit back and reflect on how much fun I had… and all of the amazing people I worked with on the farm. I’ve had a number of people tell me that they were drawn to the book without even knowing about Island Creek… which is just what I was hoping for.
I’ve also–for the first time, really–been on the answer end of a number of in-depth interviews, which is giving me even greater respect for everyone I’ve ever put on the spot in my writing career. I had some fun doing a Q&A with Bon Appetit’s Sam Dean while an interview for the Patriot Ledger was so thorough, it made me want to go back and re-interview for every story I’ve ever written. I also enjoyed writing a piece for the blog section of The Huffington Post and just this past weekend, did an appearance on TV Diner. Consider my 15 minutes of fame officially clocked.
The absolute best part about being on the circuit? Having Dave, Charlie, and a few of my good friends there with me. (Jenn: Your babysitting-slash-photography services are invaluable!) Dave is not only beefing up his shucking skills but has become a star in his own right since people now know him as a character from the book (keep an eye out for his forthcoming blog, “Dave: The guy from Shucked”). As for Charlie, as Dave has pointed out: If you haven’t finished the book, our son is a walking spoiler alert. (Sorry!) I feel lucky to have so much support.
I’m going to stop apologizing for the lack of posts. But really, I am sorry that things have slowed down here. To be honest, I’ve been busy. Busy finishing up the book, baking this bun in the oven, and getting life in order before both bundles arrive later this year. What’s more, without oysters in my life, there seems to be little to cover at the moment. I promise that will change as soon as I can eat raw seafood again… and as soon as things pick up with the book.
Speaking of which, that somewhat neat little stack of papers represents my last go around with the copy. I’ve now gone through two full edits, one with my editor, the other with the copy editor and am now patiently waiting to see the book in galley form (all typeset and pretty like it will look when it’s printed). From the designs I’ve seen so far, it’s going to look awesome and very much in line with my experience on the farm overall. So what’s next? I’ll have one more chance to make tiny changes to the text when it’s on galley and then, we wait some more! It seems to be a lot of hurry up and waiting but honestly, the process has been really smooth and feels like it’s going at a nice pace. Which is helpful since everything else in life seems to be slowing down, too.
This week marks my last in the office at Boston magazine but I’ll still freelance for the print edition with pieces like this and this. I’ve also signed on to contribute regularly to their blog, Chowder (I usually post a few times a week so for newsy Boston restaurant content, keep that one bookmarked).
One thing I can report is that we had a lovely Mother’s Day brunch at the Island Creek Oyster Bar this past weekend. I was lucky enough to have my whole family in town (in laws and nieces to boot) and decided to show off my old digs. While my sister Shannon and her husband Brian were the only ones who tried ICOs on the half shell (my sis slurped hers down in seconds flat… mostly so that her daughter Gracyn could play with the shells), almost everyone else at the table tried the oyster sliders which are, in my admittedly biased opinion, the most addictive thing to come out any restaurant I’ve eaten at in the last six months. Oh, and the pastries–which are all made in house–are insane. Haven’t been yet? Drop what you’re doing and go. Right now.
Please forgive the epically long pause between posts. Life has gotten in the way, once again, now that my time on the farm is over. And if the attention grabbing headline is news to you, I’m sorry that you’re reading it on my blog! But it’s true: Dave and I are expecting our first son in August. The timing has been fortuitous — especially since I don’t have any mud flat runs in my near future (though I can’t wait to get back to it once our little guy arrives).
Besides the obvious life change, I’ve rejoined the world of publishing for a brief stint back at Boston magazine where I’m filling in for the food editor while she’s out on maternity leave. I’ve been back for a few weeks now so I’m finally feeling comfortable in the new routine — though returning to office life has been a tough adjustment. Let’s just say that nothing compares to showing up to work in a hoodie and a pair of mud boots.
And so, my writing career seems to have picked up a few paces in front of where I left off. Thankfully, I’m now focused fully on food. The only downside is that being pregnant brings with it so many restrictions. Wine, obviously, is off limits but so are my beloved oysters in the raw. Moments like this make me want to cry.
