I've had them three times now: perfect, meaty, clean, oceany morsels that feel like silk in my mouth. The first time was a fortuitous recommendation from the staff at Billy's in Thomaston (
). I quickly downed half a dozen. The second offense was there again, when I dragged my mother - who I knew would love their small size and inoffensive but distinct ocean flavor - along for a taste.
I was right. We each downed another half dozen. And then, last Sunday at $1 oyster night at Primo
(after 8:00 p.m.), I couldn't resist a full dozen, topped with a vinegary mignonette and a dash of fresh lemon juice. The Prosecco was a nice finishing touch, but the oysters were the main event.
They were so good, in fact, that I decided I had to go to the source. I had to discover the terroir that births these little bites of Maine heaven.
So I traveled to Gay Island at the tip of Pleasant Point in Cushing. Barrett and Tara Lynde met me near the dock. A mother and son team, they harvest all the oysters by hand - four hands cultivating oysters in Maine. They sky was gray and thickening, but we jumped in the boat and slowly rounded the corner to their floating farm on the western side of Gay Island.
One of the reasons Gay Island Oysters
taste as good as they do is that they are cultivated on the surface in mesh bags. While most oyster farms can be found on the bottom of the ocean, sedentary and dark (harvested by raking the muddy bottom), these oysters were bouncing like buoys on the surface. Barrett explained that the constant movement and good tidal flow means more battering against each other and fresher water, which translates into deeper cups, narrower shells, and a cleaner taste. These oysters grow for three years or so, starting out in calmer, less salty waters up the Meduncook River, a short boat ride away, and then remain between Gay and Morse islands for two more years.
Barrett and his mom want to stay small so that the quality of the taste can remain high. The only problem for us oyster lovers is it's difficult to find the oysters. Make the effort. You'll be glad you did. Billy's and Primo
serve them. Or you can buy them directly from the farm, if you'd like. Call (207) 691-4507 or in the summer just pull up to their dock. You'll find a bucket of oysters and a bucket for money. $1 a pop on the honor system.