Our 2019 U.S. Shellfish Industry Outlook

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Over the last ten years, we have seen the oyster market explode. We saw the rise of farmed oysters, the rapid openings of raw bars, and the expansion of the cocktail-size oyster market. The shellfish industry continues to surprise us with innovation and newcomers. But as it grows, it is also drawing more attention from the public sphere. As we look forward into 2019, here are the industry issues and trends we are thinking about and how they may affect the shellfish market.

Supply Trends

Climate Change

At the most recent 2019 Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Exposition, climate change was the hot topic. The ramifications of climate change for the shellfish industry are far-reaching. Ocean acidification and warming waters are affecting shellfish health and development. Shellfish are becoming more susceptible to disease and less resistant to invasive species. More frequent and extreme weather systems also increase the risk of losses. Stormwater runoff carrying excess nitrogen is causing more algal blooms harmful to shellfish.

Figure 2.31: Shells Dissolve in Acidified Ocean Water (Nina Bednarsek, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory )

Figure 2.31: Shells Dissolve in Acidified Ocean Water (Nina Bednarsek, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory )

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2019 IMPLICATIONS

Climate change is the new reality, and it will likely continue this year and into the near future. The consequences of climate change will definitely affect supply. Winter storms, wind, and other weather systems will limit farm access and production. There could be more frequent shellfish area closures due to heavy rain or algal blooms. Vibrio bacteria also thrives in warmer waters, which increases the risk of illnesses and related closures.

The warmer temperatures will likely induce shellfish to spawn sooner and potentially longer.  This will affect their quality during the warmer months. The soft shell clam fishery continues to struggle with climate change, and its decline will limit supply. Connecticut, a large producer of hard shell clams, is seeing a decline in wild set seed. This will likely put future pressure on hard shell supply as well.

Regulations affecting catch and harvest

“They have no idea about the impact on the habitat and the fishery… And they’ve made a regulation that’s going to affect people dramatically in a negative way.”

- Former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang

Public agencies and regulators are trying to mitigate the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, these regulations can hurt the industry. This past December, the New England Fisheries Management Council closed an area in Nantucket Shoals to protect aquatic habitat. The area, however, was also vital to the surf clam industry. The closure may cause surf clam harvest and production to drop by 50%. Surf clam is a New England staple — it’s the main ingredient in New England clam chowder.

2019 IMPLICATIONS

Market prices on wild shellfish will likely increase with supply constraints. Product costs on surf clams have already gone up since the closure. These costs inevitably get passed along the supply chain to the consumer. Local, state, and federal regulations affect the industry's ability to produce and sell. If new rules apply in 2019, they may pose unforeseen supply challenges.

Oyster farmers are more prepared

Despite all the doom and gloom around climate change and regulations, oyster producers are readier than ever. Growers have had to deal with the effects of climate change and red tape for more than a few years now. Oyster hatcheries now breed seed to adapt to ocean acidification. Industry changes have forced growers to find smarter approaches, and they’re now more prepared for the unexpected.

Preparing oysters for winter on the Standish Shore Oyster Farm

Preparing oysters for winter on the Standish Shore Oyster Farm

2019 IMPLICATIONS

If Mother Nature is kind, farmed supply will be relatively steady throughout the year. It's hard to predict unforeseen forces like new regulations or industry shifts. So if all stays the same, weather aside, we expect oysters to be fairly available moving through 2019.

Market Trends

Credit: Sara Norris

Credit: Sara Norris

Interests in something new

The raw bar market is starting to mature. Restaurants and diners are now looking to branch out of local varieties. Demand for Pacific oysters is growing on the East Coast. Interest in Northeast oysters is growing in Gulf regions. The Midwest is seeing a lift in shellfish growth from both coasts.

2019 IMPLICATIONS

Demand for local seafood will remain strong, but this increasing interest for different and new will help farms reach markets outside their local regions. Smaller producers will have more opportunities to find their niche market. More restaurants are also adding oysters to their menus, so businesses will need to stay creative to entice their customers with their shellfish offerings.

