MOREHEAD CITY – How do you like your oyster on the half shell? With hot sauce? Lemon juice? Apple cider vinegar? Drawn butter? On a saltine with cocktail sauce? Slurp the oyster straight from the shell?
At the second annual Shuck, Rattle and Roll Friday evening, oyster lovers will have a veritable buffet of oysters – and clams – provided by shellfish growers from up and down the state’s coast, all of whom will by vying for the Best Oyster Grower trophy, chosen by ticketholders.
The 7 p.m. fundraising event at the Crystal Coast Civic Center is designed to highlight the Carteret Community College aquaculture program and the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association. There will also be a low-country boil and hors d’oeuvres prepared by chefs and students from the college’s culinary program.
The evening will feature live music by Beaufort Blues Project, a band out Beaufort that performs blues-inspired covers by BB King, Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Imelda May and Grace Potter as well as a handful of original songs.
“We are once again excited about what is still a new event for the college and a very unique one too,” Brenda Reash, executive director of the Carteret Community College Foundation, said in a statement. “Event-goers will get to sample oysters from different growers, talk to them about location and technique, and they’ll get to vote for their favorite.”
Tickets are $40 per person. There will be a cash bar featuring craft beer by Beaufort’s Mill Whistle Brewing, a Carteret County brewery. To purchase tickets, contact Jennifer Gould at 252-222-6056 or visit www.cccfoundation.org and click on the Events tab.
Aquaculture program Chair David Cerino said the aim of Shuck, Rattle and Roll is to celebrate the North Carolina shellfish aquaculture industry and raise funds to support the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association and the Carteret Community College aquaculture program.
“We will have over 15 different growers participating. There will be clams that are grown in the sediment under protective netting, oysters grown on the bottom using the ‘spat on shell’ method and single oysters grown in protective bags and cages that are either floating or resting on the bottom,” he said. Spat on shell method is when baby oysters attach to old oyster shells.
“Shuck, Rattle and Roll is a really fun time and provides a great opportunity to learn about shellfish aquaculture from the growers themselves, taste the unique flavor profiles of oysters grown in different water bodies, and experience some amazing cooked dishes prepared by the CCC culinary program students,” he added.
Cerino explained that the Carteret Community College aquaculture program has been around since 2004 and its instructors “teach all aspects of aquaculture, with a focus on marine species including shellfish, finfish and anything else that can be cultured in water.” There are certificate, diploma, associate’s and transfer degrees available. Graduates of the program work in commercial fish and shellfish farms, hatcheries, public aquariums and research institutions.
“Shellfish aquaculture is a great method of food production because it is a net benefit to the environment,” he said about the important role aquaculture plays. “Shellfish filter out the algae that are blooming due to increased nutrient inputs from human activities. At CCC aquaculture, we encourage and promote environmentally friendly production practices and stimulate the local economy by fostering small business development.”
The North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association represents the interests of the many involved in the shellfish industry, and, according to its website, has a broad base of members including shellfish farmers, hatchery operators, seafood dealers, educators, researchers, government regulators and service providers.
Jay Styron is president of the association. He owns the Cedar Island-based farm, Carolina Mariculture Co., with a business office in Wilmington.
The association is an organization that helps educate the public about the shellfish industry and its many facets. It also educates legislators as issues arise, Styron explained.
The group decided to partner with the Carteret Community College aquaculture program because, “… it helps to showcase the growers that participate and bring awareness to the public that we have many oyster farms in North Carolina now and local oysters are now an option no matter what time of year it is,” he said.
Styron said that oysters are a keystone species to our estuarine environment. “That means many other organisms depend on oysters and their structures for part of their life cycle like blue crabs, red drum, flounders and many others. Also, since oysters are filter feeders they take in the algae that is produced from excess nutrients in our waterways. This allows sunlight to penetrate the water and therefore allows more seagrass to grow.”
Now, North Carolina has oysters and oyster farmers that can compete with any other oysters and farms in the United States and they’re available year-round. Ask for local at your seafood markets, Styron added.
Amanda Lyle, development coordinator for Carteret Community College Foundation, said Shuck, Rattle and Roll is in line with the mission of the college, which is to offer opportunities for lifelong learning through high-quality traditional and distance learning teaching, training, support and enrichment with the intended purpose of improving the quality of life for all citizens of Carteret county and eastern North Carolina.
“Shuck, Rattle and Roll is an excellent opportunity to promote this mission because it showcases and celebrates two of our premier programs, aquaculture and culinary arts, while providing the opportunity to educate the public about aquaculture and its relevance and importance in our community,” she said.
“By providing an avenue for education, the CCC aquaculture program is vital to our mission to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Carteret County and Eastern North Carolina,” she added. “The growing demand for seafood coupled with the increased drive to be resource-efficient makes aquaculture an important industry in our community where the seafood industry is paramount.”
Lyle said she hopes that the public will be excited about this unique event that highlights the North Carolina aquaculture industry in a way that is not only educational, but also fun and entertaining.
“Guests not only will have the opportunity to meet and connect with the growers as they sample their oysters from up and down the North Carolina coast, they will also get to try North Carolina-grown oysters and clams prepared in a variety of ways,” she said. Lyle added that the taste of oysters is influenced by a variety of factors that vary from location to location, and this event will give guests the rare opportunity to experience this.
The first Shuck, Rattle and Roll took place last year during the 2016 North Carolina Seafood Festival, held the first weekend of October in Morehead City, but has changed weekend and location.
“We were so honored to be included in last year’s NC Seafood Festival Chef’s Tent,” Lyle explained. “This was the perfect way for us to kick off our inaugural event, which sold out. In order to grow, we realized we would need to look for a new location, and the proximity of CCC to the Crystal Coast Civic Center made perfect sense. Also, moving the date later in the month is helpful for our Culinary Arts program chefs and students, who are already very busy during the Seafood Festival weekend.”