A Shore Thing
A love for local seafood inspires an al fresco feast in Duxbury.
AT FIRST GLANCE, Duxbury Bay doesn’t look like much – just another serene seascape at the edge of a quintessentially New England town. It’s edged by grassy marshes, rocky beaches, tidal pools, and patches of gritty sand; on any given day, sailboats and buoys bob lazily in the center of the bay. Unless you’ve been tipped off, you’d never know that underneath the water’s surface lies a working farm.
Unbeknownst to onlookers, the sea floor here teems with tasty morsels – specifically the kind raised by Island Creek Oysters, one of New England’s premier producers of the mineral-y, wine-friendly bivalves. While Island Creeks are a mainstay of raw bars all over the Eastern Seaboard, not to mention the soon-to-open Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston’s Kenmore Square, connoisseurs will tell you that they taste best when slurped just moments after being pulled from the chilly water. And on this balmy August day, that’s just what a group of seafood-loving locals are about to do.
Chris Parsons, self-proclaimed shellfish fanatic and owner of the Winchester eatery Parsons Table, is a longtime customer of Island Creek. Parsons has brought his family down to Duxbury to prepare an outdoor dinner for his purveyors-turned-friends. On the guest list: Island Creek founder and owner Skip Bennett and growers Christian Horne and Don Merry. Hosting the crowd is C. J. Husk, the so-called Oyster Dude, who spends his days hand-delivering bags of the briny shellfish to restaurants throughout Greater Boston (not to mention speed-shucking oysters at restaurant openings and charity events around town).
Dinner prep starts, naturally, at sea. Hours before their guests arrive, Husk and Parsons hit the water, venturing out onto the nearby bay on a small skiff. Parsons has packed his fishing rod, but it’s, well, not his day. (Luckily, he thought ahead and brought a few pounds of striped bass and a couple of local lobsters, enough to feed a crowd.) Finding the oysters they need is less of a challenge: Husk simply cajoles one of Island Creek’s farm hands into fetching them a full bag. Asked where, exactly, the underwater oyster farm starts and ends, Husk gestures toward what looks like nothing but waves. “The flats go from about there to there,” he says, pointing. “But you know, if you feel like looking, you can really find them all over the place. There are a lot of rogue oysters out there.” Indeed, on the tidal beaches surrounding his seaside home, full-grown oysters, clams, and mussels lay scattered between tufts of seaweed on the sand, like a shellfish platter gone completely wild.
Back at the house, the cooking really starts. Parsons fires up the grill, shucks the shellfish, and boils the lobster. Aided by his wife, Megan, and kids Lily and Timmy, he plucks sprigs of wild chive blossoms from around Husk’s garden. “These will make a great garnish,” he explains.
As Parsons cooks, guests begin to arrive. Beers are cracked, cocktails are poured, and impromptu lawn games break out. (The favorite is Kubb, a Swedish game that involves knocking down wooden towers with a peg.) Soon it’s time to eat, and with charcoal smoke still mingling with the briny breeze, the crowd sits down to Parsons’s spread. The meal proves delightfully summery and down-to-earth. In other words, it’s a perfect little taste of Duxbury Bay.
charred corn and summer tomatoes
Fred Loimer “Lois” Grüner Veltliner 2008, Austria