Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oy Bay!

In the middle of all the crappy precip we had at the end of February/early March, the freezing rain and snow, we had a bright spot. Oh, it was raining most of the day on that particular Wednesday, March 4th, but the streets weren't icy for a brief shining moment, allowing us to participate in a lovely dinner at Clementine.

All dinners at Clementine are lovely, of course, but this one especially so as it featured oysters. Chesapeake Bay oysters, from Barren Island Oysters on Hoopers Island, to be exact. Five courses of oysters plus a non-oyster dessert, each paired with both beer from Flying Dog and wine from Boordy. Does it get much better than that?

I think not.
Barren Island oysters on the half shell, served with blood orange lemongrass mignonette
and chile and garlic sauerkraut. Paired with Bloodline Blood Orange Ale and
2014 Sauvignon Blanc 
Barren Island oysters are plump and buttery, and some of the best locally raised oysters we've tried. They were delicious served raw, particularly with the sprightly blood orange lemongrass mignonette. They were aptly paired with Flying Dog's Bloodline, an ale flavored with blood orange, and Boordy's 2014 Sauvignon Blanc.

Next up, the oysters were lightly pickled and served with a beet salad. I must admit I was skeptical about the concept of a pickled oyster, but I needn't have been. A pickled oyster isn't that far different from a raw oyster dosed with mignonette, and their briny sweet-tart quality matched remarkably well with the earthiness of the beets. A pescetarian surf and turf, if you will.

Pickled oyster salad with arugula, beets three ways, and apple horseradish vinaigrette
paired with Supertramp Tart Cherry Ale and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
We then had a lovely oyster stew with bits of bacon and small chunks of potato, paired with Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace oyster stout. This beer is brewed with Rappahanock River oysters, but they don't really add any flavor. Pearl Necklace drinks like any fine stout, with lovely dark roasty coffee-like flavors and a buttery finish. Proceeds from the sale of the beer benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a fine cause.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership, or ORP, has planted over five billion new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters are not just a tasty food source, they're also nature's filters, cleaning about 50 gallons of water per day. That's per oyster. The more oysters, the cleaner the Bay. The cleaner the Bay, the more it becomes a better habitat for the marine life for which it is famous.

If you'd like to help the ORP rebuild both the oyster population and oyster reefs, check out their site at, sign up for their newsletter, and buy a t-shirt or make a donation.

Oyster stew with bacon, smoked hummingbird tomato, and potato,
paired with Pearl Necklace oyster stout and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
The stew was followed by a double main course. The Roseda hanger steak was absolutely perfectly cooked and seasoned, and there was a lovely touch of anise flavor from the Pernod. A softness of barely cooked oysters added a nice textural contrast to the beef.

Carpetbagger steak: Roseda hanger steak with oysters, spinach, tarragon, and
tamarind, and oyster liquor- and Pernod-poached and roasted fingerlings, paired with Gonzo
Imperial Porter and 2012 Merlot Reserve
It's probably a bit shocking to admit that neither Mr Minx nor I have ever eaten oyster stuffing, but it's true. But now that we've had the delicious oyster and roasted fennel stuffing in the delightful quail dish, we're going to make it for Thanksgiving. If we could get everyone to eat quail, heck, we'd make this entire dish for Thanksgiving. The squash and brussels sprout gratin was especially delicious.

Roasted quail with oyster and roasted fennel stuffing, cranberry apple gremolata, and
brussels sprout, butternut, and maple gratin, paired with Lucky SOB Irish red
and 2012 Cabernet Franc
After stuffing ourselves on oysters, we went on to a oyster-free dessert course. I went for the coconut cream tart, and Mr Minx had the fig and sesame tart. I thought the coriander and cardamom flavors were a bit too subtle in the coconut tart, but the coconut cream itself was rich yet light and despite being quite full of food and beer, I finished it. The fig and sesame tart was as earthy as mine was ethereal, but maybe a bit too heavy after all of the food we had consumed. Delicious nonetheless.

Coconut cream tart with coriander and cardamom, paired with Hefeweizen and Veritas Ruby Port
Fig and sesame tart with clementine gastrique and mild chocolate chile sauce
paired with Horn Dog Barleywine and Veritas Ruby Port
Gotta say, that was probably the best meal we've had at Clementine yet, and we've had a few. The food was terrific, service was great, and we learned more about a great cause that's near and dear to our hearts.

For more information on the situation of Chesapeake Bay oysters and restoration and farming efforts, check out this article at Food Republic. And stay tuned--there will be more from us on the subject of oysters in the not too distant future.

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