Nothing smells more of summer’s approach than some freshly shucked oysters and a cold draft beer outside. Although it wasn’t the warmest of spring days this past Saturday, the sound of the cracking shells, and brew filling an abundance of plastic cups, was enough to mask the brisk air outside. It was the South Street Seaport Oyster Saloon at the New Amsterdam Market, and the energy was overflowing with oyster lovers.

Arriving just before the call time of 5pm, my friend and I were lucky to snag a good spot at one of the high top tables. It was hard to believe that this small patch of pavement under the bustling FDR drive was transformed into an oyster paradise. At one end were multiple kegs of beer, courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point Brewery and Barrier Brewing Company. We began with the Six Points Harbinger, a great accompaniment to the many many oysters we were about to consume. The space divided in half, with cooked oyster dishes on one side and an array of shucking stations on other, we decided to work backwards and start with the cooked ones. It was quite cold outside, and what better way to warm up than with April Bloomfield’s Pan Roast. The delicate creamy broth with two poached oysters and crispy toast was just as good prepared outdoors as we’ve tasted from her John Dory Oyster Bar kitchen. Now it was onto the fried stuff, the Oyster Po Boys from Neuman’s Catering and Fried Oysters from Bobo. We liked the condiments of the Po Boy Sandwich, but were fonder of Bobo’s frying job. The Oyster Omelete courtesy of Kumma Inn, an old time favorite of mine, was not as good as their Chinese Sausage (I dream about this dish sometimes), but definitely an interesting take on the egg/bivalve combo. Luke’s Lobster Charcoal Grilled Oysters were warm and cuddly, with enough flavor to bring out the oyster and Great Performances offered a rather different than typical approach to the Oyster Rockefeller. We cleansed our palates with the buttered bread courtesy of Sullivan Street Bakery, grabbed another beer, and were ready to take on the fourteen varieties of Oysters on the other side.

Having heard so much about the Effingham Oysters, there was no question that we would be starting on that end of the line (which we soon realized was the wrong side-oops). A fantastic refreshing oyster, I hope it makes more appearances at my favorite seafood joints in the city.  The eight types from the Chesapeake region were largest in size, all similar in taste and refreshing. The Cape May Salts from Delaware Bay were a favorite of the night, and we used our last two tickets for a second helping. Unfortunately with the lines quite long, and the air getting only colder, we didn’t have a chance to visit the Rhode Island stands, and taste the Quonset Points. I guess they and us will have to make a reappearance next year!

Sad to leave all the shucking behind, we shivered out with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and ginger cake from Blue Bottle Coffee. What a great way to kick off the Oyster Festival Season!

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