SoBeWFF's Oyster Bash: Shuck Buddies and a Sassy Ming Tsai
Ming Tsai created impromptu "Kir Royale" oyster shooters.
All photos by Zachary Fagenson
The person who roots for movie villains would've also hoped the Island Creek Oysters shucking team would collapse under the onslaught of boisterous, middle-aged food nerds at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Oyster Bash.
But cynics be damned. For two early-evening hours on Hotel Victor's roof on Friday the four-person squad mercilessly shucked hundreds of meaty, briny Virginica oysters. Despite the occasional bit of shell and a rare too-salty oyster the Island Creek team gave every amateur shucker in the building something to aspire to.
Island Creek shuckers.
The two, four-foot-long rowboats filled with ice and some of the 6,000 oysters brought down from the Duxbury, Massachusetts, farm were the main event.
If you made early friends with one of the shuckers you could easily recoup the $95 ticket. Island Creek Founder Skip Bennett said they sell 100-count bags of oysters for $150, including shipping. If you're not cut out to save a few bucks and shuck them yourself, you'd likely pay $3 or $4 per piece at a restaurant. That meant eating just over 30 oysters would bring you near break-even territory. Challenge accepted.
Ming Tsai, chef and owner of the Blue Ginger near Boston, played the celebrity chef role to a tee: Hawking Double Cross Vodka for the crowd and cameras while dishing out oyster shooters with coconut water and the sponsored vodka infused with cilantro and chili.
Tsai threw a couple back with fans, said he could only take a few, and then had a couple more. He was loose enough to sass a few hecklers and a fellow chef. "Todd English is doing an event a few blocks over. Olive oil and bread for $12."
The best bite of the night was grilled oysters topped with a butter, black pepper and white wine sauce and Panko breadcrumbs. There was always a wait, though no line. Survival of the pushiest.
Fried oyster slider and lobster tacos.
Two-bite tacos filled with buttery lobster knuckle meat were the runner up, mostly due to the orgiastic amount of lobster packed into each bite.
The Oyster Bash also seemed to be the party to hit for tourists dropping serious coin on multiple events. We ran into groups from Houston, Denver and New Jersey.
One Buffalo, New York, couple said they'd been trying to make it down for 10 years, and for their first festival were spending more than $5,000 on getting to Miami, The Q, Oyster Bash, Burger Bash, two days at the Grand Tasting Village and the porktastic Swine and Wine.
It's an ambitious itinerary, even for the well-connected, party-obsessed local.
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.