Outlook on Oysters 2017

Outlook on Oysters 2017

This year was a roller coaster of events. We had a mild winter which alleviated some stress from ice outs of years past yet we were more susceptible to algal blooms, recalls and closures from the summer’s drought. We saw more oyster bars popping up all over the country as the Nation’s appetite for bivalves is becoming more insatiable. Here is the start of what may be in store for 2017. 

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Recipe: Pork and Clams

Recipe: Pork and Clams

The summer outdoor raw bars are closed, and it is time to take out the stew pot. Think that a bag of clams is only good for a chowder or a fritter? Think again! This dish takes delicately cured pork belly and tops it with marinated Wellfleet clams to make a dish worthy of a chilly fall night.

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Recipe: Hollander and de Koning Mussel Gazpacho Recipe

Serves 4

For the gazpacho:

1# ripe Roma tomatoes (or other sweet tomato), rough chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, rough chopped
1 red bell pepper, rough chopped and seeded
1 small red onion, rough chopped
1 red jalapeno, sliced and seeded
½ c sherry vinegar
½ colive oil
1T mustard powder
Agave to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mussels:

1# Hollander and Dekoning mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
5 sprigs tarragon or thyme
2c white wine

In a blender, puree all of the chopped vegetables in 3 batches, each batch with a sprinkle of mustard powder, a splash of vinegar, salt, and pepper. Once the mixture is spinning well, drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. After each batch, strain through a fine sieve. After the last batch, season to taste with salt, pepper, and if it is too acidic or bitter, balance with a drop or two of agave. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

In a large pot, sweat shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Once they are translucent, add the mussels and herbs, stirring to coat with the oil. Add the wine and partially cover until mussels open. Transfer the mussels to a separate dish in order to cool. Once cooled, pick the meat from the shells and reserve in a separate container. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil.

Serving tips: 
Toss the cooled mussel meats with raw tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, or other later summer vegetables to create a light and savory main course. Pour the gazpacho table side for a truly indulgent event. 


Imidacloprid: a solution or an anathema?

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest. A pesticide can be a naturally derived or synthetically produced substance.

In this modern age, the thought of food pesticides turns many consumers off. Pesticides have been used since Sumerian agriculture 4500 years ago, but its effects on people have only been documented for the last fifty to sixty years. The research and findings have generated enough awareness and disgust to propel the organic movement, a return to what's natural, though many consumers are unaware that organic farms still use pesticides. The difference is, the pesticides are certified organic.

When it comes to oyster aquaculture, consumers mostly regard the farming practice to be positive and sustainable because farmed oysters live and grow in their natural habitat and do a lot of good for the environment. Recently, however, news of a pesticide permit for Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in Washington, the nation’s largest shellfish producing bay, has sparked outrage as the public learns of pesticide use in shellfish aquaculture for the first time.

The backlash caused the state to withdraw the pesticide permit approved last April, disappointing many Washington shellfish growers who were depending on it. So what’s going on? Why are Washington shellfish farms using pesticides?

A little background

Since at least the 1940s, the Pacific has been plagued with two native species of inedible burrowing shrimp. The shrimp feed by digging in the sediment, and in doing so, soften the sand and disrupt the structural integrity of the sediment causing shellfish to sink and suffocate. Eelgrass habitats that support other marine organisms are also affected because the sediment is too soft for roots. Once the shrimp take over, many of the tidal beds become useless as the shrimp get as dense as 400 shrimp per square meter.

 Photo from Damian Mulinix | The Daily Astorian

Photo from Damian Mulinix | The Daily Astorian

The state recognized the damage caused by the shrimp and began testing various control methods. Carbaryl or Sevin, an insecticide, was approved in 1963 and was used until it was phased out in 2013 after carcinogenic effects were discovered. As water temperatures have warmed, the shrimp population has increased and without a way to control them, many commercial shellfishermen are watching the shrimp destroy their once productive beds that now look like moon craters.

The permit approved last April was for the use of imidacloprid, the most widely used insecticide in the world, even found in flea collars for pets. The dosage approved was 1/16th the dosage of carbaryl per acre, a highly diluted amount. Recent research, however, suggests imidacloprid may be responsible for the collapse of honey bees, and several countries have already restricted the use of such neurotoxins.

