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Bycatch of the Day: Texas Whelks

At the Foodways Texas Gulf symposium P.J. Stoops spoke at a bycatch panel. He explained that somebody is interested in eating nearly everything caught in a fishing boat. For lunch, Chris Shepherd demonstrated the point by serving the sea snails variously known as “oyster drills, biganos,” or “whelks.” Shepherd boiled these in crawfish boil for an hour and a half. They were nice and tender with a flavor not all that different from escargot. I would have liked them in garlic butter sauce–but I applaud Shepherd for allowing us to taste them unadorned first. To eat them, you pull the sea snail out of the shell with a nail and then peel off the tough foot.

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The New Gulf Oyster Bar

At the time of the Civil War, oysters from Pepper Grove Reef in East Galveston Bay were very popular in oyster bars. So were the oysters from Lady’s Pass and several other spots. Galveston Bay oysters were always identified by place name back in the late 1800s.

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Aw Shucks!

Many thanks to Greg Morago for the excellent article “Just Shuck It” in this Sunday’s Houston Chronicle on the subject of branding oysters by place names. And thanks to Brett Coomer for the awesome oyster photos.

The big oyster seminar and historic tasting of Texas oyster appellations are coming up this Saturday February […]

An Historic Oyster Tasting

For many years, Texas oysters have been sold as a commodity product–all of them dumped into the same shucker’s pile as it were.

Meanwhile, oysters from the Pacific Northwest, Cape Cod and Canada (as well as England and France) are marketed by place names. Northern oyster bars like Grand Central Oyster Bar offer consumers as many as 32 oysters to choose from.

So why aren’t Texas oysters sold by place names? Well it turns out they were…in the late 1800s. In a few weeks, at the Foodways Texas symposium on Saturday February 26, you will be able to taste Texas oysters from 6 of those famous old reefs side by side. This is probably the first time in a hundred years that Pepper Grove oysters, once the most famous in Galveston Bay, will be offered by their place name.

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Tex-Mex Cooking Classes at My House

“Why don’t you give a class about how to make Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas?” Mike, my physical therapist said as he twisted my arm into a pretzel shape. Mike moved here from New York. He observed that there are lots of cooking classes in Houston, but he couldn’t find any about Tex-Mex. And since he […]

Foodways Texas Does Dallas

On January 24th, Chef Tim Byres will host the first Foodways Texas event in Dallas at his red-hot new restaurant–Smoke. Barbecued seafood will be featured to highlight the theme of the organization’s first statewide symposium scheduled for February 25 & 26 in Galveston. The Dallas fundraiser will also offer live music, an oyster shucking contest and a short oyster primer by yours truly–autographed copies of Sex, Death and Oysters will probably be on sale too.
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Eat Texas Oysters!

My Christmas Oysters

Texas oysters didn’t suffer any damage from the oil spill. My Christmas oysters came from Galveston Bay via Mishos Oyster Company in San Leon. They are nicely plump and very salty. If you don’t want to drive all the way down there, you can buy Misho’s oysters at Airline Seafood at 1841 Richmond Avenue in Houston. They are $36 for a hundred count bag and $40 a dozen for a gallon of shucked oysters. (That’s what I use for the oyster dressing.) Airline only has a couple bags on hand at any given time, so if you want to reserve or order some call (713) 526-2351. Quality Seafood in Austin has San Antonio Bay oysters for $41 dollars a hundred count bag and $51 a gallon shucked. If you are looking for smaller quantities, try the Central Market seafood counter.
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Please Help Save Texas Oysters!

Galveston Bay Oyster Seeding

New flow standards are being considered for the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers that could deprive Galveston Bay oysters of adequate freshwater. The public comment period on these changes to is open until December 20 with a public hearing scheduled for December 16. The draft item is titled “SB3/HB3 Environmental Flow Standards”

Texas oysters need your help!
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Gaido's Regaining Its Glory

Head Chef Casey Gaido

I had a stunning crab salad and an elegant red snapper in lemon butter at Gaido’s last week. I also met the new head chef, Casey Gaido. Casey is a recent CIA grad and a fourth-generation member of the founding family. Now that Casey is in charge of the kitchen at the hundred year old seafood restaurant on Galveston’s seawall, he promises that the once-legendary cooking will return to its roots.

“In 2006, you wrote a review in the Houston Press titled “Fish on Its Laurels” that I read every week,” Casey told me when I met him. I was embarrassed. It was obviously a bad review, but I didn’t remember what I wrote. So I reread it when I got home. I faulted Gaido’s for being so inconsistent. On one visit I thought I had died and gone to Galatoire’s–and on the next my dinner guest remarked that the place felt like a “gone-to-seed country club.”

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Gulf Oyster Farming

Farm-raised Gulf oysters from Mobile Bay

These Point aux Pins oysters were among the best Gulf oysters I’ve eaten lately. They were grown from hatchery spat in racks off the bottom of Mobile Bay, and like most farm-raised oysters, they had perfectly formed shells. As for the flavor, they were incredibly briny (42 to nearly 50 parts per thousand salinity). I want to taste these again later in the season when they get a little plumper and sweeter. As usual, Texas lags way behind the rest of the Gulf oyster industry when it comes to innovative programs. That’s because our state regards oysters as a nuisance that get in the way of the oil and gas biz.

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