Mermaid's Kiss: Oyster Lovers Slurp the Night Away
It's a good idea to come hungry to the Oyster Recovery Partnership's Mermaid's Kiss Oyster Fest. On Thursday evening, you could smell the deliciousness wafting out into the parking lot of the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where the 2017 fundraising event was held.
In case the aromas weren't enough to draw people in, the perky Chesapeake Mermaid was perched outside the entrance in her glistening fin, greeting guests enthusiastically. "Welcome to Mermaid's Kiss! There are lots of yummy oysters inside!"
Then, once you got past the entrance, there it was. A full-size oyster bar entirely made of ice. Hooper's Island Oyster Co., the presenting sponsor, lined up oysters on the half shell directly on the glorious ice sculpture.
But that was just the first stop. Seven different oyster farms served their products up raw, with almost a dozen restaurants offering generous samples of other seafood. This writer went all in, trying everything from a classic crabcake to seared octopus. Interspersed with the seafood—wine from six regional wineries. Altogether, it was an excellent spread for the hungry and thirsty.
The folks from Thames Street Oyster House, who have 14 different oysters on the menu at their Fells Point restaurant, say it's a no-brainer to participate in Mermaid's Kiss.
"Anything that we can do to support an institution like ORP, we'll do!" said owner Candace Beattie.
Thames Street and all of the participating restaurants recycle their oyster shells to give back to ORP, and at each serving station, there was a bucket for guests to deposit their used shells after slurping. Those empty shells become habitat for the new baby oysters that conservationists routinely plant in the Bay.
As for the oyster farmers, they each got the valuable opportunity to introduce their farm's unique flavor to a group of people who love oysters. Scott Budden, the founder of Orchard Point Oyster Co., brought his products to Mermaid's Kiss for the first time. He says they're special because his farm is the farthest north in the Bay.
"We're hearing that they have a crisp, clean taste," he told me.
His samples were snapped up like hot cakes.
While guests went around slurping oysters and sipping wine, the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen pledged federal support for the Bay's oyster recovery efforts. Senator Van Hollen also presented Dr. Don Boesch with a Congressional Citation for his long career fighting for the Bay.
By the end of the evening, the Oyster Recovery Partnership was left with buckets and buckets of recyclable shells to use, and guests went home with very satisfied stomachs.
-Meg Walburn Viviano