Interests from abroad

Despite growing domestic demand, the international appetite for American shellfish is even greater. Asia and Europe are heavy seafood consumers. Domestic producers can command a higher price in these export markets. As of late, politics have definitely affected seafood exports going to China. The West Coast shellfish industry is feeling its effects. On the European front, the FDA is working with the EU to lift an import ban on American oysters.

2019 IMPLICATIONS

The global political climate has been difficult to predict. If trade tariffs stay, shellfish exports, especially to China, will continue to struggle. As a result, Pacific shellfish availability could improve in the domestic market. If the FDA and the EU are able to lift the American oyster ban, this will be great news for producers. Peak shellfish consumption in the EU occurs during the winter when consumption is slow in the US.

More aquaculture, more public visibility

The growth of the shellfish industry has definitely not gone unnoticed. The oyster farm boom has drawn attention in many local communities concerned with their water access and waterfront sight lines. These NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) issues are miring the industry in lengthy and/or costly legal battles. These issues are leading to delays in permitting and sometimes, forcing farms to close up shop.

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More consumers enjoying shellfish also means increased risk of shellfish-related foodborne illnesses. These illnesses receive more media attention, which can become greater public concern. Media outlets sometimes paint the industry as careless despite the industry’s preventative efforts.

2019 IMPLICATIONS

The good news, however, is that many in the public, especially younger generations, have good faith in the industry. They understand that farmed shellfish and aquaculture are sustainable choices. Misinformation remains, but consumers are getting smarter by engaging with producers and suppliers. They are educating themselves and asking questions about their food sources.

This good faith has helped the industry weather difficult situations. There have been times past when the public has come to the industry’s defense. Our industry will continue to invest in public education and marketing with hope to continue this momentum of public support.

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Overall, we expect 2019 to be a pretty steady year. But then again, that can all change in a second based on the whims of Mother Nature. It’s part of our jobs to deal with the unexpected, so we’ll figure it out as an industry. We have seen lots of change over the years, so this year may be no different. Keeps us on our toes. In to 2019 we go.

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Pairing Beer and Naked Oysters

by Bekah Angoff

In this third installment of “what to drink with naked oysters,” we are exploring beer. What is wonderful about beer is how many varieties and flavors there are out there. What is confusing about beer is how many varieties and flavors there are out there. It is the same with oysters today. There are only five species, but infinite amounts of names and brands. It is enough to make your brain spin, so I did dirty work for you. After weeks of drinking beer and eating oysters, I was able to come up with some loose guidelines on their pairing.

Earlier this summer, I sat down with a local hop-nerd here in Boston. I gave him a copy of the wheel before our meeting, just like I did for my cocktail pairing session. I instructed him to choose beers based on the finish section of the wheel because we were aiming to pair the finishes.  We sat down and startedthe process. He chose a bunch of beers from obscure to staple, choosing to stay local when possible. Each oyster had multiple pairing options, which made it a complex task. Some pairings were spot on, and some missed the mark.

After seeking some more help fromother local professionals, we came up with the following.. As they say, it takes a village (to slurp all the bivalves).

Malty and hoppy American Ales deepen the savory nature of a mineral East Coast oyster.

For this pairing, a Pemaquid paired well with a hoppy and malty Weez Ale from Maine Brewing Company. A beer with dark malt can accentuate umami and mineral notes in a more robust Eastern oyster, and the roasted nose will perk up any underlying sweetness. It’ll make you feel like you just ate a steak dinner.

Lagers deliver the clean taste needed to accent a briny East Coast oyster.

There is nothing better than sitting down to a few dozen salt bombs with an ice cold pilsner. The pairing is the perfect combo of cold bubbles, sharpened salt, and a cold finish. The best example of this pairing is a Blue Point and a Budweiser. It does not get more classic than that!

Another combination that works with a briny beast is a nice dry Irish Stout. The salt in the oyster will help bring out the toasty chocolate or coffee notes these beers that hide within their dark and creamy bodies. Try a Quonnie Rock and a Dry Irish Stout from Brooklyn Brewery for an exemplary pairing, especially in the colder months that are quickly approaching.

