Oysters…in most people they ellicit one of two responses, love them or ick!  I fell madly in love with my first Oyster in Charleston, SC at a restaurant called Bowen’s Island, where all-you-can-eat steamed oysters are served by the shovelful.  If you’re in Charleston, the directions are easy: drive towards Folly Beach and turn right on the road right after the Boat. (Now if you have ever driven from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach, you know about the boat perched on the side of the road.)  After turning right, you follow the road to the end where you will find a low wooden building surrounded by huge piles of oyster shells.

Of course, now that we live in Nashville our opportunities for fresh oysters to throw on a grill are a little more slim.  So imagine our delight when we found a fire pit in the backyard of a rental house in Florida.  A few weeks ago, H and I joined nine other friends for a week of beach bumming and general relaxation in Florida.  We rented a house about a block from the beach with a pool in the backyard…and of course, the previously mentioned fire pit.  Within seconds of stepping into the backyard, H and I both noticed the fire pit and with that we both started strategizing how we were going to replicate the Bowen’s Island oysters on our assigned dinner night.  The fire pit demanded oysters and we happily planned to oblige.

Of course, roasting the oysters would not be the hard part, but seeing as it was July, we were both a little worried about finding fresh, local oysters in the shell.   At Bowen’s Island, the degree to which the oysters were cooked varied greatly.  Some were smokey and well done, while others were practically raw.  I love them either way, but since it was not oyster time of year, I was a little worried about someone getting sick.  (Many believe that oysters should only be consumed raw in months with an R, so basically anytime except between May and August.)  The last thing I wanted on the third night of our trip was to give people food poisoning.

As Tuesday night rolled around, H and I went to pick up the fish for our fish tacos (I promise to post on these soon because they were off the charts!).  At Goatfeathers Seafood Market in Blue Mountain Beach, we asked about the oysters, were they local?…yes. how fresh are they?…caught this morning. if given the option, would you eat them raw right now?…yes. With that said, H and I picked up a 22 pound box of Apalachicola oysters, 2 bags of Charcoal, and an oyster knife.

Apalachicola oysters come from Apalachicola Bay in Florida.  According to a June 2002 article in the New York Times, Chefs tend to prefer them because of their larger size and more “mellow” flavor. I have to agree, they are not terribly salty and they are almost always quite large in size.  Once home, H built a large fire and poured the box out onto the grate.  He then spend the next 20 minutes stirring the oysters in the hopes of evenly cooking them.  After a careful removal process, we sat down to an oyster feast.  All 22 pounds were gone within 20 minutes.  While some slathered their treasures in cocktail sauce,  I just popped mine in my mouth and savored one of the glories of coastal living.

Roasted Oysters

2 bags Charcoal or enough to cover the areas with hot coals
22 pounds of Oysters
dish cloths and oyster knives for each person

Get a nice hot set of coals and pour oysters onto a grate right above them.  Try to evenly distribute the oysters so they cook fairly evenly.  Let cook until they start popping open.   Pour onto a table and enjoy.

NOTE:  The easiest way to open an oyster shell is to the insert the oyster knife at the hinge of the shell and pop it.  Once you pop the hinge, it is much easier and safer to get the oyster out.

Advertisements

Saturday morning, H, our friends Bentina, and I ventured off to one of our favorite restaurants, Hominy Grill. There are times when all I think about is a hot plate of shrimp and grits, and the shrimp and grits from hominy grill are about as close to perfection as you can get. The flavors are simple, Shrimp, Bacon, Green Onions, Mushrooms, Cheese Grits, and a spritz of lemon. Nothing is over sauced or too buttery. Just perfect comforting food…mmmmm!

Of course, a meal at Hominy Grill is not complete without some fried green tomatoes. Now, if you are not a shrimp and grits fanatic like me, the Fried Green Tomato BLT is my second favorite thing on the menu. I think fried green tomatoes are the greatest southern food discovery I ever made. I really love them, not just a lustful love, but more of a long lost soul mate love.

If you are in Charleston, stop by Hominy Grill for an amazing brunch destined to get your day started off right. Love on the food and let it make you whole.

I spent part of one very hot and humid summer living and interning in Charleston, SC. It was the first time I had ever been to a coastal southern city, but the minute I arrived I knew that this place was what I had always imagined a southern city to be. I grew up in California, but watched hours and hours of Gone with the Wind, so the beach and Spanish Moss (along with hoops skirts and parasols) always figured prominently in my mind.

That summer in Charleston, I fell in love with the city. Even now when I talk about Charleston, I feel a little like Carrie Bradshaw and the SATC episode “I Heart NY.” It is hot and feisty, but when one is left to wander downtown to a great restaurant, head off to the beach right after work, or pop into a boutique to drool over a fabulous outfit, it is hard not to be enchanted. (Unlike Carrie, money did not magically appear in my wallet to afford a pair of fabulous shoes…but if it had, I would have been well prepared to use it.)

The next year when I graduated from college, I knew exactly where I wanted to plant myself. So I packed my boxes into my 15 year old silver Saab named Rosie and moved there permanently. I guess permanently was a bit premature because 12 months later, I packed up my life again and moved to foodie heaven, aka New Orleans.

However, Charleston was the first city I really “ate my way through,” and when I go back it is like I never left. The minute I step off the plane, my stomach growls like I am in my mother’s kitchen. There is nothing quite like knowing exactly what I can get myself into in a weekend.

So this year, H and I got our act together and coordinated a trip to Charleston to visit our very good friends Bentina. (Yes, like the illustrious couples before them -Bennifer, TomKat, and Brangelia- Bentina acquired their name first as a joke, but like the others it stuck.) H and I also timed our trip to include a small sampling from the Spoleto Festival USA, a couple of trips to the beach, and lots of fantastic meals.

Our Saturday was spent preparing for our dinner, full of fresh veggies from the Charleston Farmer’s Market at Marion Square. Bentina shared a fantastic marinade recipe, which they used on some shrimp. Heavy on the garlic, but not overwhelming when it came off the grill. Along with a couple bottles of wine, some grilled veggies, and a cold tomato and cucumber salad, we enjoyed a fabulous feast.

Bentina’s Never Fail Shrimp Marinade
1 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup White Wine
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano
1 Teaspoon Salt

Mix all ingredients together. Will easily marinade 2 pounds of shrimp. Bentina also use this marinade for Chicken and I personally think it would work for lamb as well.