by Heather Vecchioni | Contributing Writer
Whether you like them fried, baked, steamed, in a stew or on their own in the half shell, oysters are arguably Maryland’s tastiest treat from the sea. Too long in the shadow of the blue crab, oysters have made a name for themselves with their signature texture and taste. With Maryland’s oyster season running from Oct. 1 to March 31, area restaurants are gearing up to dish out some of their best oyster offerings.
Carrol’s Creek Café at 410 Severn Ave. in Annapolis offers up a few variations of this adored mollusk. The favorite, however, seems to be oysters in their natural state. “Oysters on the half shell are, by far, our most popular oyster dish,” said owner Jefferey Jacobs. “We go through 50 cases of 1,500-count oysters each week this time of year. That’s about 250 orders of oysters on the half shell every week.”
Another oyster favorite at the family-owned restaurant is the Carrol’s Creek baked oysters. In this dish, four regional oysters are topped with house-cured bacon, horseradish and Cabot Vermont cheddar, then baked.
Why is the oyster so popular among Maryland natives? According to Jefferey, it’s their ability to shine in different dishes. “They are versatile,” he said. “You can do a lot of things with them. And they’re just tasty.”
When dining out or at home, proper oyster handling is essential. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can make all the difference between enjoying the bivalve or wishing you had gone with the crab, instead.
“The dark side of the oyster is highly perishable,” said Jefferey. “If the shell is open, you shouldn’t eat it. If it doesn’t smell right, you shouldn’t eat it.”
Choose an oyster that feels heavy in your hand and go with the freshest as possible. Although oysters are good for a week after they are harvested, the best are typically those that were culled the previous day. If you’re not sure about the freshness, check the oyster’s shipping tag, which includes the harvest date.