On Sunday, Island Creek participated in the first annual patio opening party at B&G in the South End. It was a stellar event put on by Barbara Lynch’s B&G team and we were happy to be involved. While the Creek shuckers (myself, Berg, Shore & CJ) spent most of the afternoon under a tent on the downstairs patio (right next to the DJ and our friends from Harpoon Brewery), the party stretched through the restaurant and across the street over to Lynch’s cookbook library/demo space, Stir, next door. Chefs like Louie DiBicarri (Sel de la Terre), Jamie Bissonnette (Toro), and Tim Cushman (O Ya) participated in the oyster-dish competition (congrats to Louie for winning – I never tasted the dish but hear good things). There were also oyster profile demos taking place at Stir across the street (teaching folks what type of oyster they prefer) as well as a few shucking competitions — CJ shucked for Island Creek but, sadly, was beat out by Perry Raso of Matunuck Oysters (he was shucking at a booth next to us and happens to be Berg’s former boss — he’s working on opening a raw bar near his farm this summer so go visit him).
We started the day with about 30 bags of oysters and after a few hours (the event stretched from noon to 8 pm), we’d flown through them. Shore called Cory who drove up another 20 bags from the farm and we kept shucking… my arms are still killing me. Chopper, the world’s fastest oyster shucker (from Wellfleet) stopped by to give CJ and I a quick shucking demo. Clearly, I found out, he’s figured out a method. He uses a self-made shucking knife (“better than what anyone else makes,” he said) which he slides into the side of the oyster (“you can’t see it but there’s a sweet spot on every oyster”) and, after popping off the top, slides its curved edge down into the shell to scrape the meat away in one swift movement.
CJ gave it a whirl and got pretty good at it but decided to stick to his usual method during the competition (“too soon, and I need more practice,” he told me) — unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. As the afternoon carried on, the crowd loosened up and we let the B&G shuckers take over while we enjoyed a few beers with our new friend in the police uniform (he let us borrow his hat for a few pics).
Cat Silirie, No 9 Park’s wine maven, was pouring Txakoli, a crisp, effervescent rose which went really well with the oysters, as did the Harpoon Munich Dark. I managed to sneak a few sausages and mini lobster rolls from the trays that kept passing by but by 8 pm, we were all ready for a full meal (and a few more drinks). But first, we had to figure out what to do with the ice luge that had appeared out of nowhere and ended up on our raw bar. The best option? Head to Eastern Standard, of course. Our whole crew, plus many tag alongs (including Meggie, a former Creek employee and current cook at O Ya) ended up at ES for some late-night bourbons and more oyster luging. I’m not sure which was more haggard by the end of it, us or the ES staff, but we had a fantastic night and, naturally, we all got home way past our bedtime.
And even though our week started with a bang, we kept riding high. Shore actually woke up Monday morning and made his way to New York where he shucked Island Creek Oysters at the James Beard Awards with Rialto chef Jody Adams. It was a huge honor for ICO and while they were too exhausted to do any serious partying (as is the tradition at the Beard awards), they ran into plenty of Island Creek friends like Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, and Tony Maws.
Back at the farm, the week started a little slow — it’s been rainy, raw, and windy all week. But our newest cohort, Will, started with us on Tuesday, plus we had Joe of Jeeves with us Tuesday and Wednesday, so we rocked all of our weekly duties (culling, washing, bagging) and by this afternoon, we’d done the bulk of our bags and officially moved on to spring cleaning. In oyster farming terms, that means we’re getting ready for the seed to arrive.
I ran into Christian at the water on Wednesday and asked what I should expect for May weather.
Christian: For May? Rain. And more drinking.
Me: More? Of both?
Christian: Actually, in the last ten years, it’s never failed. Never. The day the seed arrives, the wind blows hard east. You want a hard east wind? And some rain? Just order some seed.
Me: Nice. At least I know what I have to look forward to.
We chatted again today.
Christian (in a day-glo yellow sweatshirt): I forgot to mention it but May always means thunderstorms. Keep an eye on the [Standish] monument. If you see clouds and lightening coming that direction, there’s a good chance it’ll hit us.
Me: Also good to know.
Christian: It’s a pretty no-fail warning system.
A2: Great sweatshirt, Christian.
Christian: It’s bright, right? My spring colors. Can’t miss me in this thing. I could be picking trash by the highway in this thing.
A2: Right on.
So, anyway, the seed is getting here in the next week or so and to prepare, we’re cleaning out all of our old seed bags. There’ s huge pile back behind the shop — we’ve made a small dent in it so you can almost see over the top now. We have to power wash each bag to get all the grit off from last year, and then prep them with styrofoam filling, piping, and metal rings so they’ll be ready for this coming summer. It’s a huge, tedious project but one of those signs that summer is almost here.