On Saturday April 2, Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Clear Lake held a tasting of a dozen different Galveston oysters by appellation. All of the oysters were provided by Jeri’s Seafood of Smith Point as part of the Louisiana Foods marketing program called ” Jeri’s Hand-Selected Oysters by Appellation.” Here’s a map of Galveston Bay oyster reefs.
The East Galveston Bay oyster reefs represented were Pepper Grove, Elm Grove, Ladies’ Pass, Drum Village, Whitehead Reef and Sheldon’s Reef. From Central Galveston Bay, there were Smith Pass, Redfish Reef, and Resignation Reef oysters. And from Trinity Bay we sampled Lone Oak Reef, Old Yellow and Lost Reef oysters.
The East Bay oysters, especially those from Pepper Grove, Elm Grove and Ladies’ Pass were the most popular among the tasters I polled. These were the southernmost reefs represented and the oysters were the briniest. Many of the Elm Grove oysters had beautifully scalloped shells. This “ruffling” of the oyster shell occurs among oysters growing in heavy currents at high salinity. Tracy Woody of Jeri’s Seafood puts together a few boxes of these for special events. They are marketed as “Rare Elm Grove Ruffles.”
Trinity Bay, the northernmost part of greater Galveston Bay, gets lots of plankton-rich fresh water as it flows in from the Trinity and San Jacinto rivers. This makes the oysters from Trinity Bay bigger, fatter and sweeter than the East Bay oysters. The Lost Reef and Lone Oak reef oysters in particular were creamy-colored and completely opaque. But the oysters were also less briny in flavor because of their distance from the Gulf’s saltwater inflow. The Central Galveston Bay oysters struck a lovely balance on the salty and sweet scales.
The oyster tasting benefited the Galveston Bay Foundation and honored Marine Biologist Dr. Sammy Ray. Look for more of these kinds of Galveston reef tastings next oyster season. I predict you will see some major stories in national food magazines about the rediscovery of Galveston Bay’s oyster reefs this coming fall. A few famous old Galveston Bay oyster reefs like Pepper Grove and Ladies’ Pass have already captured the attention of Rowan Jacobsen’s Oyster Guide.