Pleasure House Oysters: The Making Of An Ostreaphile

Pleasure House Oysters

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” -Jonathan Swift

My agreement with that statement made me somewhat of an outcast among my trendy Baby Boomer friends. I’d watched them shuck open some unsuspecting barnacle-laden shell, tip it up, and let a pulpy, slimy mass of flesh slide down their throat.

No thanks, I’ll pass.

Until I met the Lynnfield oyster. Now all bets are off.

On a recent visit to Virginia Beach, I was invited by Chris Ludford, owner of Pleasure House Oysters, to take his eco boat tour into Chesapeake Bay. “It’s not only educational, it’s a lot of fun to see… and to taste!” he said.

I was skeptical; but I was told I would be joining a group of Millennials doing the tour as a birthday celebration. They’re going to join me in shucking raw oysters, I said to myself. They don’t know ostreaphiles are fashionable.

A Day On The Lynnhaven River

Chris met us at the marina in late afternoon, and I was immediately taken with his friendly, low-key enthusiasm. His crew – Ty and Nick – lowered me into the boat and we set off on the Lynnhaven River, while Chris began to tell us about the area. The Lynnhaven River is a tidal estuary which flows into the Chesapeake Bay a few miles from the Atlantic. Once famous for its oysters, it declined when the river became polluted. Recent restoration efforts by Lynnhaven River Now – a group of locals working to improve water quality in the river – and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have proved fruitful; the river was partially reopened to shellfish farming in 2007, and the oyster business is once again exploding.

“Our theory is based on a three-legged stool of conservations, restoration, and aqua culture,” said Chris. When asked to define aqua theory, he said it’s when you get to eat the bounty, while the other two legs of the stool get built back up. It occurred to me that this is a proverbial win/win/win scenario.

The river is close to Cape Henry which most people don’t realize was the site of the first landing in America by English settlers in 1607. They learned the art of roasting the large oysters when they discovered them on an open fire left by fleeing natives. In the times following, the Lynnhaven oysters became known as the best in the world, coveted as far away as Europe and Russia, for both their large size and delicate taste.

Read the entire story of the Pleasure House Oyster adventure on Epicure and Culture magazine.

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