Sweet and sour beers provide balance for a sweet East Coast oyster.

Balance is something to aim for in a pairing. While sweet enhances sweet, you really don’t want things to get out of hand and have your oyster tasting like dessert. A slightly sour beer, such as an unfiltered Lambic or a Gueuze, transforms a sweet Standish Shore into a dynamic morsel. You’ll taste more than just a buttery finish. Be careful not to choose beers that are too sour. The intensity will overpower the finish, rendering the oyster nothing but sea water in your mouth.

A Bohemian pilsner is perfect for the texture of a creamy West Coast oyster.

A creamy West Coast oyster, like a Glacier Point from Alaska, opens up with some vegetal buttery notes that are an intense introduction to any slurp. I don’t know about you, but I love toast with my butter, so a beer with bready and malty like characteristics is a perfect match. Peak Organic Fresh Cut has the yeast forward nose that is indicative to the style plus some citrus to cut through the fat, leaving a delicate lingering finish.

Fruity and spicy saisons enhance the earthy notes in a mineral West Coast oyster.

Mineral West Coast oysters tend to have a range from metallic to mushroom finishes. An oyster of this nature, like a Capital from Spencer Cove, WA, has a stony quality to it with ample brine. A saison, with its barnyard nose, complements the oyster and helps it to finish on the sweeter side.

We tried another beer, a Lost Nation Brewing Gose, with a less briny West Coast oyster, like a Hood Canal. Gose is a beer making a revival in the states. It has salt and coriander added to it, which mellows the oyster’s metallic notes and turns it into a dynamic mouthful with gentle sweet seaweed.

 

Again, I must stress that these are merely suggestions. Drink what you like, as there is no wrong way to eat an oyster. Try out some of your favorites, brew your own, and slurp it down. Let us know what you like to drink with your bivalves!

 

Cheers!

Sriracha Butter Recipe

Get the grill ready for this recipe because your taste buds will love you. Top your grilled oysters with Bekah's decadent sriracha butter, and it will forever change how you feel about large oysters.

Yields for 24 oysters

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • 1/8 cup sriracha
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 24 large in-shell oysters, like Dam Bigs or Jumbo Standish Shore
  • Foil

DIRECTIONS

Whip butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add in the sriracha, sweet soy, and fish sauce to combine. Gently fold in the lemon zest and juice. Once all combined, fold in 2/3 of the scallions, saving the rest for garnish.

Shuck the oysters then place them on a crumpled piece of foil that will fit on the grill. Add a generous dollop of the butter on top of each one.

Place over a medium high heat on the grill for about 10 minutes. The oysters will be ready when the butter is bubbly and darkens slightly.

Serve topped with extra scallions and a lemon wedge on the side.

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

Paloma
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

 

Spring 2016 Oyster Supply Update

Starting to notice the limited oyster supply lately?

It’s that time of year again...

Oyster supply varies from year to year because you never know what Mother Nature has up her sleeves. But one trend is clear: oysters always tend to be limited from spring to early summer.

This past winter has been one of the mildest winters we have seen, and compared to last year, it was a cake walk. Product availability was better because harvesters were able to access their oyster beds, and they had plans for the worst. Every spring, though, oyster inventories dwindle, and farms go offline, leaving a void in supply as we are starting to see now. Oysters will stay limited until early summer as growers wait for their crop to reach market size.

The good news is if water temperatures continue to stay agreeable, farmed baby oysters will be ready earlier this summer than in years past. Overall oyster supply will begin to recover in May when wild Canadian oysters become available. Until then, we appreciate your flexibility and understanding during the limited season.

For the full supply update by area, read on below.

 
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New England farm inventories running low

As mentioned in the summary above, New England oysters become limited during the spring because farms run out of market-sized oysters or they stop harvesting to focus on seed and gear work. Some growers will continue to sell their petite oysters, but others will choose to wait until late summer or fall when their oysters reach 3.5 inches.

