Charm City Cook: Skinny Dipping
Okay, no, I have never actually skinny dipped. Sadly, I’m a rule follower. Youngest of six…my parents were so tired by the time I came around, I really could have been bad. But I wasn’t. Must’ve been that Catholic guilt.
The skinny dipping I’m writing about has to do with delicious oysters. The “Skinny Dipper” is a locally sourced oyster farmed by True Chesapeake Oyster Company down in St. Mary’s County on the St. Jerome Creek. This spot is idyllic to say the very least.
They’ve been farming oysters there for about three years and finally, they are ready for the world…well, at least Baltimore for now. The farmer, Patrick Hudson, is a Baltimore native (#golocal), and as it turns out, a friend of a dear friend of mine (#smalltimore).
And they have a mascot. Honey, the retriever. She loves chewing on oyster shells.
When they invited me down to Ryleigh’s Oyster for a tasting of True Chesapeake oysters, I jumped at the chance. Oysters are one of my most favorite, favorite things. We have some great oyster bars in town – Ryleigh’s and Thames Street Oyster House are two of the best. And many local restaurants serve oysters, of course. Earlier this spring I had some very good ones at PABU and Corner BYOB. And the Hon Bar serves them on Fridays at Happy Hour. I haven’t been to the Hon for oysters lately, but I used to love to see champion shucker George Hastings there serving them up when the Friday tradition first started. What a nice man!
Oh, and I asked about the whole thing about only eating oysters in months with the letter R in them. That goes back to the days before refrigeration and in the warmer months (May, June, July August) when it was a little sketch to eat oysters that had not been kept cold. So, rest assured, unless there is a widespread power outage, it’s perfectly okay to eat oysters every month of the year. Thanks, True Chesapeake guys, for teaching me something that allows me to eat oysters all the time.
At the tasting, the True Chesapeake guys suggested that I try their Skinny Dipper oyster sans sauce. Naked! I don’t think I’ve every eaten an oyster without cocktail sauce, hot sauce, mignonette sauce…or something. But I knew I was in good hands between Patrick and his True Chesapeake colleagues and Ryleigh’s chef Patrick Morrow all sitting around the table. And, for the first time, I totally slurped it. Slurped it! It was so, so good. A little sweet, a little salty and unbelievably fresh and bright. It didn’t need anything added. Not more salt, not a sauce, nothing. And we washed them down with a nice cold Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (deeelish.) After I tried them naked, I did add a little cocktail sauce just to see what the taste was like, and yes, it was good that way, too! And the day after the tasting, the Skinny Dipper oyster made its worldwide debut as the preferred oyster of the Preakness Stakes. Very exciting times for these guys!
One main difference in the True Chesapeake oysters is that they don’t salt their oysters. Many larger oyster producers move their oysters from the place where they are farmed (many times in smaller bodies of water) to the Chincoteague Bay or even to large tanks of salted water. So many people want salty oysters. I used to be one of those people, but now I like the taste of the Skinny Dipper oyster. It’s clean and fresh – the way an oyster is supposed to taste. For good measure, I also will mix a tad bit saltier oysters on a platter when I have them out next time. Just to keep it interesting…
Avery Pearl oysters at Ryleigh’s
Soft crabs at Ryleigh’s Oyster
Oyster Stew at Wit & Wisdom
Oysters at Woodberry Kitchen
If you get to these cities, visit these oyster bars!
Where else do you like to enjoy oysters?