Meet Andy… the Oyster Expert.
Welcome Oyster Lovers I have written this month about my new favorite oyster and about in the market. I hope you all enjoy and please feel free to ask about any oysters you like and I’d be happy to follow up with you.
Katama Bay Oyster (Martha’s Vineyard, Ma)
This oyster is one that reminds me that customers are why I do the job I do. I consider myself lucky to be one of two companies to buy from this grower. A little geography lesson before I get into the details…These oysters are grown in Katama Bay, on the southeast Side of the Vineyard, south of Chapaquidick. The waters here are known to be absolutely pristine, with very little developement.
Katama’s are reared from Maine oyster seed that is purchased at just 1mm in size. They are raised in rack and bags until they reach a hearty 4 inches in length with a respectable cup. My grower estimates each oyster is handled 8-10 times before reaching my shop. This entails constant thinning of the cages, washing and tumbling to promote a deeper cup. The care that goes into these beauties makes them a premium oyster, but beleive me, they are worth every penny!
Flavor? They have it! Medium salt with an extra sweet and robust finish. I am not one to wax poetic about the flavor, but I am sure of one thing…these are one of the finest tasting oysters in the world!
Winter Oyster Supplies Remain Strong, as do prices…
What a difference a year can make! In recent years, Atlantic oyster supplies have been a problem from January through April. The industry was struggling to produce the variety that everyone demands. As with everything in the seafood world this was weather related. 2008 is a different story. A pattern of cold, followed by very mild temperatures has kept ice in the liquid form so far…
Availability is very strong, but as opposed to the ice, one thing that hasn’t softened this winter is prices. Fuel alone has driven up domestic prices. A week dollar coupled with the fuel crunch has increased the Canadian prices to historic levels. I did some quick math and was shocked to see a 50% to 70% increase in PEI shells in the past 5 years!
I am finding good supplies with high prices. Fuel and the weak dollar are the culprits again. Domestic product was affected heavely by petroleum prices. Think about it, fuel to harvest and plastics and wax to package are both petroleum driven costs. As a result, I am paying about 7-8% more for varieties such as Kumamoto and Deer Creek. British Columbian prices were affected by fuel and the weak doller, driving prices up about 10-12% on varieties such as Fanny Bay and Chef Creek. As if this wasn’t enough, add the cost of flying these heavy delicacies across the country. Fuel surcharges linger between 21 and 31 cents per pound!
As far as availability, I see strong supplies through March. April and May are the unknowns. A mild winter combined with a warm spring could mean early growth for my farmers, and in turn early product for you the oyster lover. Let’s see what mother nature has in store… I don’t see prices softening unless fuel prices come down significantly and the dollar returns to it’s glory days of 2001 to 2004. This is a tall order!
An oyster, that marvel of delicacy, that concentration of sapid excellence, that mouthful before all other mouthfuls, who first had faith to believe it, and courage to execute? The exterior is not persuasive.
Henry Ward Beecher