Salty Oysters – Black Salts

Growing up the Mid-Atlantic region – one of my favorite seafood treats is oysters. Fresh shucked on the half shell, please -

  • Eastern Shore Style - With a dash of Malt Vinegar
  • Baltimore Style – With a sprig of lemon and seafood sauce. or
  • N’awleans Style – With some spic hot pepper sauce.

Now there are folks who say the very best oysters come from Maine. I’ve tried them…

And was left decidedly unimpressed.

Chincoteague Fishing Boats

In this region knowlegable folks check where the Oysters were grown, and know that there is a distincitive taste difference between locations.

“Salty” oysters are Sea Side Oysters – grown along the Atlantic Coast back bays which have a high salinity you can taste in the Oyster.

Bay Side (Chesapeake Bay) Oysters are a lot less salty, and have a buttery taste. Indeed, there are distinct taste differences as the growing grounds are further upriver on the various tributaries where the water is less salty.

And for reasons which I don’t know – certain parts of the Chincoteague Bay a few miles north of my place produce really salty oysters. I have grown them, and they taste like Seasides… Maybe because the Ocean is only a mile away on the creek which dumps directly into the ocean – but those grown just a few miles south of Chicoteague are less salty. I have friends who also cultivate them on Oyster Banks, which are artificial reefs.

But the idea of growing a custom Oyster – is a new one on me!

Nomini Creek is a small river off the Potomac, not far from there it empties into the Chesapeake. It is a drop dead gorgeous creek, whose beauty is perhaps only surpassed by the Coan River, a few miles down and entered from he Bay, often used by experienced boaters as a Hurricane hidey hole, not wanting to take a chance entering the Potomac from the Bay at Point Lookout, which can be rough even in good weather at times. I lost two friends whose 36′ boat apparently broke up due to the vicious waves there winter before last.

The other things Oyster do is to clean the water – so more oysters, the cleaner the waters.

Jeff Black to sell his own signature oysters this fall

Bruce Wood already had lured one noted Washington restaurateur to the waters of Nomini Creek, where he began to cultivate signature oysters for Jamie Leeds , chef and owner of the small Hank’s Oyster Bar chain. So why not land another big fish to feast on his Dragon Creeks?

Like Leeds, Jeff Black was intrigued by the prospect of having his own signature oyster, but only “if I could dictate the flavor profile,” says the Houston native who grew up with the bivalves of the Gulf Coast. Black’s preferred flavor profile, I think it’s safe to say, smacks of someone who has made a living in the restaurant business: “I like a lot of salt,” he says.

Salinity, however, is one quality that Wood has in relatively short supply at Nomini Creek. His leased waters boast a relatively low salinity level, at about 12-13 parts per thousand or ppt. For the sake of comparison, seawater usually hovers around 34-35 ppt. Black would prefer to slurp down something closer in flavor to Gulf water, not pasta water.

Wood had a solution: He is also a partner with Dan Grosse at Toby Island Bay Oysters, located on Chincoteague Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where the waters are a virtual saltmine at 29-30 ppt. They would begin to farm Black’s signature oyster there.

Thus was born the Black Pearl, due to hit the oyster bars this fall atBlackSaltPearl Dive Oyster PalaceBlack Jack and Black’s Bar & Kitchen.

Then, a funny thing happened: Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxtonfrom Rappahannock River Oysters contacted Black and said they’d like to grow an oyster for the “Don’t Call Me an Empire Builder” restaurateur as well. Continue reading

Godzilla Tuna Alert!

Yeah – They get this big!

Post WWII as the Japanese Film industry developed in the ruins of wartime destruction - the “radioactive monster” meme became a mainstay of the industry by 1954. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gidorah were all derived in part, if not whole from the radioactivity unleashed from the two atomic bobs dropped on Japan during the war. The movies were hugely popular and even made it into the American market spawning American imitation – where they became embedded in the national psyche. Indeed, the last two Godzilla movies have been American productions with the Monster attacking New York City.

So what do we make of the fact that Tuna which have been radiated by the leaks at the Fukishima reactor damaged by the Tidal wave which hit Japan last year have reached the West Coast of America?

Tuna-zilla anyone? Or Sushi which glows in the dark?

Let’s hope the fear of radioactive Sushi cuts back on the over-fishing of the magnificent fish by the Japanese fleet.

Radioactive bluefin tuna crossed Pacific to U.S.

Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

“We were frankly kind of startled,” said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that’s still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors. Continue reading

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