On Tuesday the NY/NJ Baykeeper held its 2nd Annual Oyster Benefit at the Scandinavia House. The stars of the event were the excellent Montauk Pearl oysters from Montauk Shellfish Company. Gordon shucked furiously trying to keep up as the guests slurped down the briny goodness.
Fortunately I don’t have to head out to the Hamptons to get my fix as Mike Doall, from Montauk, informed me that these oysters can be found at The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market and restaurants around the city, including Maison Premiere and Mermaid Inn (that Oysterpedia app needs some updating).
Beer was provided by Brooklyn Brewery, and wines were courtesy of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. You may not be surprised that I skipped the beer and sampled several whites instead. They went better with the oysters anyway.
And what a lovely surprise! While we tend to focus on the Long Island wineries nearby, don’t overlook the Finger Lakes region, which has a lot more to offer than ice wines. When I noted that I dislike the sweet German Mosel Rieslings most Americans drink, Barbara Frank introduced me to the Dry Riesling from Dr. Konstantin Frank Wines. Dr. Frank’s introduction of the vine over 50 years ago changed the winemaking process around in the region. His efforts have brought Finger Lakes to international attention and made for world-class vinifera wines. Their signature wine was dry, complex yet flavorful — and retailing at under $20/bottle — affordable — a wine that I plan on drinking this summer.
Having fallen in love with this American white (a hard feat for me), Erica Paolicelli from Three Brothers Winery somehow convinced me to try a few of her offerings.
They included the Four Degrees 2011 Dry Riesling from Three Brothers Winery, a 2011 Semi-Dry Riesling from Red Newt Cellars and a 2012 Dry Riesling from Hector Wines. Of the three, the semi- dry was my favorite– it had an initial sweetness with a smooth finish, perfect for a hot day.
Besides the oysters, excellent lobster rolls, crab cakes and mac and cheese balls were passed around, as well as ample antipasto and dessert table. It was an amazing spread and worth every penny to support a good cause. Having eaten enough to soak up the wine, I was ready for the educational part of the evening.
And what an enlightening event it was. Debbie Mans, the NY/NJ Baykeeper since 2008, introduced the Panel, which included Bob Hennelly from WBGO (formally of WNYC), Meredith Comi from Baykeeper, Eric W. Sanderson from the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of the Mannahatta Project, and Eddie Bautista from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.
Bob gave background on the frustrated efforts of environmental programs in the tri-state area. Following him, Meredith provided an overview of Baykeeper’s oyster restoration efforts and challenges, particularly with NJ Dep (I noted this in my prior article), and gave us hope for the future. She noted that through Baykeeper’s partnership with the Navy, they are tending over 50,000 oysters this summer in 11 acres of water and expect to have 53 gardens in NYC.
Eric and Eddie focused on the issues faced from building on sea level property, particularly with industrial hazards, and what changes can be implemented to reduce impacts from storms, such as Sandy, which assuredly will continue to batter the shoreline as global warming and shoreline erosion continue. Both Eric and Eddie showed how their research predicted the events that would befall the city on October 29. Eric showed how the former areas of seagrass that had been built over to make room for industry and housing matched the areas flooded during Sandy almost exactly. Eric stressed that we can either fly away like the sanderlings or adapt to the environment like the terrapin and create and “embrace a new urban way of living.”
Eddie spoke next on the 4,067 acres of SMIAs (Significant Maritime Industrial Areas). He noted that 70% of produce comes through the food distribution center at Hunts Point, an SMIA which fortunately was spared during Sandy’s high tide. As Eddie noted, ironically, the city was supposed to address a coastal management plan on that very day. Of course, it was too late, and now he’s hopeful that these issues will be addressed in June. As Eddie aptly proclaimed: “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” There’s much to be done to help our shoreline and to raise awareness of the history of our waterfront as uninhabitable space and the reasons why those original and valid concerns should be heeded. You can still live at the beach or on the waterfront, but be respectful of the environment (i.e., don’t destroy the dunes).
This event was just part of a number of events happening in and around NYC that focus on saving our shores and sealife — and that means eating only sustainable seafood. In fact, May 13-19 is Sustainable Seafood Week in NYC. Some events that may be of particular interest are the Oysters, Clams & Cocktails Oh My! benefit at Riverpark on May 13 and a May 16 screening of Shellshocked, which features my friend Meredith, as well as the work of Baykeeper. One thing I learned from the Baykeeper Oyster Benefit is that there is much work to be done, and it starts with having a voice in local government. You can do your part by letting your local politicians know how important these issues are and will continue to be. And, of course, always donate to support the cause. Tickets to the events next week also are still available. Sadly I have to miss the Monday benefit for a work commitment, but I’ll be attending a screening of the movie on Thursday. Hope to see you there!