What began five years ago as a stunt for journalists has turned into one of the most sought-after food excursions in the region, curated by Taylor Shellfish Farms. Here's how it came about.
The time has come, said Cornichon,Okay, so it doesn't quite rhyme. And you have to know your "Alice Through the Looking Glass" to remember that "The Walrus and the Carpenter" is a Lewis Carroll nonsense poem about two unlikely buddies who invite a bunch of oysters to their midnight picnic...and eat them. Mind you, all this began in 2008, well before Renée Erickson opened her excellent, oyster-centric restaurant with a very similar name.
For bivalves on the beach:
The moon is full, the tide is out...
We'll have an oyster feast!
Cornichon's notes from previous winter nights on the beach follow:
Oyster guru Jon Rowley leads an expedition of intrepid foodies from Seattle to the Taylor Shellfish oyster beds on Totten Inlet in the South Sound. Full moon, extreme low tide, f-f-f-reezing temperatures, and all the oysters one could gather, shuck and eat. A bonfire to keep body and soul together. Fresh-off-the-beach bivalves, notably Totten Inlet Virginicas, Pacifics and the thumbnail-size Olympias. Oyster-friendly wines, too,
"The best oysters you'll ever taste," Rowley had promised. "A benchmark oyster experience." No kidding. Oh frabjous day, oh frabjous (freezing) night!
It's normally a one-lane track from forest to shore along Totten Inlet, but under the full moon and extreme low tide, there's a couple hundred yards between the treeline and the water's edge. Underfoot, it's all wet sand and oyster shells. Behind us, wearing LED headlamps, a work crew is picking oysters out of the ground, first into plastic buckets, then into 20-bushel wire cages.
"Here, let me open a couple for you," says an oysterman who appears out of the blackness, one of a dozen Taylor Shellfish employees who've come out for this periodic moonlight picnic. He reaches down and plucks a couple of shells from the sand, trots down to water's edge to rinse them, and returns, shucker's knife in hand. Seconds later, we're slurping the Virginicas, firm and icy-cold.
It's the oyster to end all oysters, the picnic to end all picnics, even if the participants did freeze their asses off.
Taylor Shellfish Farms will open its Totten Inlet oyster beds to the public for a couple of full-moon, low-tide beach picnics with unlimited oysters, wine and Xinh Dwelley's oyster stew on Tuesday, January 8th and Thursday, February 7th. Tickets (including round trip transportation from Seattle) are $125 and benefit the Puget Sound Restoration Fund via Brown Paper Tickets