It’s really an experience, eating oysters … they are cool and soft and taste like the sea. Delicate morsels to be savored. Occasionally I will squirt some fresh lemon on one, but I tend to be a purist when it comes to oysters. For me, they are the perfect food – nourishing and decadent with the scent and taste of the sea (or estuary, as in the case of the Damariscotta River).
So, when I heard there was an oyster bar at Boothbay Craft Brewery I had to go there. And so must you. Thanks to Lori, Winn and Cody Mitchell for bringing Brother Shucker to their already rockin’ lineup of delicious craft beers, BBQ, and the farm-to-table wood-fired menu in the Taphouse. And the outdoor space is gorgeous with outdoor games like cornhole set up and waiting for you.
I learned about the oyster bar through Zak Kuras, co-owner of Brother Shucker with his brother Hudson. He contacted me about it after the Pen Bay Pilot article about the Brother Shucker food truck up Rockport Harbor way a few weeks back. The name sounded familiar, Brother Shucker, and then I remembered: the brothers Kuras were in Wiscasset last year with a food truck over on Railroad Avenue. You might have sampled some of the eight to 12 different locally farmed oysters they serve during one of the Wiscasset Art Walks?
Brother Shucker also started coming to Boothbay Craft Brewery in July last year for “Shuckin Thursdays” with a food truck. This year they are in the old Mill Building sharing the BBQ space chock full of comfy rustic charm. Jeremiah Ward, a friend of Zak and Hudson’s, moved from New York state to be part of the business. When he arrived last summer, Ward had never shucked an oyster. It took a few weeks for him to get a handle on it.
The Oyster Bar is open Thursdays through Sundays 3-8 p.m. or until the oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and caviar are sold out! All the recipes are Zak’s, who, says Ward, “spends an inordinate amount of time thinking up new ways to serve raw shellfish.”
Lucky us! Check out some of the creative and delish ways Zak has come up with, beginning with scallops sashimi. Wow! Delectable, sweet scallops, served in a large scallop shell, topped with a homemade chili oil and a jalapeno crisp. The textures alone are enough to drive you mad; that combination of heat blending with the soft, cool flesh of the scallop … the way the scallop feels as it yields to each bite is a dream… and then there’s that spicy crunch. Creative and delicious. I’d never had raw scallops before, but I will definitely be enjoying them again as often as possible!
Clams elote (named for Mexican street corn) was new when I was there a few Sundays ago. Smoked clams are served on a warmed dish topped with grilled corn kernels … smoky, crunchy and a wee bit chewy. Yep, it’s a keeper.
Smoked mussels: Zak created the recipe last summer for an event. Ward says they spend tireless hours steaming mussels from Mook Sea Farm and Marshall Cove, followed by freeing them from their shells, smoking a bit more and then marinating them in olive oil, garlic and rosemary … a process he says is a labor of love.
The mussels, served on a spoon, are topped with a jalepeno crisp adding a heat and texture to the smoky morsels that lingers until you have finished the mussel. Phenomenal!
And the Brother Shucker Facebook page announced Zak’s new twist on clams casino was debuting June 23 at the craft brewery: clams with tequila BBQ, smoked corn and cotja cheese.
But back to those oysters … order a half dozen or go for 24 oysters served in a large black wooden cradle-like shaped serving “dish” Winn made, called The Barge. Oysters are served on a bed of ice with assorted mignettes, fresh lemon, and other sauces.
Classic migonette is a blend of red wine vinegar with shallots and pepper. Brother Shucker makes this classic as well as jalapeno ginger, an original recipe that is a favorite among the oyster lovers they serve.
Zak has also created other original migonette flavors – blueberry basil, peach cardamom, cucumber red onion and strawberry rhubarb among them.
In 1300s France, caviar was served from mother-of-pearl spoons, Ward said as a lead-in to serving Brother Shucker’s black masago caviar bumps served on Japanese spoons with chili oil. The caviar is from Rockport Harbor. I hadn’t had caviar in decades. The texture of those tiny, tiny capelin fish eggs, both salty and a bit sweet rolling around on the tongue is an experience all its own and one worth having,
Dirty oysters. Sigh … these are topped with a tiny dollop of sour cream, a little of that caviar, and topped with a slice of jalapeno pepper. Pure joy to indulge in.
And … most raw bar lovers know you can have a lovely beer or glass of wine, or champagne as a go-with. Since I was at a craft brewery choosing a beer was a no-brainer! I walked a few feet over to the bar area of the building and told Cody Mitchell what I was looking for in a beer that day: light, refreshing. “I know just what you want,” he said. And he was right: I wanted their pilsner, Jumping Rise. And it was also delicious. I can’t remember when I described a beer that way, delicious. But it is. And it was fabulous with the raw shellfish. In fact, I really need to get some for the house!
“We want everyone to enjoy seafood,” said Ward. “We feel it’s important to offer a price that’s affordable for everybody.”
Winters, Brother Shucker works catering gigs – private and public, and is invited to breweries and other dining venues. But it’s summer now, time for gathering with friends and enjoying amazing food and drink. Make Boothbay Craft Brewery and the Oyster Bar one of your stops … I’ve no doubt you’ll go back for more.
Boothbay Craft Brewery is at 301 Adams Pond Road in Boothbay. New summer hours: Wednesday through Saturday 3-9 p.m. and Sunday noon to - 7 p.m. For more information: www.boothbaycraftbrewery.com
For more about Brother Shucker, check out the Facebook page and the recent article on Pen Bay Pilot.