Legal Seafoods Oyster Tasting
Hey, all. Had a link to this up earlier, but here's the full post:
On Saturday I attended an oyster tasting at the Legal Seafoods in Harvard Square. Though I believe in paying the real cost of food, which Americans usually don't, the $35 price tag did make me hesitate, since that amount could put me in real food for several days. Also, great Wellfleets on the halfshell are available at the Davis Square Farmer's Market on Wednesdays for only a buck. With these two thoughts in mind, my companions and I decided that to make it worth it, we needed to eat at least an oyster per every dollar spent. In the end we each put down about 40.
After the first ten or so I didn't think I could do it. After two glasses of wine, I did.
Initially the space was way too crowded and the anxiety about making sure you got your fill was palpable. People were finicky about their place in line and there was a fair amount of bumping and jostling for a crowd who looked like the wealthy dupes of Marx Brothers movies.
Besides oysters, you could also have... nothing. Though the oysters were served raw, fried, pickled, baked and stewed, there wasn't a crumb, an oyster cracker even, to be had besides the oysters themselves, which I thought was a little shoddy of Legal. At least put out some bread, and then we'd eat fewer oysters anyway. Neither was wine included in the tab, though I was certainly led to think it would be by the wording of their promo. The folks at Boston.com seem to have had the same impression, having included the following in their listing for the event:
"you will be given wine sips to complement the oyster dishes."
I don't know about you, but if you come to my house for dinner, and I "give" you something, you don't have to pay $7.50.
Between that and being asked to fork over gratuity upon entering, one didn't get the impression that one was being graciously hosted. A not too cheap feeding frenzy it was, a pleasing dining experience it was not. When the shucking demonstrator asked for everyone's attention and spoke extempore about the high quality of Legal's oysters, taking pains to highlight their safety, I suddenly felt as though we'd been tricked into paying for their marketing.
Still you did get a complimentary oyster survival kit, which is really the opposite if you look at it from the oyster's perspective. It contained a DVD on how to shuck (don't need it), a small bottle of Tabasco (don't use it), one of those disposable wooden oyster forks (completely unnecessary), and a moist towelette (would rather have oyster juice on my hands than ethyl alcohol, propylene glycol, USP, benzalkonium chloride, fragrance, polyoxethylene nonphenol, PEG 75, lanolin, and sodium bicarbonate.)
That said, you really could eat all the oysters you wanted, or more. As I grabbed one last Maine pemaquid on my way out, my stomach sloshing with the very recently killed bodies of over three dozen bivalves, the busboys waved the tops of their hands at at me as if to say "take, take!"
The staff was friendly, light footed and informative, though not always correct. One staff member said that the small, ovular lumps on the shells were "barnacles," though I've been told by the oyster farmer at the Davis Market that they are in fact baby oysters. (He asks that you refrigerate your shells and return them to him the following week so that he can use them to re-seed his beds.) As if it wasn't already apparent, this event showed the massive disconnect between food production and consumption, even by the folks at Legal, who purport to know their stuff, though by their sheer volume they drain the ocean of life at an alarming rate per day.
But there's no way that I can pretend that I didn't love eating 40 oysters. There is nothing to help you better understand a food than obsessive indulgence, and I don't think I'd eaten a luxury item in this quantity since the age of fourteen, when my next door neighbor and I each ate 9 grapefruits from the tree in my yard. My lips burned, but I've deeply understood grapefruit ever since. I also have to report that afterwards we all felt a clear sense of euphoria, one not unlike my recent sichuan peppercorn high. Maybe that's the infamous aphrodisiac effect, though all it made me want to do was nap.
And no matter how you look at it, if I pass up buying an oyster the next 40 times, in the end I'll have saved money.
If you want to go to an oyster festival that is not so fancy pants and full of name dropping (no offense T.Clark), keep your eye out on the Pemaquid Oyster Festival up near Damariscotta, Maine. It was in the fall last year and is a helluva good time. Great local brews and the oysters are grown by an aquaculture professor, which is kind of neat.
Check out the bluegrass band "Old Grey Goose" while you're up there.
re: Stellar D
No offense taken. I'm familiar with Oysters from that area and I happen to think they're even better than IC's. It is about four hours away, and Duxbury is my home town so I'll continue to support my neighbors.
Thank you for reminding me that The Island Creek Festival is in a couple of weeks! It is not "fancy pants" at all D. Check out photos from last years festival http://www.islandcreekfoundation.org/enjoy/festival/icof09 and you'll see people are there to slurp oysters and have fun not sip champagne and talk trust funds (well maybe a little trust fund talk). And yes the 15 or so top notch chefs .... http://www.islandcreekfoundation.org/... .... whose restaurants appear on these pages regularly will be preparing oysters and other sea creatures this year may give you the impression of fancy shmancy, but it's not.
Trust me D, once the Harpoon starts to take effect and the reggae beat works it's magic it's a pretty laid back good time. And it's 35 minutes south of Boston ;)
Echoing most of the CHer's posts here, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your descriptions as well. While we're on the topic of local oyster fests, can anyone enlighten me as to where I can find more details about the many upcoming events? I unfortunately missed not only this one, but the event held at Sam Adam's this past Saturday (I did see a separate post on this, but alas, that won't help me till next year!).
To Chris VR's point - I'm well aware of the Wellfleet event, but from what I've heard about the crowds and what I know of the trek there, I am thinking something closer to Boston or in a non-Cape locale. Any advice?
Duxbury Oyster Festival this weekend. 35 mins south of Boston. The local Island Creek Oysters are IMHO the best local oysters you can eat. Jamie Bissonnette of KO Prime, Jeremy Sewall of Lineage and Greg Reeves of Green Street Tavern are billed as participants as well as Live Bands and Harpoon Brewery. I've attended the past two years and have had a great time. All in a killer spot.......Duxbury Beach!
Great review, enjoyed your writting. I love oysters and would love to taste some southern gulf oysters next to our Northeast babies - I think I love ours but the price in the south always makes me want to sit down to several dozen. Does anyone else have specific tastes between southern crop and northern? I'm talking New Orleans Oysters/Florida vs our Northeastern variety.
Wellfleet Oyster Fest is awesome!!!!
Very well written and entertaining. I love oysters and where they are from is not to important to me. So I went to the seafood buffet at the local Indian casino. The oysters were really plump. That got me real excited. I ate about 25 because there were other items such as fried catfish best I ever had
In your situation I would have eaten minimum 50 and I'm not huge or anything
So train for your next event