Discovery, Featured, Sip & Savor

Charleston Is Your Oyster

Both culinary playground and educational classroom, set out on an aquatic adventure in the ACE Basin. With a professional fisherman and oyster farmer as your guide, you’ll experience the lifecycle of an oyster and its sustainability firsthand from your perch in a boat in the winding estuary creeks of South Carolina. The ACE Basin, located where the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers converge, is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries along the Atlantic Coast. Located just over an hour south of Charleston, this 350,000 acre wildlife refuge and natural environment is home to marshes, wetlands, cypress swamps, and hardwood forests. As the city landscape gives way to lush green spaces, glimpses of marsh grass beckon beyond. After arriving in Bennetts Point, South Carolina, you’ll be greeted at the rustic dock by the bearded crew behind Lowcountry Oyster Company. What started as a boyhood dream is now a daily endeavor for owner and operator, Trey McMillan. Along with his team, McMillan raises millions of oyster seeds each year, helping to replenish the diminishing oyster supply while purifying the area’s waterways. Your tour will start in the nursery, where millions of baby oysters are starting their maturation process before setting out from Mosquito Creek via boat for the floating oyster farm. As dolphins swim past and pelicans glide overhead, you’ll enjoy a leisurely 30 minute cruise through the winding estuary creeks as a gentle sea breeze blows the marsh grass and fish jump beyond. On the water, you’ll have a chance to see firsthand the hard work that goes into hand raising these single, select oysters. The entire process takes up to a year, before the oysters are shipped out nationwide, within 24 hours of being harvested. When you sample some of the Lowcountry Cups, you get a true taste of the place they come from. Lowcountry Oyster Company’s are high in salinity, a result of the pristine waters they are raised in. Not only does the water produce a better oyster, but the oyster helps better the water. Because oysters feed by filtering algae, they function as a natural filter, helping to improve the water quality. Truly one of the most sustainable from start to finish. After the tour and boat excursion, you’ll head around the corner to a private undeveloped forest for a picturesque Lowcountry oyster roast. Overlooking the Combahee River and a historic rice field, savor more oysters as you sip Champagne and enjoy black angus pepper-seared roast beef filet, mesquite-smoked grilled chicken and more while our team attends to your every whim. After living the Lowcountry lifestyle, you’ll depart for downtown Charleston and your home away from home. Later, shed your oyster overalls for fine frocks as a celebratory evening awaits at the Charleston Grill. If you haven’t had your fill of Lowcountry Cups, order the Local Oysters with Heirloom Pepper Mignonette or sample one of Chef Michelle’s other Southern delights that celebrate the bounty of our area’s rich waterways. Charleston is Your Oyster is exclusively available for guests of Charleston Place, A Belmond Hotel. For more information or to book this incomparable experience, contact us at 843-722-4900.
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Arts & Culture, Sip & Savor

Fittin’ in at your next Oyster Roast!

Oyster roasts have been a part of Southern social life dating back to the middle of the 20th Century. Lowcountry natives were raised with this tradition and understand the ins and outs of this culinary experience, but newcomers face their first experience with trepidation and concerns over not fitting in.

Before we offer some general oyster roast etiquette, let’s dispel the myth around what months are best for oysters. You may hear people around the Lowcountry mention prime oyster season is only during months that end in “R”. Actually, Charleston’s oyster season includes all months that have an “R” in it, running from September to April. Over these months, the water temperature drops and the oyster beds are ripe for picking.

If you’ve never been to an oyster roast, or felt a bit awkward during your first experience, we’ve compiled a list of things that are good to know before you start shucking.

1. Come prepared. It’s a good idea to bring your own oyster knife. Knives will be provided, but they are sparse and you’ll look like an old pro if you bring your own. Charleston Cooks on East Bay Street has a nice selection. The Messermeister Oyster Knife is our favorite. It’s good to use a cloth or glove when handling the sharp shells, so bring your own glove. We’ve been told it’s a “Southern thing,” but it’s never a bad idea to bring your own beer koozie, too.

2. Know how to open an oyster. When oysters are steamed they start to open up a little. Many people think it’s best to open the oyster at this seam. On the other side of the oyster is a hinge. If you open the oysters from this angle, it’s cleaner and takes less time.

3. What to drink. Beer is the drink of choice at most casual Southern affairs. If you’re looking for a local brew, check out Coast Brewing Company. When it’s cold, Bourbon is always a good choice. Bloody Marys are great because they play on the cocktail sauce and lemon. Some of our favorite mixes are Charleston Bloody Mary Mix and Fat and Juicy Mix. If the night lasts long enough, you could end up making Oyster Shooters—a combination of vodka, cocktail sauce and a raw oyster. Although champagne is often paired with oysters, you can bet a longneck Bud you won’t see one.

4. Talk like you’ve done this before. Throw “‘bo” around whenever you get a chance. Bo’ is local vernacular and short for “boy”, i.e., “Hey ‘bo, you gotta check out these oysters. We got them from up around Bull’s Bay”.

These days most oysters are steamed in an aluminum pot attached to a propane tank. Purists still use a fire pit with a sheet of steel on top. The oysters are placed on the sheet, covered with a wet burlap feed sack and steamed to perfection. Ask your host if they’ve ever roasted their oysters the old-fashioned way. Might win you a few points.

5. The gift of giving. You’ll need to thank your host; it’s the polite thing to do. If you’re looking for a hostess gift, try the Shops at Belmond Charleston Place. If your host loves southern cooking, stop by Tommy Bahama and pick up the Flavors of the Southern Coast cookbook, or grab a Charleston-themed Pineapple Bottle Opener, the perfect gift of friendship and hospitality.

6. What to wear. Despite being Southern traditions, oyster roasts aren’t fancy affairs. Jeans and khakis are always welcome. Footwear is key as you will be outdoors and possibly near a bonfire. Ladies, skip the heels and pick boots for comfort. If you really want to dress the part, King Street is lined with stores that can outfit your evening. Dumas is the perfect store for a gentleman’s preppy Southern attire.

Did we miss anything? If you have others tips to help readers fit in better at their next oyster roast please share.

If you missed the “World’s Largest Oyster Roast”  at Boone Hall Planation, during the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, don’t fret. There are plenty of local roasts to attend. Many restaurants feature oysters, and a local favorite is “Oysters on the Point.” This once a month winter series features local, steamed oysters, live music and plenty of beverage choices.

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