Several downtown restaurants are out to display that in Frederick, the world is truly their oyster.
They are doing so through the Second Annual Downtown Frederick Oyster Crawl from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Participating restaurants include Ayse Meze Lounge, Brewer’s Alley, Bushwaller’s Pub, Cellar Door Restaurant, Firestone’s Culinary Tavern and Raw Bar, JoJo’s Restaurant and Tap House, Olde Towne Tavern, Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, the Wine Kitchen, and VOLT Restaurant. Each will offer at least two oyster dishes and some will have drink specials as well. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Foundation.
Wade Newman, the co-owner of Shuckin’ Shack, said the festival was the idea of JoJo’s co-owner Joanna Button, who reached out last year to him and other restaurant personnel.
“I immediately thought ‘This is the best idea ever,’” Newman said.
They wanted the festival to be similar to a larger scale event in Baltimore, and Newman said last year’s turnout was “unbelievable.”
The restaurants get their oysters from farms and wild from the water. Newman said they use a combination of both, and typically offer at least four different oysters.
He said the idea that there is an oyster season during colder “R months” is mostly a myth. This comes from the idea that oysters are best when they come from cold water, but Newman said in the Maryland area and north of it, water never really warms up enough to produce bad oysters. The only thing that would ruin oyster quality would be a severe storm or deep freeze, he said.
“We get oysters year-round and don’t have a problem with it,” he said.
Joseph Canlas, the executive chef at Brewer’s Alley, said they are featuring oysters from two different farms: True Chesapeake Oyster Co. in Ridge and War Shore Oyster Co. in Jessup. He said farm-raised oysters allow for more possibilities when it comes to size and flavor in terms of saltiness. They aren’t given any supplements and are monitored daily by oyster farmers.
“With oyster farms we have them all year round because they’re in a more controlled environment,” Canlas said.
Canlas said he personally enjoys oysters raw with cocktail or hot sauce, but he said one of their best sellers is their Buffalo fried oysters. They also make roasted garlic parmesan oysters, cooked in a wood oven.
The biggest mistake Canlas has seen with oysters is overcooking them.
“They’re all shriveled up and dry. All the moisture is evaporated and they don’t look like oysters anymore,” he said.
For the festival they will be featuring raw oysters shucked outside, oyster stew, an oyster po’boy, the fried Buffalo oysters and oysters Rockefeller with spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese and butter.
Shuckin’ Shack will be featuring an oyster stew and new raw oysters that they are bringing in from the West Coast. He said these have a unique taste since they are coming from a completely different body of water.
“They are different, but they are pretty tasty,” Newman said.
In the past he said they have baked, grilled, steamed and fried oysters, as well as serving them in the cocktail form as shooters.