The Virginia Oyster Revival

The Virginia Oyster Revival

Been looking for something different to do on the weekends? We recommend the Oyster Roast at The George Washington Hotel – happening every Friday night! From 6 to 8 pm on their Sundowner Patio weather permitting or in the restaurant, you can enjoy awesome oysters and of course, fabulous drinks to go along with!

Most people either love or hate oysters, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, chances are you are not likely to try them. Truth is, oysters are delicious! They are versatile, they are unique, and there are so many different kinds worth trying. So many varieties of oysters are raised right here in Virginia, meaning we have access to some of the freshest and most delicious ones!

Virginia is the Oyster Capital of the east coast and a national favorite.  Virginia is also the largest producer of fresh wild-catch oysters and farm-raised oysters in the country.  Due to the eight distinct oyster regions in the state, there is a great tasting oyster for everyone.  The Virginia Oyster Trail celebrates the watermen and the oysters our state’s water gives to us throughout the year.  Hitting local restaurants, oyster farms, seafood companies, state parks, and more all throughout the coast and indulging in the tastes of the eight different regions.

The resurgence of the Virginia Oyster is still somewhat new.  Between the population and pollution increases in the last century, the oysters in the Chesapeake Bay were greatly affected, which is one of the main areas to raise oysters.  Only in the past couple decades has the Chesapeake Bay been cleaned and refurbished for the oysters to once again grow into the decadent oysters they once were. Since oysters naturally filter the water they are in, the rebirth of this industry has also helped clean the Chesapeake Bay and keep it clean for more oysters and others to grow in the water.  The oysters are now thriving and being served throughout the east coast.

Along with the oyster renaissance, there has been one with Virginia Scallops too.  Scallops were prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay up until 1933 when a super hurricane wiped out all of the eelgrass habitat the scallops need to live.  Within the past decade there has been a movement to regrow this eelgrass habitat.  It is still early in the rebuilding of the Virginia Scallops but if the Virginia Scallops become as popular as the oysters that could boost the Virginia economy since scallops sell for a lot more per pound than oysters.

We were curious about why Chef John Lawrence, from George’s Food and Spirits, chose to work so closely with oysters.  Here’s what he had to say, “I would start with simplicity, the basic shucked oyster stands by itself. Everything you wanted to know about it is sitting in that shell. The Merroir, the taste and texture of the oyster, allows you to understand the subtle complexities of the region that the oysters were raised. Salinity, metallic, sweet and earthy are revealed in one simple little package.”

The merroir refers to the oyster differences the same way terroir does for wine. The taste comes from the eight distinct oyster regions of Virginia.  All of the oysters are raised the same but due to the varying levels of water salinity, minerals, and other environmental characteristics the salinity, creaminess, and sweetness of the oysters from each region can differ.  While on the Virginia Oyster Trail you can try all the different regions oysters to find what you like best.

With the recent introduction of aquaculture techniques and oyster farming or harvesting, oysters can now be enjoyed year round.  Wild oysters typically cannot be enjoyed during the summer because they have just finished spawning which causes them to be poor quality tasting if harvested at that time.  Now with oyster farming, aquamen are able to raise Triploid Oysters year round in cages or in private reefs to keep up with oyster demand in the summer.  With the help of culture techniques and disease resistant oyster seed these Triploid Oysters are able to grow fast and sterile to be enjoyed year round.

Taste of Blue Ridge’s upcoming Root to Table event will feature tons of amazing food and talented chefs. Chef Lawrence will be there and, you guessed it, he will be preparing some truly wonderful Baked Rappahannock Oysters! If you loved the weekly Oyster Roast, you will love this event as well! Tickets are on sale now – you can purchase tickets and find more information here.  Make sure you’re following@tasteofblueridge on Instagram – we are posting daily updates and behind-the-scenes images to show you more about this remarkable culinary community!

The Oyster Roasts are only $20 per person which includes a draft beer or glass of house wine, and are open to all.  You can delight in your choice of either one draft beer pint, or a glass of the house wine, and up to two dozen freshly shucked and roasted VA oysters. You can even purchase more roasted oysters at $12 per dozen, because we both know you’ll be longing for more! Follow The George Washington Hotel on Facebook to keep up with the roasts and all other events.