Still, I’m grateful that I can put together stories about food and once again, immerse myself back into the restaurant world of Boston, which I adore. This gig is up in May at which point I plan on throwing myself into the freelance world and hunting for work to keep me busy until the baby arrives.
The book, by the way (the book!) is in the copy edit stage, meaning I’ve turned in the first draft, done a thorough edit, and am now waiting for all of the red marks to come back to me one more time. The process has been eye opening — not only for the amount of time, emotional energy, and effort that goes into the writing process but for my own feelings toward it. I can honestly say it’s as emotional as producing an actual child, complete with the insecurity, pride, guilt, and unconditional love. Having put the book aside for a few weeks (well, sort of… it still lives in a pile by my desk where I pick up pages of it to read every day) I can say that I am truly terrified of letting it go. It’s been such an incredible journey and, in some cases, a very tough slog, and every step that I take forward only takes me further away from a life that I loved. My attachment to the entire project grows weaker each day but I can’t imagine it being completely done and behind me. It just seems so… final.
To ease the pain, I’ve thrown myself into this other work, other writing, and into preparing for what will surely be my next big life adventure. I still miss Island Creek every single day but take comfort in the fact that the folks there are still my family and I’m still part of theirs. They’ve even given our unborn baby its very own nickname (a rite of passage)… Poseidon. Looking forward to finding out if this little guy enjoys being on the water as much as I do.
Two years ago, around this time, I was nervously plotting my exit strategy from DailyCandy and losing sleep over the massive, life changing decision I’d made to go work on an oyster farm for a year. I was turning 31 and life was about to turn upside down.
That year, Dave and I celebrated the roller coaster that was our lives with dinner at Craigie on Main, which had just moved to its new location in Central Square. As we sat ringside overlooking the kitchen and chef Tony Maws as he worked, Dave presented me with a card which I opened to find a very loving message of support and a print out of an order he’d placed earlier that day. He was giving me my first pair of waders for my birthday.
It was a sweet, hysterical moment for both of us. We had no idea what was about to happen or where this path would take us. We didn’t realize that it would be so physically and mentally grueling yet turn out just as rewarding. We weren’t aware that ungodly early mornings, crazy travel adventures, smelly gloves, and shucking knives would become part of our daily conversation. Or that a whole new family of oyster farmers and friends would enter and take permanent residency in our lives. But here we are, two years and a million good laughs later, without a single regret and even crazier adventures to look forward to.
This year, I turned 33 and am staring down a completely different type of life change. The book will be out this fall, turning my fantastical, odd life story into something physical that will be out there for the masses. (Writing it has turned out to be just as difficult as some of the oyster work was… only, easier on the lower back.) Other than that, my future is a blank slate. I have a million ideas, just a few of which are as zany as this last one, but still, I have no idea what’s next.
In the meantime, I’m eating. Birthday eating has always been an entertaining sport, something to mark the occasion. I’ve never thought much about blogging what I eat (except for extreme cases) and sort of liken myself to this guy, who has a hard time recalling what he eats even though he writes about food. But when I eat really well in one single day, like I did on my birthday last Friday, I think it’s worth noting.
I started my day writing about white truffles and continued on the exotic route with lunch at Coppa where my friend Nicole and I devoured an uni (sea urchin) panini and addictive beef tongue crostini. We followed that up with a wild boar ragu over chestnut fettuccine (a dinner special that chef Jamie Bissonnette tempted us into trying for lunch) and, finally, a dessert of bianco pizza sprinkled with chile oil.
Despite the insanely large lunch (especially for someone who works from home and may take time for a cup of soup and a handful of nuts when she looks up from the keyboard), I was starving in time for dinner at newly opened Bondir in Cambridge. I was so excited for this meal (especially after receiving the requisite: “dude, should be sweet” from both Bissonnette and chef Louis DiBicarri earlier that day) and was in no way disappointed. Chef Jason Bond was most recently at Beacon Hill Bistro, making this his first solo endeavor. The menu changes daily and I love the way he’s set it up because everything on it, besides a few apps, come as half portions, giving Dave and I the opportunity to eat almost everything available that day (a table of four sitting next to us actually did that).