In addition to fewer farmed varieties, we will stop seeing wild Massachusetts oysters from town-managed areas when the season closes in April. These shellfish areas are typically open from November to April each year.

We won’t be able to drag until May. Oysters can get chipped in the process, so they need to be pumping in order for them to heal.
— Ben on harvesting by drag

New England supply is limited, but not non-existent. Some farms have supply to go year-round and others still have inventories that will last well into the summer. One thing growers will still face is bad weather. Terrible winds even on a beautiful sunny day can make it dangerous to be out on the water.

Growers aim to increase production each year, so when oyster farms gradually come back online, New England supply will improve.

Canadian Maritimes still dealing with ice and limited inventories

The Maritimes is a powerhouse region for oysters, so when Canadian oyster supply starts to wane, the market definitely feels it. As temperatures warm in the spring, iced over areas start to melt. This ice makes it difficult for oyster growers to access their beds: it's too thick to penetrate easily, but too thin to support any weight safely.

Winter kill is another problem. If dead oysters are not caught during a farm’s culling process, they can open during transit and stink up a whole bag. It only takes one party foul oyster to ruin the other ninety-nine perfectly fine oysters. We had so many issues with winter kill in the past that we decided to wait until quality improves on certain Canadian varieties before offering them again.

Maritime farms are also dealing with limited inventories. Farmed oysters take much longer to grow there than in New England. Sometimes it takes four to five years for oysters to reach market size, so when a farmer is out of oysters, the farm may go offline until the next crop is ready.

Once the ice clears, Canadian oyster supply will be in better shape, helping overall supply. Farms will be able to get their oyster gear back in the water, and oystermen can go back to harvesting wild oysters such as Malpeque Oysters.

Supply stable in other regions, but may be affected by warmer water temperatures

Spring supply for oysters from Long Island Sound, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific should stay relatively stable barring any bad weather. However, since waters seem to be warmer earlier this year, there could be earlier closures around the country. When areas in the Gulf are closed, Mid-Atlantic demand increases putting pressure on the region’s supply. Pacific oysters may spawn earlier affecting product quality, and vibrio regulations may necessitate closures.

Ellen M. Banner for the Seattle Times

Ellen M. Banner for the Seattle Times

With all things considered, the oyster supply forecast is looking pretty good for the summer and fall. So let's enjoy the sun, get through the spring, and ramp up for this summer's seafood season. As always, ask us if you need help finding substitutions or would like a recommendation with fairly steady supply. We're here for your oyster needs!

 

Pangea Shellfish Behind the Scenes: The Cape Run

We're like the mailman. Rain, sleet, or snow... we're doing it.

Ever wonder how we get our oysters from the Cape to Boston? Here's a behind the scenes look as we join Mikahail on last Wednesday's "Cape Run." Pick ups may be as early as 5:30 am or as late as 7 pm, it all depends on the tide. In the summertime, it may take 12+ hours to pick up from all the growers scheduled.

That morning, it was raining cats and dogs. The high that day was 52º F. Eventually the skies cleared, and it turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon, but as Mikahail said, "We're like the mailman. Rain, sleet, or snow... we're doing it."
 

Our 2016 Outlook For Oysters

As more consumers become acquainted with oysters, more restaurants are taking advantage of the trend. Oysters are becoming more ubiquitous than ever, and it shows no signs of stopping. These days, they’re no longer making a comeback. Instead, they’re taking center stage. So what’s next for the oyster in 2016?

MARKET TRENDS

The growing petite oyster market

Over the last three years, the demand for oysters has accelerated noticeably. This trend can be attributed to a number of reasons, but a main one is the popular use of oysters during Happy Hour. More restaurants are employing this tactic to draw customers in or drive alcohol sales. These “Dollar Oyster” deals can now be found at the local pub or even the neighborhood pizza joint.

In the past, Dollar Oyster selections were typically commodity oysters like Blue Points, Chesapeakes, or Malpeques. The cost of these oysters allow the dollar deal to be worthwhile. However, as diners become more oyster-saavy, restaurants are looking to make Happy Hour selections more exciting, thus creating a market for petite oysters.

