Oysters on Cape Cod, Part 2

Quarterdeck's Oysters

Part II Preparing and Enjoying Oysters.

C Salt's Oysters
Oyster selection at C Salt restaurant in Falmouth.

Opening the oyster shell is called shucking. Some Cape Codders believe that the correct method of shucking is to insert a shucking tool or knife into the side of the shell, however, most of us think that it is easier to go in at the hinge. In the end it is what ever works for you. All of the oyster shuckers that I have seen wear heavy leather gloves. It is easy for the sharp tool to slip.

Some diners enjoy their oysters raw while others like them fried or prepared in recipes. Whether they are consumed raw or cooked the diner will be getting the same nutritional value. That said, the raw preparation, does deliver higher levels of the nutrients. Oysters contain high levels of protein, zinc and selenium. It is a food that is known to strengthen the immune system.

There are several ways to eat raw oysters:

  • Some slowly slurp them directly from the shell while others give them a quick chew.
  • Others flavor them with cocktail sauce and lemon.
  • Still others enjoy them with a shot of vodka or tequila.
  • There are even those who savor them with a wine or champagne chaser.

These methods are all perfectly acceptable and developing your own unique style is half of the fun.

The next part of this article will tell you where to get this wonderful delicacy. The answer is, right here in Falmouth by the Sea. Some of the best restaurants for oyster dining are: La Cucina sul Mare, C Salt, Quarterdeck, TGC Grill and last but by no means least, the appropriately named Shuckers.

Quarterdeck's Oysters
This is the Quarterdeck’s presentation of “Oysters on the Half Shell”. The variety at the top of the photo is from Barnstable: it is sweet with firm meat. The larger one at the right is from Washburn Island: its meat is creamy and has a fresh finish. The oyster at the left is from Dunbury and has very briny plump meat and a sweet buttery finish. Yes, a fine oyster is very much like a fine wine. Enjoy!

When I am enjoying oysters on the half shell at home, I like to make my own sauce.

Pat’s Oyster Sauce

Yield is about 1/3 of a cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of oysters
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 8 teaspoons of soy sauce

Directions:

  • chop oysters
  • in a sauce pan, simmer oysters with their liquid for 20 minutes
  • strain liquid and discard oysters pieces
  • continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced to 5 teaspoons
  • combine the remainder of the ingredients, chill and enjoy with your favorite oysters.

If you enjoy oysters, an oyster lover’s heaven can be found at the “Wellfleet Oysterfest”.  In October of this year it will be on the 19th and 20th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. each day.

For more information go to  www.wellfleetoysterfest.org


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day sampling the Cape’s oysters, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Oysters on Cape Cod, Part 1

La Cucina's Oysters

Part I: The Growing and Harvesting of Oysters on Cape Cod

Oysters
Raw oysters in Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.

Folks visit Cape Cod for a number of reasons. Some come because of our beautiful beaches with their warm sand and gentle waves. Others are looking for a quiet restful place to unwind. However, without a doubt one of the primary reasons for a visit to the Cape is our wonderfully fresh sea food.

Among the popular seafood choices are oysters an irregularly shaped mullusk or “crassostrea virginica”. Oysters are the most valuable crop legally grown in the US today. The oysters that are in the highest demand are grown and harvested right here on Cape Cod. It is said that, “like wine, no two oysters are the same.” Some are grown on farms while others grow in the wild and are plucked from their natural surroundings. Each oyster type has its unique flavor. The things that determine that flavor are its location, the salinity level of the water or in the case of farmed oysters, the growing methods. The temperature of the water, the water’s current and the mix of freshwater/saltwater mixture are also factors. Also, whether the oyster comes from the Cape Cod Bay side or the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Sound side of the cape is also a factor. Even if the seed oysters come from the same hatchery, the conditions play a greater role in the flavor.

Some interesting facts about oysters are that they reduce when the water gets warmer. Also, they change gender one or more times during their lifetime.

This area has a number of oyster breeding grounds; Dennis, Osterville, Cotuit, Wellfleet Bay, Brewster and Barnstable Harbor.  Each of the oysters harvested from the above locations, has its own unique taste. In addition, the cape’s unpredictable weather can affect the crop from year to year.

When oysters are farmed, the seedlings can be purchased from a hatchery or they can be collected right on site. The growers set them up on what are called “hats”. I think that they got their name because they look like a very tall stove pipe hat. The surface of the hat is coated with a lyme and concrete mixture. The concrete is used so that the oysters will adhere to the hat and the lyme because the oysters use it to build their shells.

La Cucina's Oysters
This is E.J. one of the fine bartenders at La Cucina sul Mare. He is serving one of our favorite appetizers, Oysters Rockefeller. I always enjoy their presentation.

Many people think that the larger oysters are the best, however, one can find an oyster with a large shell with little meat inside. The goal is to have a regulation sized oyster. That is one that measures three inches at its widest point. Also, the experts seek out the ones that have a deep curve in the belly of the shell. This indicates that it will be meaty and plump.

When harvesting oysters, farmers will usually set up a bin system. One bin each for ‘ready-for-sale”, “not quite ready”  the third for “tossing” and the last is designated as “no good”. Then some farmers sort even further. They sort by restaurant because they know what each chef prefers.

In Wellfleet there is a farm that is located next to a wild bed. The oysters taste the same. The difference is that the farmed or managed oysters have a much higher yield. That is because the oysters are grown in cages, in mesh bags or on trays. thus they are protected from predators. Also, the farmers guard against over crowding.

