I think oysters are one of those cuisines categorized by either love or hate; there’s no in between when it comes to these slimy delicacies. While I’ll admit their unappetizing appearance leaves much to be desired, for Jarred and I our affinity for these mollusks runs deep. We bravely [or stupidly] consumed our fair share while living in a landlocked state, but now that fresh oysters are literally available everywhere we knew it was time to intensify our oyster game.
Our initial approach was to order oysters at several local restaurants. While they tasted delectable, continuing to spend $3-$4 per oyster seemed like the surest way to go broke purchasing food while simultaneously retaining empty stomachs. I love me some oysters, but let’s be honest – in isolation they cannot and should not be one’s entire meal. That being said, once we realized oysters could be procured for a dollar a piece at the market we knew shucking was in our near future.
Jarred perused Amazon and purchased an oyster knife, complete with a protective oyster pocket, for the undertaking. Upon its arrival we were armed and finally ready to work for our appetizers; we ventured to the market on September 29th and selected a reasonable two-dozen for our inaugural feast. Apparently adopting the motto “go big or go home.”
We watched several Youtube videos demonstrating the proper technique until we felt confident in our abilities to extract the luscious meat from the shells. It turned out, after shattering several oysters into a million pieces that our confidence was severely misplaced. Unfortunately we had no desire to siphon the minuscule shell particles away from the edible portion and ultimately trashed our first handful. This was the point at which we realized twenty-four oysters may have been a tad over ambitious.
After what seemed like hours we (mainly Jarred) successfully opened four oysters and positioned them on a tray of ice. However, since it was by no means a speedy affair, by the time we decided to reward ourselves with two apiece we were concerned they’d been exposed to the elements for too long; AKA we were too scared to eat them. With our initial reserve greatly diminished, we decided going forth to immediately devour any oysters we could crack. When the fiasco was all said and done, we enjoyed three of the twenty-four oysters purchased. Regardless of how you break it down, roughly 13% is not a successful performance.
On November 29th we attempted shucking our own oysters for the second time. We agreed to substitute optimism for realism on this particular occasion by purchasing a more feasible eight oysters. After learning from our previous failures and analyzing the same YouTube videos once more, we felt qualified to begin.
To label it a smashing success would be a lie. I can truthfully say we improved; however, we still obliterated three out of the eight oysters. Triumphantly consuming 62% of our intended oysters was undeniably progress, but it was equally obvious that our shucking skills remained subpar. Our only option going forward was to seek professional help.
Epic failures plus uneaten oysters led us to enroll in an interactive oyster shucking class at Scout PNW. On the evening of February 5th we trekked through the rain (are you surprised) a couple blocks north eager to begin our education. Honestly, I failed to read the fine print when I reserved our tickets, so I was unprepared for what the night entailed. I had envisioned a simple classroom crammed full of lost shuckers longing to master the skill; in actuality we were escorted through a swanky restaurant and directed to the four reserved seats at the posh bar. Within seconds of being seated my champagne glass was full of sparkling rosé and Jarred received a dark stout. At this point I didn’t know if the night was going to be successful in terms of oyster shucking, but I was confident we were going to enjoy ourselves.
Soon a mother and her adult daughter occupied the remaining two seats and our lesson was underway. Our instructor, Josh, (who I wrongfully assumed was simply a staffed shucker for the restaurant) began his teachings by explaining some of the characteristics of local oysters and then dove into the demonstration. Two things were immediately apparent – 1) He made it look suspiciously simple and 2) Jarred and I had been shucking COMPLETEY wrong. Thanks YouTube (insert eye rolls).
Each pupil was given a dozen oysters and instructed to attempt what we recently learned. Jbabe mastered the task so quickly that within minutes of shucking his twelve oysters, Josh produced a dozen more for Jarred since we still had 40 minutes remaining in the class. It’s okay to voice what we’re all thinking – Jarred’s a showoff. I, on the other hand, took the more “marathon over sprint” approach. By that I mean I could not for the life of me open my first three oysters. I was literally giving it EVERYTHING I possibly could – blood (after stabbing the knife into my left thumb), sweat (I told you I was exerting maximum effort), and honestly I should have been on the verge of tears after my ghastly performance.
Finally, after significant one on one instruction and ultimately switching oyster knives with Josh, I was successful. As we enjoyed the delicious fruits of our labor the five of us drifted into an easy, enjoyable conversation. It became rather evident that our instructor was more than a hired employee especially when he shared a comical story about accidentally boarding a plane in NYC with a kitchen knife he’d just won competing on the show “Knife Fight.” [Spoiler alert: a later Google search confirmed that Josh Anderson is an award winning executive chef and founder of Huxley Wallace Collective. In other words, NOT a staffed oyster shucker.]
The activity that was originally scheduled for an hour carried on much longer as we shut down the restaurant with our two new friends, Clara and Genevieve. During that time we were informed that accommodations could be arranged to continue the evening at The Nest if we so desired. I was a little perplexed by the staff’s need to orchestrate things until Clara informed me that during busy seasons entrance into the upscale rooftop bar could be complex. Apparently it could include a Russian woman on the ground floor telephoning the rooftop on your behalf, paying a $50 cover fee and waiting for several hours before being granted admission. Thankfully a cold, rainy Monday night in February didn’t warrant drastic (or expensive) measures for our party of four.
Jarred and I might not be proficient enough to compete in an oyster shucking contest anytime in the near future, but we know enough to at least open and enjoy our own oysters without obliterating the shells [or my fingers]. I might also add that we walked away from the experience as the proud new owners of two snazzy oyster knives. We plan on putting our recently acquired skills and tools to good use on Valentine’s Day; TBD what our percentage will be.