“When you get to three dozen, no matter how good you feel, stop.” These were the words of advice Sebastian, the chef at Planet Bliss had given me when I told him I was going to an all-you-can-eat oyster festival. Stephen and Jamie (of EternallyHungry.com) laughed on the cab ride down to the South Street Seaport. 36 oysters… that was going to be easy.
To kick off the fourth annual NYC Food Film Festival, Atlantic Grill, Jimmy’s no. 43, Patron Tequila, Ultimat Vodka, teamed up with the other festival sponsors (The James Beard Foundation, Whole Foods, Edible Manhattan…) to hold The Great New York City Shuck ‘N Suck last night, which featured 4 short films about the bivalves, unlimited cocktails crafted by mixologist Allen Katz, the Shuck N’ Suck contest with local experts, and of course, oysters.
Because we could not enter the actual contest, we decided to compete amongst ourselves. We devised a game-plan that involved a loop beginning with the bar, circling through the oyster selection, then right back to the bar to start all over again. Jamie and I both started with the Green Preservation cocktail with Patron tequila and fresh cucumber (and you thought I would have learned by now how well tequila and oysters mix…), while Stephen started with the vodka-based Watermelon Mint cocktail.
First we tackled some Malpeque Oysters from Prince Edward Island. Sweet and medium-sized, these first few went down incredibly easy. Then there were the Watch Hill oysters from Rhode Island. These were a little larger, and a lot more briney .
We looked on impressed with the speed and apparent ease employees from Jimmy’s no. 43, and the Atlantic Grill, shucked the oysters for the anxious crowd. We never had to wait more than a minute to load up our paper containers with more delicious oysters.
The Beau Soleil oysters from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, were extremely tiny and sweet. These slow-growing oysters were tender, and tasty, and looked at if they would be impossible to open without breaking their delicate shells.
Next there were Widow’s Hole oysters from Greenport, NY, which were featured in a film later in the evening as well as Fanny Bays from British Columbia that were featured in the film, The Perfect Oyster.
By the time we were on our third lap, we switched to the Harpoon Brewery I.P.A, and began to slow down. We realized we had only been down at the Water Taxi Beach for about twenty-minutes, and had already consumed at least a dozen oysters each. We continued on. By the time we got to the last table of Malpeque’s, we were dripping with sweat, brine, and defeat. It became very apparent we were in need of some sustenance, and we had just overheard the last of the Bacon-Wrapped Fried Oysters were gone. We sampled some Roasted jalapeno Peppers, Corn on the Cob, Oyster Grits, and Tuna Tartare on Rice Crackers, but without saying anything, we could tell by the vaguely pained look on each of our faces, it was time to sit down and start counting.
The final count was 22 for me, and I must say, more than a full dozen short of that 3-dozen mark, I was feeling it. As the sun began to set, the oysters continued to be piled up on platters of melting ice cubes, for the hungry crowd. We watched the actual Shuck ‘N Suck contest, where pairs of two professionals (Jimmy Carbone from Jimmy’s no. 43 was in it) shucked, and sucked, 24 oysters as fast as they could. What we did in 30 minutes, they did in approximately 2. Once Carbone was declared the winner, and the audience began to prepare for the films, we decided it was time to get some land food. Though the festival was fun while it lasted, there was a lack of any edibles that would balance a stomach full of raw oysters. And thus, we left, conquered by the tiny mollusk, and ventured elsewhere for a steak.