Petite sizes cost less than their Select counterparts, so with this lower cost option, restaurants can offer premium varieties like a Cape Cod oyster during Dollar Oyster happy hours. Aside from happy hour use, this option has also created an opportunity for restaurants that are more cost-sensitive to have quality oysters on their menu. There seems to be a growing preference for smaller oysters too, which could be driven by newer oyster eaters uncomfortable with larger meats.
 

2016 IMPLICATIONS

Growers have definitely taken advantage of the petite market because it allows them to sell their oysters sooner, sometimes too soon. Depending on the farm, this could mean less Select sized product or running out of oysters before their fall peak when quality is best. It is illegal to serve petite East Coast oysters in certain states like Massachusetts, so please check your local regulations. The petite oyster market is here to stay, and we will probably see more customers shift to this lower cost option with rising freight costs and more pervasive dollar oyster deals.

The spread of oyster aquaculture to the South

PHOTO BY RUSH JAGOE FOR CNN.COM

PHOTO BY RUSH JAGOE FOR CNN.COM

With wild oysters on the decline, southern regions have looked to oyster aquaculture as an option to bring oysters back. In the Chesapeake Bay, oyster aquaculture thrived in Virginia because it was fairly straightforward to obtain a private lease. So, when Virginia’s oysters were depleted, watermen were able and open to adopting aquaculture. In Maryland, however, it was not until the last few years when leasing was finally streamlined. Since then, “[Maryland] has issued 111 oyster farming leases across 2,240 acres of waters.” This rapid growth of oyster farms has caused conflict with Maryland’s watermen, who argue farms limit the areas they can access, and with residents of waterfront homes, who find the oyster cages to be unappealing.

In the Gulf, the first oyster farm was started in 2009. Point aux Pins Oysters of Grand Bay, Alabama is now the largest Gulf off-bottom oyster operation. More watermen are now exploring aquaculture and trying to figure out how to distribute their oysters to the half-shell market, a market opposite of Gulf oyster culture where oysters are seen as commodities. The first major Gulf oyster hatchery also opened this year, which will provide more opportunities to explore aquaculture in the region.

2016 IMPLICATIONS

We will most likely begin to see more half-shell friendly oysters from the southern states. Regions with wild fisheries will transition more to oyster aquaculture despite conflicts that will need to be resolved by state regulators. Demand for southern oysters in the Northeast will remain very limited, but the south may see a shift in the commodity oyster culture in the near future.

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New oysters and brands will continue to come on to the market. Marketing will be key for farms to carve out a niche position in a saturated space, and to attract loyal consumers and chefs.

SUPPLY TRENDS

East Coast supply potentially very limited in winter and spring

In 2015, we saw one of the worst winters in New England. Unfortunately, this caught a number of farms off guard. Some oyster growers had to endure significant losses while others had to deal with winter kill in the spring. These lost oysters would have been sold as markets in the fall that usually create a fall glut. There doesn't seem to be as much around as usual this time of year, which could be a sign that growers have lower inventories.

icebergs on the beaches of cape cod. Photo by Dapixara via the washington post

icebergs on the beaches of cape cod. Photo by Dapixara via the washington post

2016 IMPLICATIONS

With less to sell, growers will run out faster earlier in the year. This scarcity will become noticeable in the spring and summer when demand is outpacing supply and growers are either sold out or waiting on their seed to reach market size. Any seed lost this past winter will also affect the amount of supply in fall 2016. East Coast supply outside of New England will depend on the weather. If bad winter weather immobilizes areas like the Canadian Maritime or the Chesapeake, we will see a significant shortage again this coming winter.

More potential West Coast closures and stricter regulations

Warm water temperatures caused many area closures on the West Coast this past summer, which limited Pacific oyster supply. If areas were not closed, oysters showed signs of spawn and quality was not ideal. In British Columbia, illegal sales of shellfish caused a high reported number of shellfish illnesses. New England had a fairly quiet summer season aside from the closures in Katama and Duxbury.

