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Bizarre Bites: Things Get Weird at NYCWFF Oyster Bash

By James Mulcahy
October 20, 2013

NOLA chef John Besh held court, champagne glass in hand, at the New York City Wine & Food Fest Oyster Bash, which featured a bevy of bivalves that were far from traditional. "With all of these oysters here, you really have to do something to stand out," he said.

Like add crickets. That was Julian Medina's strategy, but the Toloache chef knew that not everyone in the crowd would be excited to chow down on the critters, so guests were invited to spoon on a serving if it was to their liking. "We just thought that New Yorkers need more protein," an attendant at the booth explained. And perhaps inspired by the amply poured Bloody Marys, many of the festival goers seemed to agree, liberally applying insects to their shellfish. We asked Besh, who had a chance to try Medina's bugged-out offering, his verdict on the unique pairing. He paused, thinking for a moment before offering his take: "Crunchy."

That wasn't the only bizarre bite on display at the Oyster Bash. Click through the slide show to see our ranking of the other weird oysters. Spoiler alert: crickets were the weirdest - are you really surprised?

  • No. 4: The booth run by Forty North oysters offered shucking lessons, a brave feat considering that folks didn't seem shy about taking advantage of the open bar. Once guests succeeded in getting the shell open, they were rewarded with a plastic shot glass full of vodka and their oyster. We saw more than one person go back for another "lesson."

  • No. 3: Todd English's Olives served an oyster with pineapple and uni lime spuma. The kicker was artfully explained as at "tequila mignonette," which in civilian speak translates to "a shot of Patrón." The hooch was pretty much all you could taste. That wasn't such a bad thing.

  • No. 2: The secret ingredient at Jehangir Mehta's (Graffiti) booth wasn't the grapefruit granita, it was the hot-pink Pop Rocks that were sprinkled onto the oyster immediately before serving. "We've had a few explosive ones," an attendant explained, "but usually it's just a little sizzle." It was kind of like a party in our mouth. A 13-year-old's roller-skate birthday party.

  • No. 1: From what we observed, most patrons opted for a spoonful of bugs. The reactions skewed from neutral ("it has kind of a celery taste") to positive ("better than I thought it would be!") to strange ("Mexican popcorn!").

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