As a professional oyster farmer with the Barnegat Oyster Collective on Long Beach Island, Matt Gregg jokes that he’d become appalled by all the home raw bar pictures on Instagram of oysters perched awkwardly on chunky cubes of common fridge ice. And so, the oyster paddle was born.
The handled wooden board is perfect for crushing cubes to appropriately small bits. On the other side are a half-dozen grooves carved into the face so that the oysters can be carried without losing one bit of precious liquor.
The best part is that Gregg and the Oyster Collective are one of the few local oyster groups now shipping direct to the home consumer. Cape May Salt Farms is also shipping several varieties of fine Jersey oysters, including Stormy Bays and Elder Points, along with the Salts, which pioneered the resurgence of farmed New Jersey oysters. Sweet Amalia in Cape May Courthouse has plans to make its oysters available again soon, too.
The Sugar Shacks in my bag from BOC were medium-sized but meaty and firm, with a vegetal brininess and a nice sweet finish. They were fantastic topped with frozen scoops of ramp granita made from Gregg’s easy recipe — six finely minced ramp bottoms (or shallots) blended with black pepper into ¼ cup of cider vinegar then frozen.
The paddle especially came in handy, though, when I took another dozen oysters hot off the grill bubbling with ramp butter (a blend of pureed ramps mixed with pressed garlic, lemon zest, bread crumbs, and Parmesan into soft butter).
I’ll never match the artistry of Ameen Lawrence, the Oyster House’s longtime master shucker. But with a free oyster knife in the party pack and a good “how to” instruction sheet refresher, I did get my shucking skills back in decent shape. The only thing missing during these days of quarantine is a big crowd to share them with. More for me!
— Craig LaBan
A “party pack” of two dozen oysters from Barnegat Oyster Collective, $45, including shucking knife and free shipping for one-day ground delivery. The oyster paddle is $25.