2016 IMPLICATIONS

If the global warming trend continues, water temperatures will also continue to rise causing more area closures and triggering oysters to spawn earlier. West Coast supply will be limited again during the summer. Proposed protocols and regulations to test oysters might be implemented in regions like British Columbia, but the process could be cumbersome, potentially limiting product coming out of those areas. In Katama and Duxbury, new vibrio regulations are being discussed like a one-hour harvest window. Again, these rules will make it harder for growers to harvest and supply the growing demand during the busy summer months.


And that's a wrap on 2015! We hope Mother Nature is kind to us next year, but we'll just have to wait and see. Aside from all the oyster and shellfish talk, though, there's one important thing we have to acknowledge: our growing and amazing community.

Thank you for an awesome year. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without your support! Enjoy the holidays and we hope you get to ring in the new year with some oysters!
 

Different Wine Pairings For Different Oysters

by Bekah Angoff

The reason that Muscadet is seen as the ultimate oyster pairing comes from the adage “What grows together goes together.”

Many Google searches can provide apt information on wine and oyster pairings. Type “oyster” and “wine pairings” and you will find a slew of suggestions, mostly surrounding Muscadet or anything bone dry. These suggestions are often generalized and may not be the best choice for every oyster. The reason that Muscadet is seen as the ultimate oyster pairing comes from the adage “What grows together goes together.” Muscadet comes from the Loire region of France, which starts at the mouth of the Loire River, which is home to many famed oyster beds.

At the shop, we can carry up to 45 varieties at a time, which are representative of two coasts, four species and three countries. What does this mean? It means that no two oysters are likely to taste the same. You may start to wonder why general wine pairings aren’t more specific if there are so many different oysters available on the market. I decided to experiment a little with some of our best sellers and some classic wine pairings. There must be a better way to note these interactions.

To start this adventure, I went to my favorite wine educator’s house, Roz, with five oyster varieties in tow. The selection included a spectrum of salinity, a spectrum of sweetness, and a spectrum of mineral content.  When I presented this tasting to Roz, she immediately brought up Muscadet since it's the quintessential oyster wine. The next proposed was a sparkling wine, which is also a given, yet she chose one that had a closer flavor profile to our Muscadet. The other two wines to round out the selection were requested to be on the dryer side, but could bend the rules a bit. She chose a few that were similar to a Muscadet, with varying levels of floral and fruit notes, and crisp acidity.

Here is what we experimented with:

The Oysters

  • Standish Shore, Duxbury, MA – sweet
  • Quonnie Rock, RI – briny
  • Wallace Bay, Nova Scotia – mineral
  • Kaipara, New Zealand – sweet/ briny
  • Kusshi, British Columbia – creamy

The Wines

  • Cava, Spain – dry, sparkling
  • Vinho Verde, Portugal – dry, floral
  • Muscadet, France – dry, fruity
  • Pinot Gris, Oregon – dry, cirtus
     

After playing with the pairings, these were the conclusions we made:

 

A traditional pairing of Muscadet is a safe bet for a sweet East Coast oyster.

We used Standish to represent a "sweet East Coast" oyster, embodying the sweet and briny side of the oyster flavor spectrum typical of many Cape-style oysters. We first sipped Cava, and immediately it was apparent that the match was really off. The texture of the wine and the texture of the meat fought each other in such a way that it left both elements flavorless and bland. The Muscadet on the other hand, accentuated the sweetness in the oyster while slightly muting the salinity. The end result was an immaculately clean finish, which sang on the palate.

 

A sparkling wine with floral notes will do wonders for a briny East Coast oyster.

A Quonnie Rock is briny, which is evidence of being raised in a Rhode Island salt pond. It's a North Eastern oyster, so the typical choice would be to follow suit with the classic Muscadet pairing. But this was not the case at all!  The pairing of Muscadet to the oyster rendered the wine bland and watery, and left the oyster flavorless in return. The Cava, on the other hand, accentuated the effervescence of the wine, and the salt in the oyster heightened the residual sweetness.

 

A bone dry selection will give a mineral East Coast oyster more depth.

