Brooklyn Is Rioting for Oysters

Got oysters? Brooklyn does.

Got oysters? Brooklyn does. In fact, while New York City prepares for the third annual New York Oyster Week, this year marks the first time that a main event is being held in Brooklyn.

On Wednesday, September 11, Brooklyn Oyster Riot will kick off New York Oyster Week at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Modeled after the legendary Old Ebbitt Oyster Riot in Washington, D.C., this event will feature tastings of some of the world’s best oysters composed seafood dishes, carefully selected wine pairings and a Blue Point Oyster Stout brewed exclusively for Oyster Week.

Photo by Lindsay Morris

Photo by Lindsay Morris

The Brooklyn Oyster Riot is distinguished not only by its location, but also because oyster farmers will be there in person to shuck oysters and interact with guests who want to know more about this noble profession.

While not everyone pictures a salty fisherman (or woman) when they think of a farmer, oyster farmers are no less involved with the product that they harvest. According to Mike Martinsen, one half of the duo that founded and operates Montauk Shellfish Company, an oyster farmer, unlike a land farmer, is “connected to the tides. “ Martinsen (who grows Montauk Pearls) made the point that those who work in aquaculture might also be at higher risk.  As Hurricane Sandy blew her way into Long Island in 2010, Martinsen and his partner Mike Doall spent three days and nights in the water attempting to bring in 3,500 bags containing growing oysters that would have otherwise been destroyed. The wind was blowing at 70 mph and the men were surrounded by white water that had picked up into a squall. For the love of an oyster, indeed.

So why are oysters so prized and beloved? For one thing they are an exceptionally delicious and healthy food. For another, they are quite possibly one of the most sustainable food items around. As oysters grow, they feed off the algae, nitrogen and carbon in the sea — a process which filters and clarifies the water. As another bonus, oyster production is a “win win proposition” according to Doall because the industry also creates jobs.

Photo courtesy of the Montauk Shellfish Company

Photo courtesy of the Montauk Shellfish Company

Both men will be at Brooklyn Oyster Riot, shucking away and mingling with guests.  Doall says he loves the opportunity to engage with curious oyster eaters because it is a chance to spread the message of a local and completely sustainable food. Martinsen feels the same, adding that it is an  “honor and a privilege to be able to bring awareness to the public and to help awaken the people to the need for reducing on our mother, the Earth, and the innocence of the wild.”

Kevin Joseph, the co-founder of New York Oyster Week, said that Brooklyn was an ideal place to launch the week because, “people in Brooklyn are interested in finding out where there food comes from; how it’s produced and where it’s produced.”

As for the oyster farmers, Joseph said,  “I think they’re heroes; they are growing food in a sustainable way and protecting our Earth.” I’ll drink to that, especially with a perfectly paired oyster.

To learn more about Brooklyn Oyster Riot on September 11 and purchase tickets, visit their website.

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Sari Kamin

Sari Kamin is a food writer and ethnographer with a focus on the intersection between food and culture. She is a regular contributor to Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. Sari is the co-host of 'The Morning After,' a weekly radio show on HeritageRadioNetwork.Org. Sari holds an MA in Food Studies from NYU. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.