The six month oyster growing season is from May through October. Basically there are two methods of  growing oysters. One is called, “intertidal”, which is when the oysters can sometimes sit for hours at a time out of the water when the tide goes out. The second method is said to be “sub-tidal” which means that the oyster spends its entire life submerged in water.  Sub-tidal oysters tend to grow more rapidly because of their constant flow of water and thus, a food source. Many people believe that the deeper colder water gives the oyster a more desirable briny flavor. As for the intertidal variety that grow more slowly because they do not have continuous access to food during the time that they are out of the water. However, it is believed that the strong rays of the sun and more rapid fluctuations in air temperature, bake off harmful organisms on their shells. Farmers also have easy access to the crop with the sub-tidal variety.

The oyster farms are all on areas that are designated government grants. Some are as large as 34 acres. the “Cotuit Oyster Company” is family owned and one of the oldest. The farm dates back to 1857 and has five aqua culture grants. The seedlings are placed into floating bags where they take advantage of the nutrient rich surface water. The bags protect them from predators. When they reach the desired size they are planted on the bottom where they complete their live cycle before being harvested and sorted.

Because oysters are adaptive to their environment, they are capable of thriving in both high and low salinity waters. The average seawater salinity is 35 parts per million. However, in the waters of Dennis the salinity is 32 ppm. That means that the oysters grow a little slower than those grown in Wellfleet Harbor where the salt water mixes with fresh. There the salinity level is as low as 27 ppm. In that situation there is more algae in the water. Algae is the oysters’ favored food, therefor the Wellfleet oysters grow more rapidly. The Weelfleet oysters’ sweet aftertaste is said to be due to the its saltwater/freshwater habitat.

Another interesting fact about oysters is that they are known as, “filter feeders” which means that they draw seawater in, filter out and consume the algae and expel clean filtered water. One oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day. Oysters are good for the environment.


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day sampling the Cape’s oysters, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

8 Facts for your New England Lobster Feast

8 Lobster Facts

The Lobster, a New England Feast

To many Cape Cod visitors a lobster meal is on the list of “must do’s” while vacationing in this seaside area. The following are a few facts for your next New England Lobster feast that I found interesting.

Folks love to eat the New England lobster as can be seen by the fact that the fishermen from this region catch and sell over 60 million pounds of the tasty crustacean each year.

8 New England Lobster Feast
8 New England Lobster Feast Facts
  1. Cape Cod Restaurant Review Quarterdeck: Seafood Pot
    Cape Cod Seafood Pot

    It takes most lobsters from 5 to 7 years to grow to legal size. During that time period it will shed its shell between 25 and 27 times.

  2. Female lobsters bear between 6,000 and 100,000 eggs. Fishery and conservation laws in most New England states, prevent fishermen from keeping egg bearing females.
  3. Prior to the invention of food canning in the middle of the eighteenth century, lobsters were considered only good enough to use as fertilizer. Lobsters that were washed ashore in the aftermath of storms, were only fed to the hired help.
  4. The natural color of lobsters is a deep green. Only cooked lobsters are red. The rarest color is blue. Only about one in 2 million lobsters is blue. We are fortunate that there is one of these rare blue lobsters in Falmouth’s own Woods Hole Aquarium.
  5. The largest lobster ever caught was pulled up off the coast of Nova Scotia and weighed over 44 pounds. It was believed to have been over one hundred years old. However, divers off the coast of Maine, have said that they have observed much larger ones.
  6. The only legal way to catch a lobster is with a licensed trap. The largest lobsters found in traps weigh 15 pounds, although ones that large must be thrown back for exceeding the maximum size.
  7. Scientists tell us that lobsters have 20,000 “eyes,”  however, it is said that they have poor vision and communicate by smell and by sensing movement with their antenna.
  8. Each  New England state has designated lobstering grounds and a limited number of licenses are issued. These coveted licenses are passed down from generation to generation. Each lobsterman has his designated fishing area and they are careful not to trespass on each other’s area.

When Bill was a child his family vacationed on the New Hampshire coast. His Uncle John would get, what was known as a private non-commercial lobstering license. This license would allow a private citizen to place up to five traps in the water off his property. That license also required him to fish from a boat. I can remember my mother-in-law’s descriptions of the wonderful meals of lobster, drawn butter, corn on the cob and freshly baked rolls the family would enjoy. These feasts were served on the cottage porch on warm summer evenings.

In those days, there was a charmed period in a boys life. Bill and his cousin Jack would launch the family’s row boat off the beach and would dive in 10 to 15 feet of water with a two pronged spear.  It was not necessary to spear the lobster, the boys would simply approach the slow moving  creature from behind and place the prongs on either side of its tale then lift up behind the claws. They would then swim to the surface and toss the lobster into the boat. This practice is now prohibited  by law but at that time it was a fine adventure for the northeastern version of two Huckleberry Finns.

Some great places and events for enjoying your New England Lobster Feast include:

Lobster Ravioli and White Wine at the Flying Bridge Restaurant
Lobster Ravioli and White Wine
  1. Lobster on the Lawn, Summer Mondays
  2. Quarterdeck Restaurant
  3. Landfall
  4. Shuckers
  5. Flying Bridge Restaurant

 


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of New England lobster feasts, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.