Here is another example where the Muscadet is the biggest disappointment in the whole line up. When paired with a Wallace Bay, a mineral East Coast oyster, it was an identical experience as with the Quonnie Rock. The two left almost no impression on the palate, as they canceled each other out. Here is where it gets interesting. The Vinho Verde was the best choice with this oyster. The acidity of this wine brings out the sweetness in the oyster, giving it a brand new dimension.

 

Muscadet wins with briny and fruity West Coast oysters.

Even though Kaipara Oysters are from the other side of the world, it is more of a West Coast style oyster with an East Coast brine. The Muscadet was perfect for this oyster as it highlighted the watermelon finish and silky texture. The Pinot Gris, on the other hand, rendered in to a rotten grapefruit aroma with the Kaipara, which was not pleasant at all.

 

A playful crisp white will be lovely with creamy West Coast oysters.

Kusshi Oysters are a West Coast favorite. This oyster has a signature cucumber finish with a meaty bite and creamy texture. The best fit for this oyster was the Pinot Gris, as the bone-dry nature of the wine created a lush texture with the oyster, and the oyster helped bring out a pleasant acidity in the wine. The Muscadet was terrible with the Kusshi, as the overall flavor was bitter and metallic.

 

In Summary

Oysters cannot be paired with wine in a vacuum. The first step to pairing is to identify what type of oyster flavor you have. Is it sweet? Briny? Have a melon finish? Not all oysters work with Muscadet, and they shouldn't. If oysters are different, so should their wine pairings. There are a various ways to pair oysters with wine, but in the end, it all comes down to preference. Our palates perceive flavor and taste differently, so really, drink what you like!

What are pea crabs and why are they in my oysters?

What are pea crabs and why are they in my oysters?

If you've ever encountered a pea crab in your life, it's very likely that you saw one while eating an oyster! These little critters live in the gills of oysters, and sometimes will come out to play when your half shell is sitting on a plate. Many chefs and diners find them unappetizing or a nuisance, especially if they're scuttling across an oyster, but since little is known about them in the culinary world, they may be misunderstood. In 1907, The New York Times published an article titled "A Rare Delicacy, Little Known" and called pea crabs "one of the sweetest and quaintest viands known to man... so generally neglected that more than 50 per cent of the people who think they know something about good eating have never tasted the dish." So what are pea crabs? And what should you do the next time you see one?

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A Visit to Greenpoint Fish & Lobster

Whenever I travel, I always try to squeeze in some time to visit our customers and check on our oysters. We move thousands of oysters a day and ship them to our distributors all across the country, so it can be difficult to track down where our oysters go. It's always a pleasant surprise to find our oysters when dining out.

In New York City, we ship to a few restaurants and markets including Greenpoint Fish & Lobster. They've been open for less than a year, but have been generating a ton of buzz lately for being the only local fish market in the Greenpoint/Brooklyn area. They also have a reputation for serving delicious seafood, like our oysters!

I met up with Vinny Saturday afternoon at the shop. He gave me the grand tour of the place and a behind-the-scenes walk to pick up more bagels from The Meat Hook. We chatted about the market, his previous career (he was a lawyer in the music industry), and his seafood family in Boston. The Boston seafood industry is a small world -- Vinny has known Ben and Dan since they were operating Pangea from a single 10' x 20' cooler.

After the tour, we got down to business to do some quality checks. Pangea oysters on the menu that day were Pemaquids, Irish Points, and Paradise Coves. I also tried the Chatham from MA and the Wild Goose from RI. Of the 5, the Pemaquid was my favorite. Cup, meat fill, and flavor were all on point. Wild Goose and Paradise were close seconds. Vinny also had Martha's Vineyards in the display for people to buy and shuck at home!

If you're looking for a place to get awesome oysters (some that come from us!), Greenpoint is definitely worth the trip. Really cool space with awesome staff.

Cheers and #eatmoreoysters,

Connie

 

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster
114 Nassau Ave. at Eckford Street in Brooklyn, NY

(718) 349-0400
Open daily from 11 am - 9 pm