 Photo From Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

Photo From Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

So should imidacloprid be permitted?

Arguments FOR imidacloprid

  • Imidacloprid is far safer than carbaryl and would be used in a smaller and highly diluted dosage applied by hand.
  • It would never be sprayed on oysters, only on the sediment before oysters are even seeded there months later.
  • It would prevent a worse case scenario of a 70-80% reduction of shellfish production – the bay currently yields about $35 million in product and is the economic backbone of Pacific County, employing many of its residents.
  • The insecticide does not kill the shrimp, but paralyzes it.
  • Burrowing shrimp is an invasive species destroying other parts of the ecosystem like eelgrass habitats and the estuaries.
  • Imidacloprid would only be sprayed in non-eelgrass areas with dense shrimp populations.
  • Many generational growers will lose their farms and not even be able to sell them because the flats are unproductive.
  • Imidacloprid is highly water soluble and has very low toxicity to fish even on an acute basis.
  • Bees do not frequent shellfish beds.

Arguments AGAINST imidacloprid

  • The burrowing shrimp are native species to Washington. The cultured gigas oyster originally from Japan is the invasive one.
  • There would be uncertain consequences to the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Because imidacloprid is highly water soluble, it shouldn’t be applied directly to water.
  • Although the imidacloprid paralyzes the shrimp, the shrimp eventually suffocate and die.
  • Imidacloprid is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, moderately toxic to small birds, and may affect other subsurface organisms.
  • If there is no light, imidacloprid will break down slowly in water in which the half-life of imidacloprid is about 1 year.
  • NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oppose the use of imidacloprid on ocean environments.
  • Pesticides can drift into neighboring farms of growers who refuse to use pesticides.
  • The use of pesticides make oysters seem less “natural” or “quasi-wild.”
  • We are changing the land and sea to better our human production needs.
  • If aerial application is allowed, there might be potential spray drift from the helicopter.
  • Potential confusion in public access areas treated by imidacloprid.

We summarized the main arguments from both sides above. Shellfish growers in Willapa Bay are just as torn as some growers are for and others are not.

What do you think?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


Fact sheet for Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit No. WA0039781; October 24, 2014

Willapa Desert: Key oyster bed abandoned as inedible shrimp take over; The Daily Astorian: http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20160805/willapa-desert-key-oyster-bed-abandoned-as-inedible-shrimp-take-over

Get out of the way and let oyster growers survive; The Chinook Observer: http://www.chinookobserver.com/co/editorials/20160809/get-out-of-the-way-and-let-oyster-growers-survive

Washington State Turns to Neurotoxins to Save Its Oysters; Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-04-24/washington-state-turns-to-neurotoxins-to-save-its-oysters

Willapa Bay Oyster Farmers Ask State Again for Permission To Use Neurotoxin; KPLU: http://www.kplu.org/post/willapa-bay-oyster-farmers-ask-state-again-permission-use-neurotoxin

Can oyster farms make Puget Sound a little more wild?; Crosscut.com: http://crosscut.com/2016/06/can-oyster-farms-make-puget-sound-a-little-more-wild/

U.S. consumers across the country devour record amount of organic in 2014; Organic Trade Association: http://ota.com/news/press-releases/18061

Grilled Razor Clams on Crack Recipe

You're a lucky one if you get your hands on some fresh razor clams, so make sure to treat yourself by adding them to your pastas, your salads, and everything you can think of. Add a little bacon to that, and you've just entered heaven. Use this razor clam recipe to garnish and top your dishes. You'll be feeling like you've got a bowl of lucky charms!

Serves as a topping for pastas and salads
Yields 4 portions


  • 2 lb razor clams
  • 1/2 lb Applewood smoked bacon, cut into lardons (matchsticks)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth
  • 4 large sprigs thyme
  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice
  • Ample cracked black pepper


In a large sauté pan, slowly render the bacon lardons over medium heat. About halfway through crisping the bacon, add the garlic, making sure it does not burn. Once the bacon is browned, carefully add the vermouth. Simmer the mixture, reducing the liquid by a half, and then remove from heat.