I died over a couple of his dishes, including a mountain of handmade burrata over shaved fennel and an Indian-style flatbread (the burrata is made in Everett and I’m now on the hunt for more), as well as a rich, elegant bouillabaisse risotto topped with a few clams and tender pieces of fish. The spice milk broth and shellfish ragu that went into the dish turned the rice into something unctuous and delicious – straight from the sea. We also tried something I’d never tasted, Chatham Rose Fish which had the silky, melt-on-your-tongue texture of goose liver. Another ingredient I need to track down more of. (Local, available in winter? Who else catches or uses this?)
There were no birthday candles in our Chocolate Enlightenment dessert — only fireworks. The pyramid of heady chocolate was topped with a savory tea foam and sat on top of hazelnut dacquoise. I think we lapped up every last bite, a true testament to its ridiculousness.
It’s been a struggle to come down off that high but there’s nothing like the sobering reality of 15 inches of snow to bring an end to the merry making. I was thinking of nothing but the farm this morning when I woke up to find this outside my door.
I’m sure the oysters will be fine. I just hope the Plex is stocked with plenty of propane.
Book writing is a tedious business. Up every day, staring at the screen, wondering whether my words are going to fully capture my 18 months at Island Creek or just dip below the surface. But slowly, I slog on, hoping that something cohesive and maybe even witty will come out in the end.
What breaks up my day are frequent and often supremely entertaining visits to the Island Creek Oyster Bar. Wednesday’s stopover involved a comparative tasting of almost the entire oyster list with the front of house staff. Although the list changes day to day, there are a couple of staples that are starting to become favorites and the staff was eager to try them all side by side. So, we sampled them in flights — three flights of three oysters plus one palate-whopping finish.
It went like this:
Island Creeks, Duxbury, MA
Rocky Nooks, Kingston, MA
Cuttyhunks, Cuttyhunk, MA
Riptides, Westport, MA
Peter’s Points, Onset, MA
Wellfleets, Wellfleet, MA
Shigoku, Bay Center, WA
Hog Island, Tomales Bay, CA
Kumamoto, Puget Sound, CA
Wild Belon, Harpswell, ME
After tasting and taking notes, the staff shouted out descriptors using a new list of oyster language that we devised after a similar tasting (scroll to the bottom) Skip and I ran at Eastern Standard in September. With this new set of oyster words, the staff opened up their vocabulary when describing certain flavor qualities. Instead of creamy, they opted for compound butter, yogurt, or heavy cream. Instead of earthy, they offered musky, miso, and my personal favorite “sea mushrooms” (which don’t exist but totally should).
Here are a few other oyster descriptors to try:
Hard Candy sweet
Pear, Asian Pear
Melon, Green Melon
Sea Salt, Flake Salt
Olive-like, Greek Olive or Picholine
Creamy, feta-like saltiness
Mouthful of ocean
Chewy like a mushroom cap
Crunchy like kale
A bit dumb, weighty
Stringy, like bamboo shoots
Like sucking on a penny
Saffron (like lead)
Pine, pine needles
Like licking a mossy rock
Muddy, River mud
Smoked Meat, Prosciutto
Whether the Hog Islands really tasted like “green beans for a tin can” or “had hints of fennel” is still up for debate but I think we all walked away with sturdy understanding that oysters can be much more complex than briny, sweet, or vegetal.
For those keeping track, the wild belons are absolutely stunning this time of year. This is an oyster that was originally introduced to U.S. waters in the 70s by the University of Maine. Experimenters assumed the crop died after they failed to produce but what the oysters were really doing was getting used to their new habitat. Years later, they started reproducing naturally and now grow wild near the shores of Casco Bay. Amanda Hesser covered this story several years ago – a great read about a mind-boggling oyster. If you’ve never tasted Flats, get ready for a completely unexpected contrast to the brine of the Virginica or the melony cucumber of a Kumo. As Rowan Jacobsen says, this oyster doesn’t want to be your friend. But, if you’re up for an adventure, this is the time to do it. It’s December which means the waters have turned colder up that way, putting the distinct European-flat, mouth-coating hit of metal right around an 11. Also, I’m offering a prize to the person who can pair it with just the right wine. Hint: It may or may not be something sweet. Good luck.
