Oysters on the Pier 2017

“Do not ever, ever, ever in any circumstance let anybody standing near you say that it’s okay to just swallow an oyster. That is never, ever okay. You always chew the oyster. Period. Full stop. No arguments. You can tell I feel strongly about this. And if you ever see somebody, some buttercup somewhere in a big city in a tower just swallowing that d--n thing, just slap them and tell them I told you to.”

Chef Michael Smith, jovially opening the festivities at Oysters on the Pier in Northport, PEI.

Chef Michael Smith and Local Oyster Producers (l-r) Martin O'Brien - Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company, Wyatt Jeffery - Five Star Shellfish Inc., Daryl Smith - Prince Edward Aqua Farms, and Jeff Noye - Valley Pearl Oysters //Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Oysters on the Pier is a series of tastes, not a sit-down event. Guests are greeted with wine and beer samples, as well as seafood chowder appetizers prepared by Mill River Experience.

sparkling white

Sparkling greetings from Mer et Soleil

Chowder tasting

With five local oyster suppliers present and shucking, visitors walk around and hear all of the fine detail that makes each bay and estuary impart its own flavour into the shellfish.

During the oyster reception, chef Michael Smith's passion about chewing your oyster is fortified individually by the producers, with an additional piece of advice. "Oysters are like people, they're way better naked." Jeff Noye, chair of the Tyne Valley Oyster festival and a developing producer, shared as he shucked oysters from Leslie Hardy & Sons of East Bideford.

Matt Smith, who was shucking Howard’s Cove Shellfish Ltd.’s oysters concurred. “All of the oysters from down in the southern United States, they’re still the same species, they’re still c. virginica, but they’re a blander taste. And those grown on the pacific coast, c. gigas which is grown really fast so it’s also a blander taste. Most Americans come up here and think they need a hot sauce or tobasco… or lime or vinegar to give it more flavour. I always tell them to try it without anything first. These ones have a unique taste to experience all by themselves.”

For those who understood and appreciated the ungarnished flavour and were ready to branch out, there were delicate toppings available, including a Nasturtium Chimichurri that brought out a very different flavour profile.

Chef Paul Rogalski // photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Tucked behind the “Learn to shuck your own Oyster” station operated by chef Michael Smith and special guest chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge in Calgary was a very large barbecue station where local chef Nathan Schoenfeldt (Sobeys Extra Stratford) was serving up grilled oysters with a delightful bacon onion jam.

chef Nathan Schoenfeldt and Paulette Waddell at the Sobeys station // photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

In the kitchen, chefs Andrew Nicholson from the Culinary Institute, Brian Stanton, executive chef at Simple Feast Catering and Meal Club and Craig O’Neill from Brothers 2 Restaurant in Summerside were serving up certified island beef grilled flat iron steak with oyster gravy, CMS potato salad & corn on the cob, and grilled chicken thighs with PEI oyster mushroom sauce (supplied by Larkin Bros. Poultry).

sous Craig O'Neill and chef Andrew Nicholson // photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Mitchell Rennie, tourism manager with the North Cape Coastal Tourism Area Partnership Inc. sees the event as a way to attract visitors, and also a great way to educate people on what the western region has to offer. “It helps us to showcase our five regional growers in the area, and it gives people a great reason to visit in September, which is a transition time.”

When asked if there is anything that one should know if considering attending Oysters on the Pier, Rennie advises “Get your tickets early. It’s sold out again this year.”

About Laura Weatherbie

Laura is responsible for the ‘serious’ stuff that goes into publishing, like the money, printing, distribution, policies, YAWN…. Coincidentally, she’s also responsible for any random margin scribbles, scowls, and general gruffness around the Salty environs. Underneath it all though, she’s an affable character with a dry wit, a few West Coast Swing skills, and a cool grey convertible.

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