Panhandle Oyster Shuck

    Photo: Moving Moment via Shutterstock

Look, I’m no food snob. I like Cheez Whiz and soft-baked cookies. But some meals should run you more than the price of a Netflix subscription. Like oysters—specifically, the wild oysters of Florida’s Apalachicola Bay. I once drove 380 miles from New Orleans to get my fill (a bushel, roughly ten dozen, split between myself and a fishing buddy). We bought our first bag of 30 for $26, and they came coated in seaweed and wet sand—bycatch. The meat was impossibly fresh, briny, and totally worth the expense, including $60 in gas and a sleepless night in a noisy Panama City hotel overrun with spring-breakers. Of course, this was before a certain oil leak ravaged the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe you heard about it. The thing is, Apalachicola Bay was largely spared: not only are the oysters edible, but they’re bigger and better than ever, thanks to a recently ended precautionary ban on harvesting them. The other thing about Apalachicola Bay is that there’s no easy way to get there, making it the perfect end point of a long drive. From the northeast, you’ll arrive via Tallahassee. Tate’s Hell State ­Forest, a backwoods swamp full of carnivorous plants, makes for a nice pit stop. Or, if you come from the west, as I did, drop in and gawk at the retirees and college kids at the legendary Flora-Bama (850-492-0611), a rowdy 12-bar complex that straddles the Florida-Alabama state line. Either way, buy your shellfish in bulk from Island View Seafood (850-670-8555) and shuck them next
to a grill at St. George Island State Park (850-927-2111). You’ll be able to taste what ­connoisseurs call terroir. And you’ll do it in bare feet.

From Outside Magazine, Sep 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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