There are so many things I want do with this blog — it’s hard for me to settle on just one. So how would you guys feel if I kept it going… and only occasionally mentioned oysters? For now, anyway. There are many, many oyster tastings, oyster farms, and oyster people for me to cover. But I might throw in a few non-oyster topics too. They will involve food, of course. And the people who create it, whether that be from the ground level (or bottom of the ocean) or in a more finished version on the plate. And it will be full of photos when I can get them. Sound good?
To start, I have to brag, just a little bit, about the event I helped coordinate with Dave and our great friend Nicole Kanner this past Sunday. Eat Your Heart Out Boston took the stage for the third year in a row showcasing the best in local food and music at the updated Paradise Rock Club. We had an incredible crowd come out for the party, which started with a 13-chef dine around and ended with a series of rocking indie bands. We did it to support two very special organizations, Future Chefs and ZUMIX , who help educate Boston high school students through the culinary and musical arts, respectively.
For Dave and I, life revolves endlessly around the worlds of food and music. We go out to eat, we see shows, we cook, we play music (well, he does anyway; I just listen). We are devoted to both worlds both for the richness they bring to our lives and for the people they connect us with. We’ve learned that where there is good food or good music, there are great people. Simple as that.
Sunday brought those two worlds together in such an inspiring way. One of my favorite local bands (and my neighbors) You Can Be A Wesley played a lovely short coustic set early in the night, then we saw two ZUMIX kids get on stage (Renee Marrone and Jennifer Aldana) and not even blink an eye at the hundreds of people they sang an acoustic set before — truly courageous and talented kids. We also watched as two of our participating chefs, Tim Wiechmann and Will Gilson, poured their hearts out on stage with the soul band Dwight & Nicole. The room was absolutely electric with that performance.
Of course, the food rocked too. Jamie Bissonnette‘s Slayer bocadillo (with blood sausage and kimchee) admittedly stole my heart but I have to give chef Josh Buehler and his team from KO Prime props for their killer table display. Keep an eye on the Eat Your Heart Out website for more pics soon. It was a raging and successful night of fun and I am so grateful to everyone who showed their support. Thanks, guys. Get ready for next year!
As for me, I’m slowly getting reacquainted with my home office and day-to-day city life. I’ve carried over some silly habits since leaving the farm, like rising at 5 am every morning and checking out my tide chart once or twice a week. That, and I’m still obsessed with the weather. But it’s good to be back in this world. I get up, I write, I focus for as long as I possibly can, then I relax and see what the rest of the day will bring. I’m testing recipes, working on some other potential book ideas (stay tuned), and freelancing when I can. The book is coming along, slow and steady. Just what I was hoping for.
And yes, there are still plenty of Island Creek moments in my life. I drop by the Island Creek Oyster Bar at least a few nights a week (they’ll get tired of me one of these days) and a few weeks back, I made a triumphant return to Duxbury for a long-overdue going away party. It ended, in classic ICO style, in Don Merry’s garage where we admired his handiwork: a massive buck that he’d landed with a bow and arrow. The story is legendary and one only Don should share. But I’m hoping he’ll tell it again when he serves us all some venison stew.
Hard to believe Thanksgiving is almost a week away. One year ago, around this time, I was recovering from my stage and first trip to Per Se. Which means I probably forgot to share this fantastic holiday recipe with you. My mom and I made this Herbed Oyster Stuffing last Thanksgiving at my parent’s home in Texas and it was a huge hit. There’s still time for you to order some Island Creeks and put this on your shopping list for next week. Enjoy.
And so, life goes on.
My time at Island Creek ended, ceremoniously, with that last lunch at Tsang’s. But there had been a pretty eventful week leading up it as well as a couple of neat oyster moments directly thereafter which I never properly reported.
It started with a visit from Adam James of the Hama Hama Oyster Company out in Lilliwaup, Washington. He was in town doing a tour of the Northeast and stopped by the farm for a quick morning to scope out the operation. While it wasn’t a great tide to get him out in waders, Chris, Skip, and I were able to show him the Plex and give him a peek at the cages.