Carefully arrange the razor clams on top of the bacon, and place the zest and thyme among the shells. Place entire pan on a medium-high grill and cover the lid. In about 6-10 minutes, the clams should be open. Remove the pan from the heat, and set the clams apart from the bacon mixture. Remove the meats from the shells and chop into large chunks. Stir the clam meats back into the bacon, and season with black pepper and lemon juice.

Use the mixture to top pasta with fresh herbs, use as vinaigrette for a hearty green salad, or use as an hors d’oeuvre on top of a crostini.

Introducing our first online oyster course

We are very very excited to introduce our first online oyster course!

We heard from many of you looking for oyster trainings and resources, so we wanted to create something virtual to give you access to it any where, any time!

This free course is a series of 10 short videos (the longest one is only 5:30 min long) and covers all the important topics on oysters including

  • how oysters are farmed;
  • different varieties of oysters;
  • oyster seasonality;
  • how to buy and store oysters; and
  • of course, how to shuck oysters!

This is a great course for anyone who is looking to learn more about oysters or looking to refresh themselves on the basics. Whether you're in the food industry looking to train new team members or just a curious foodie, this will be a great resource to have in your toolbox. Much of the course content can be found somewhere on our site, but these videos are a succinct way of digesting all that oyster knowledge in 40 minutes or less.

Again, this course is free and there are no expiration dates or deadlines. Binge watch all of it or one at a time at your own pace, and we're confident that afterwards, you'll be the one educating your family and friends at your next oyster gathering!

Pairing Cocktails and Naked Oysters

by Bekah Angoff
Original recipes below.

Pairings can be a real challenge with oysters. The delicate nature of every slurp is at risk of being masked by sharp wafts of alcohol or other strong aromas within the drink.

In a previous blog entry, I took on the challenge of showing how one quintessential pairing could be different based on which varietal oyster was in hand. After the post came out and more flavor based discussions around the office, we came up with the tasting wheel as a way to take some of the guesswork out of describing those nuanced flavors, which had an effect in the pairing process.  Once the wheel became commonplace for us, I wanted to really take it for a spin into the world of craft cocktails.

The research I preliminarily accumulated on cocktail and oyster pairings showed a few not-so-favorable suggestions: 1. strong, juniper infused gin is the way to go; 2. the martini is king (you know, because we can’t get enough gin!); 3. complex drinks are paired with garnished oysters; and 4. adding citrus to anything makes it work with seafood. I was horribly disappointed in the lack of creative information out there.

Pairings can be a real challenge with oysters. The delicate nature of every slurp is at risk of being masked by sharp wafts of alcohol or other strong aromas within the drink. The heat, or volatility of alcohol, can perk up unwanted aromatic components or mask delicate textures. Think about taking a shot of tequila, and then recovering from the experience. Yes – recovering. The extreme heat of the alcohol will temporarily incapacitate your taste buds.

I called in a local professional to aid me in the process, Cambridge bartender, Patrick Gaggiano. In our first meeting, I gave him a copy of the tasting wheel, and then asked him to create a few simple cocktails with the finish section of the wheel in mind and with relatively low alcohol content to not bring up any volatility issues. I did not tell him which oysters I was bringing to our next meeting, and I did not want him to tell me what cocktails he would be making, so no biases or assumptions could be made before the tasting. I decided to go with oysters in the same categories at the prior wine pairing session. For the East Coast, I chose three oysters: one sweet, one briny, and one with mineral notes. For the West Coast, I chose one creamy and one briny with mineral notes. These broad categories were chosen so they could be applied to other oysters with similar flavor profiles.

I arrived at Patrick’s bar one week later, and shucked the five different oysters while he stirred and shook his own selection. He described each one and pointed out where they might fall on the tasting wheel. I then suggested which oysters were appropriate. Once all the cocktails were completed, we sat down and started the show. After many slurps and sips, here is what we came up with:

An effervescent citrus cocktail and a creamy West Coast oyster are exceptionally matched.

