Recently I spent a week vacationing on Prince Edward Island, home to some of the best shellfish I have ever tasted. We biked, took afternoon naps on windy beaches, visited lighthouses, and ate oysters and scallops like movie popcorn. I have lots of scrumptious news to report, starting with Colville Bay Oysters.
During our first night on PEI, after an eleven hour drive from Manchestah, NH, we rolled into Charlottetown, hungry and haggard. Our first stop on PEI was Flex Mussels, where we slurped a dozen oysters and some local beer from Gahan Brewery. We tried three varieties of oysters: Colville Bay, Raspberry Point, and Carr's. All were good, but I liked Colville Bay the best because they tasted light, fresh, salty, and ended with a floral zing. The Carr’s was too mild and the Raspberry Point lacked the cleanness the Colville Bay delivered. Um, p.s., I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I sure do like oysters.
We chatted a while with the oyster shucker, Robert Prendergast, who is the champion oyster shucker on the island (although he described himself as a champion oyster eater). He recommended that we drive to Souris and pick up a few dozen Colville Bay Oysters straight from the source. It's important to heed any advice from locals, especially local oyster experts, so we headed to Souris the next day.
We found Colville Bay Oyster Company at 83 Lower Rollo Bay in a residential neighborhood on the Souris River. I imagined a big processing plant. Instead, we found three oyster men in a small, gray-shingled oyster shack, sifting through the day’s catch. They were as delighted to see us, as we were to see them. It was clear that being an oysterman is hard work. They start their day at 5 am and end around 5 pm. So make a toast to oystermen the next time you slurp a few.
This guy here confessed that he was not an oyster lover, having tried only four or five in his lifetime. He was great to talk to, explaining how they cultivated oysters in the bay. Here's what I learned:
Coleville Bay Oysters are hand cultivated and packed; the three guys at the shack were sorting oysters, picking the best and leaving the rest. Because oyster farming (or cultivation as everyone seems to prefer calling it) does not require feeding (the oysters eat the nutrients in the bay) it doesn't lead to polluted waters like salmon or shrimp farms do. Even better, unlike lobsters or other shellfish, oysters grow like vegetable gardens: they are cared for by a gardener--or in this case, an oysterman--who is invested in the sustainability of their crop. However, while zucchini takes only a few months to grow, oysters grown on PEI take four to seven years because of the cold waters.
The trip to Colville Bay Oysters was a treat. Just seeing where they came from and the people behind it made me cherish each slurp all the more. Not to mention that the night before as the restaurant we paid $30 for a dozen oysters. At Colville Bay, we bought two dozen oysters at $8 a dozen. These oysters were the freshest I had ever tasted and were the cheapest, another advantage of going straight to the source.
More Prince Edward Island soon.