Skip popped a few oysters open for him, giving him a taste of Island Creeks at their peak. The oysters are just starting to get plump with all that pre-winter glycogen; the flavor is perfectly round and sweet. Just beautiful.
Adam’s operation is a lot different than ours. His family owns the 400 acres of tidal flats he farms on out in Washington’s Hood Canal.
While he has plenty of space to grow, he’s working with a unique, gravelly surface and 17-foot tides. His oysters are all naturally raised, meaning they’re grown from spat set on shell (versus ours, which are “free range”), which he harvests mostly by hand (their tides get them about 4-5 hours of picking time) and he’s growing both Pacifics and Olympias. He also grows geoducks and Manila clams.
As I was able to see for myself last week, his operation is similar to Island Creek in so many ways. Dave and I visited his farm on our trip to the Northwest the week after I left the farm and found it to be just the right day trip for our week-long tour. The company recently built a brand new retail operation and processing facility which sits right off Hwy 101 on the eastern edge of the Olympic Peninsula — the drive over from Seattle takes you across the spindly fingers of land that jut out into Puget Sound. We arrived to find Adam tapping away at his computer, which he happily abandoned to spend a day touring the farm.
After checking out his shucking and jarring operation (he has a big audience of shucked meat lovers) and sampling some of the oysters his wife Andrea was in the process of smoking, Adam and his dog Derby showed us around the rest of the farm. His family owns about 4,000 acres, all of which surround the Hamma Hamma river, a fresh water source that runs straight out of the Olympic range (and happens to be flush with salmon). A few family houses as well as a horse barn sit at the eastern edge of the property near the water but just past that sits a lovely forest park, planted originally by Adam’s grandfather — his family has owned the property since the 1920s. Up the hills, Adam pointed out where they’ve harvested and replanted glades along the range — they sell Christmas trees, too.
He walked us up the river a bit, pulling out a paper bag halfway through the walk to dive into his true passion: mushroom foraging. As we walked, he darted amongst the trees pulling up chanterelles and carefully stowing them away in his bag. Though he mostly forages for his own consumption and fascination, I’m hoping he’ll stash a few into the oyster shipments that have started showing up regularly at the Island Creek Oyster Bar.
Out on the water, Adam introduced us to one of the oyster crews who took us out for a ride on the barge. A heavy duty version of our skiff, the barge can handle a large number of oysters — they use it to pull up the seed which they keep on the southern part of their farm in rack systems as well as to harvest from the beds which sit a little farther north, close to the mouth of the river. That cold rush of fresh water, Adam said, is what gives Hama Hamas their sweet and briny balance.
We got to to sample a few, of course, fresh off the knife. As Adam pointed out, a few were still in spawn mode but those that weren’t were firm and juicy.
With our appetites fully primed, Adam took us back to his cabin and made us a hearty, Northwestern lunch: bagel cheese burgers made from beef Andrea’s father grew topped with freshly picked chanterelles.
While Adam offered to put us up in his family’s guest cabin for the night, Dave and I made our way north into the Olympic range — but we’re determined to get back out soon and take you up on that offer, Adam. Thanks again for everything.
My very last day on the farm ended with a group lunch at Tsang’s. Wholesale and the crew… suits and boots… all noshing away on General Gau’s and pork spareribs.
While I have plenty to share about my last week on the farm, I’m about to hop on a plane to Portland, Oregon for a week of road tripping up the Pacific Northwest. So, I’ll leave you, for now, with some of my favorite Duxbury eateries.
…for the Old Italian…
…for the mac n cheese (and usually a Twix and some cookie samples)…
…for a bagel and the best coffee in town…
…for an IPA, a warm fire, and some laughs…
…for the crabcake sandwich…
…for ham and cheese croissants…
…for the chicken verde burrito…
…for the pulled pork sammy…
… and a fried chicken box lunch.
There will be one more meal to enjoy, just not in Duxbury. The Island Creek Oyster Bar opens for business tonight… around the same time we hop on the plane. My best of luck to everyone who worked their tails off to get that place running. You guys are going to rock. We’ll be there as soon as we get back…