The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - When it comes to oysters, Severn Inn customers want them local, and they want them salty.
Chef Philip Sokolowski has tried to meet that need, most recently providing oysters that come from the Chesapeake Bay by way of Virginia. Through War Shore Oyster Company, the restaurant provides oyster platters made up of the company's salty Battle Creek oyster, and the Oyster Severn Inn, which is made with the milder Pungoteague Creek oyster.
"It's been going really good, people love them," said Sokolowski, who began working with the company in December. "The two questions we always get are, what's most local, and what's the saltiest? This fits both."
The Severn Inn is among a handful of Annapolis restaurants that business partners Brad Blymier and Dave Svec have been supplying on a biweekly basis. They believe in the farm-to-table model, getting their farm-raised oysters to their destinations as quickly as possible. That is why they work in a specific geographic location that includes northern Virginia and the downtown areas of Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
War Shore recently teamed up with the Alexandria, Va.-based Port City Brewing Company to create to produce a special edition beer, which will be available in April. A portion of the proceeds from the Revival Stout _ which is made by steeping oyster shells in the brewing water _ will go toward the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Located in Annapolis, the nonprofit organization aims to revive the bay's oyster population.
The company's Annapolis contingent is growing. It makes regular deliveries to the Severn Inn and Cantler's Riverside Inn, as well as providing oysters to Whole Foods and Annapolis Seafood Market. Next month, Blymier and Svec will be at the Annapolis Maritime Museum's annual oyster roast.
"We can get them to the restaurant within five hours," said Blymier, who lives in Annapolis and runs the business full-time. Svec lives in Alexandria, Va. "It's different than what it was 10, 15 years ago. People are really developing a taste for oyster and their different components."
Oysters are filter feeders that cleanse the water and serve as a link to the aquatic food chain. Oyster farming has been used as a key component in the state's efforts to boost aquaculture. Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Natural Resources established a joint permit process for potential oyster farmers. Still, Maryland has long lagged behind Virginia in the effort.
Childhood friends Blymier and Svec had discussed growing oysters, but they needed land that gave them access to the bay. Coincidentally, Svec's father, Charlie, had duck-hunting property on Virginia's Eastern Shore. They were able to use the 13 acres of waterfront property, and got their start in 2009.
Blymier and Svec start out with seeds the size of a dime and place them in grow bags to protect them from predators. They are then put inside cages that are placed at the bottom of the bay. During this cycle, they turn the cages three times to help break off the shell. It takes 12 to 15 months for the oysters to reach market size.
Blymier makes his oyster deliveries weekly, heading into Washington and Northern Virginia on the first and third weeks of the month and traveling to Annapolis and Baltimore over the second and third weeks. Each restaurant buys 100-count bags, averaging about 600 to 1,500 oysters monthly. Blymier declined to detail pricing information.
At Cantler's, the staff offers both the Battle Creek and Pungoteague oysters on a platter. They serve the Pungoteague on a half shell, raw. So far, the customers have liked both flavors.
"They can tell the difference (between the oysters)," Cantler's manager Bruce Whalen said. "But people who like oysters definitely like the salty ones."
At the Severn Inn, Battle Creek is also offered on a platter, while Sokolowski gets creative with the Pungoteague oyster. He makes it with Irish bacon, scotch, butter and salt and pepper.
"A lot of chefs use the Pungoteague because it has a milder salinity level and can bring out other components," Blymier said, also disputing the myth that oysters should only be eaten in later months. "We're finding that they are more popular in the summer than in the fall."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
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