Oysters are strange, but magical, creatures. They can change their sex. They moonlight as the Puget Sound's filtration system. They taste different depending on where their beds are.
While oyster fan-culture is vibrant in the Pacific Northwest, it comes as no surprise that some people have never had an oyster. They are not the most attractive shellfish. Texturally, they can make folks squirm. They appear risky.
"Don't tell," a Schwabe oyster-virgin said when she confessed that she had never been able to bring herself to slurp an oyster down. Dining Out with Schwabe dedicates this article to her and the oyster journey she took this month.
Walrus & Carpenter Picnic
Schwabe's oyster virgin realized this month that many attorneys are quite serious about oysters - willing to brave frosty January nights in inclement weather to ritualistically attend an oyster pilgrimage.
The "Walrus & Carpenter Picnic" occurs each year at Taylor Shellfish Farms (124 Republican St., Seattle; 501-4442; www.tayloroysterbars.com) at its Totten Inlet oyster beds late at night. Our lawyers bundle up and file onto a bus leaving Taylor Shellfish's Queen Anne location in the dark. On the bus, they answer oyster trivia questions and hear a reading of Lewis Carroll's "Walrus and the Carpenter," eagerly awaiting the night ahead of them.
When the bus reaches the inlet, the passengers are handed a shucker and let loose to find their way down to the bonfire or make their way by lantern or - as one Schwabe associate chose - down into the beds to reach into the icy water, grab oysters, shuck them and eat them under the moonlight. If shucking is too time consuming, guests can head on over to the tables holding baskets of oysters on ice, manned by professional shuckers who open oysters with a flick of the wrist providing an unlimited slurping supply.
Guests can toss oysters onto grill grates centered above a bonfire until the oysters pop from the heat, or slurp hot, garlic oyster stew. Unlimited high-end wine pairings round out this magical experience.
The $125-per-person ticket price benefits the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. Tickets become available on November 2 at www.restorationfund.org/events/walrus. Each guest gets a round-trip bus ride to Totten Inlet, entertainment and shucking lessons, plus Olympia, Shigoku, Pacific and Totten Inlet Virginica oysters that are available for plucking off the beach or served at raw bars and washed down with winners of the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition.
Hama Hama Oyster Saloon
Not only do Schwabe lawyers take oysters seriously, but the ritual of eating oysters is chosen as a way to welcome new associates to the firm. This year, during the first week of work for our recent law graduate associate, a group of Schwabe lawyers took him to the best place on earth, Hama Hama (35846 N. U.S. Hwy 101, Lilliwaup; 360-877-581; www.hamahamaoysters.com).
The saloon is right on the tide flats of the Hood Canal. Large, wood picnic tables are arranged around a gigantic grill, on the water. There is nothing better than wood smoke, cold beers and fresh oysters.
While the menu is always subject to change, Schwabe dined on 96 grilled oysters with a variety of butter sauces and delectable oysters on the half shell. For three hours, the Schwabe lawyers chatted, ate and welcomed the new associate.
"It was probably the best introduction ever," he said.
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