A Paloma paired with a Kusshi from British Columbia was a satisfying complementary pairing. The tequila in this drink is light, and does not shock the palate; while the grapefruit’s sour juice slices through the creamy meat. The extra pinch of salt in the cocktail was a pleasant addition, as the Kusshi is not briny, and a little salt helps the cucumber and grassy notes to shine through, while mellowing the metal finish.

A smoky and sweet cocktail warms and intensifies a mineral East Coast oyster.

A Pemaquid, from Damariscotta Maine, is a deep, meaty, and umami laden oyster with a slight slate and butter finish. Patrick paired this with a smoky and fruity drink made from mezcal (smoky), Luxardo (sweet), and Punt e Mes (a bitter vermouth). The drink and oyster stood up to one another with such force when separate, but once combined, snuggled against each other in my mouth like a child in a warm blanket. The mouthfeel was steak-like, with smoke, mushroom and woody notes, combined with a silky texture. Hands down, this was the best combination we came up with.

A slightly bitter and sweet cocktail balances a mineral West Coast oyster

The next cocktail was a pleasant blood orange aperitif, made with bitters, fresh blood orange juice, and Cocchi Americano (a citrusy and bitter Italian vermouth), which we paired with a Capital oyster from Harstine Island, WA. The sharp salt from the oyster brought out the flowery notes in the blood orange, and the bitter elements of the drink gave more depth to the oyster than was there before.

Lightly perfumed cocktails tame briny East Coast oysters.

A salt bomb, like a Quonnie Rock, from Rhode Island, doesn’t usually show its complexity until the finish. Patrick was worried about the Chrysanthemum #2, as it was possibly too aromatic for the task at hand. On the contrary, the herbal and intricate green Chartreuse and the sweet Benedictine (an orange-y brandy) in the drink helped to bring out some of the sweet lettuce and citrus nature of the oyster, while the salt in the oyster sharpened the complex drink.

And then, there was the one that threw us for a loop. There were two cocktails left, and one oyster to pair with them. There was failure all around. We were stumped. What do you pair with a sweet east coast oyster, like a Standish Shore, that won’t completely destroy it? Based on some of the interactions above, we decided that we needed to use something sweet to enhance the signature sweetness of the oyster.

Sweet and astringent cocktails love a sweet East Coast oyster.

As sweet heightens sweet, a modified Negroni made the Standish Shore taste like candy, fresh from the ocean. We used Amaro Montenegro, which is sweet and slightly bitter, with notes of sherry, another oyster-loving spirit. The astringency of the cocktail stops the sweetness from impeding the buttery finish of the oyster, while the crisp and delicate French gin makes sure the brine stays sharp

What we can conclude from this session: cocktails aren’t too complex to be effectively and appropriately paired with different oysters. Not all oysters will go with all cocktails, so make sure to know which oyster flavor profile you are indulging in. To find harmony, eat your oysters without sauce or garnish, enjoy their unique qualities, note them on the wheel. Experiment with different spirits and cocktail combinations and let us know what you discover!

Original Cocktail Recipes

Paired with Kusshi, Cortes Island, BC

1.75 tequila blanco
.5oz lime juice
.75oz grapefruit juice
.25oz simple syrup
2 pinch salt

Shake, pour over ice, and top with soda water in a Collins glass

The One We Really Liked
Paired with Pemaquid, Damariscotta, ME

1.5oz El Buho Mezcal
.5oz Luxardo Maraschino
.5oz Punt e Mes
.5oz Aperol

Stir with ice and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass - garnish with orange zest

Broadway and Elm
Paired with Capital, Harstine Island, WA

1.75oz Cocchi Americano
.75oz blood orange juice
.25oz St George Terroir
2 dash Peychauds bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe

Chrysanthemum #2
Paired with Quonnie Rock, Quonochontaug Pond, RI

2oz Dolin dry vermouth
.75oz Benedictine
.25oz green Chartreuse

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe rinsed with St. George Absinthe Vert

Montenegro Negroni
Paired with Standish Shore, Duxbury, MA

1oz Citadelle Gin
1oz Corzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth
1oz Amarao Montenegro

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass - garnish with orange zest