Plenty of ostreaphiles and beer enthusiasts gathered together on Oct. 26 to celebrate their shared passions at the Shuck It! Oyster and Craft Beer Festival, held at Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.
Tony & Joe's hosted the 2013 Shuck It! Oyster and Craft Beer Festival on Washington Harbor. Featured at the raw bar were nine different types of oyster, some local to the Chesapeake region and others native to the Northeast, West Coast, and the Gulf Coast as well. Local favorites included the plump and buttery Barren Islands, the slightly more robust and meaty Choptank Sweets, the deep-cupped Chesapeake Golds, and the plump Hollywoods with their charismatic cucumber finish. Ever-popular Blue Points, Wiannos, and Wellfleets made an appearance on the half-shell from the Northeast, along with the sweeter Canadian varieties, including the Prince Edward Island Mapeques and the fruity oysters of Hurricane Harbor. Friendly oyster workers were present from each region to discuss myths and useful information about each oyster "varietal," as well as the terroir and breeding processes that help shape the seafood’s unique texture and flavor. Tim Devine, owner of Barren Island Oysters, explained to curious ostreaphiles how the process of regularly chipping the edges of their oysters forces the shell to grow a deeper cup — resulting in a plumper, meatier oyster. He seemed to shuck nonstop throughout the entire festival.
In addition to the raw bar, there was also a variety of cooked oyster options available. These warm options included a creamy oyster chowder, a grilled half-shell with ham and cheese, and a hearty breaded and fried oyster slider from Louisiana that was served with a side of corn-on-the-cob and potato salad. Those squeamish about slurping back marine mollusks could enjoy cuts from a whole pig smoked overnight and roasted to tender, juicy perfection.
While enjoying some jams by live "rockabilly" band Jumpin' Jupiter, attendees were encouraged to indulge in an open bar that featured white, red, and sparkling wines paired with briny raw bar delicacies. A wide range of popular craft beers was also on tap. Attendees could enjoy everything from the powerfully hoppy Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA to the fruity, crisp offerings from Atlas Brewing District Common. The Citra Lemon Saison from 3 Stars Brewery paired well with some of the brinier oysters, as its citrus notes pickled up the brackish, low-tide brine and cleaned it up quite a bit. One of the most notable craft brews was the Flying Dog "Pearl Necklace," a traditional dry stout brewed with local Rappahannock River Oysters from the Chesapeake region. And for the most daring of attendees, a Chesapeake Oyster Shooter: half cocktail sauce, half The Bay Vodka (flavored with traditional Chesapeake Old Bay seasoning) and a slimy little oyster waiting to slide down the throat after.
Event highlights included a best-tasting oyster contest and a silent auction benefiting the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit organization that promotes and implements science-based and sustainable shellfish restoration. Professional oyster-slurpers were encouraged to participate in the Oyster Marathon eating contest, named in the spirit of the Marine Corp Marathon Weekend.
Lili Kocsis is a self-proclaimed gastronome. She graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a B.A. in linguistics. She dedicates her spare time to purposeful travel, food photography, and writing about regional cuisine under the penname MyAmusedBouche.