last call for oysters

they are almost gone…maybe for good

Gulf of Mexico oil spill is affecting price, availability of local oysters
By Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune
May 10, 2010, 5:13PM
Jennifer Zdon / The Times-Picayune archive
Oyster shuckers at P&J’s Oyster Co. in the French Quarter during happier days for the industry.

Justin Kennedy and Jay Nix stopped serving oyster po-boys at Parkway Bakery & Tavern on May 1. The business partners’ decision caused a minor stir, and from a business standpoint it was curious, as it eliminated the po-boy house’s third best selling sandwich in the thick of the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

On Monday, May 10, Kennedy was confident that the decision was also prophetic.

“Oysters have gone up $5 a gallon since last week,” he said. “I had two of my suppliers say they probably wouldn’t be able to get oysters by the end of this week.”

When Parkway’s menu change was made made 10 days ago, oyster prices had yet to be seriously affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the resulting closures of oyster harvesting areas. But Kennedy felt a shortage was coming, as did a sizable number of locals who flooded area oyster bars for fear the spill could lead to an unprecedented oyster drought.

Is the drought upon us?

On Friday, May 7, Al Sunseri, co-owner and president of P & J Oyster Company, said he was starting to see a “huge short supply” of Louisiana oysters – and that was before the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries extended emergency closures of recreational and commercial fishing to areas west of the Mississippi River.

“We’re going to try to have oysters for our customers,” Sunseri said. “I’m going to have shucked oysters at least through Wednesday, and I’m going to have half-shell oysters at least through Tuesday. But after that, I don’t know.”

Sunseri said he’s contacted oyster suppliers in the Pacific Northwest, Connecticut and New Jersey to make sure he has a line on product should the precautionary closures of harvesting areas in the Gulf bottle-neck his local supply chains.

But oysters from the other coasts are very different from the plump bivalves New Orleanians are accustomed to. They’re also much more expensive. The tab for a dozen Caraquet oysters, a variety that grows wild in New Brunswick, Canada, and two martinis ordered last week at the Blue Ribbon bistro and oyster bar in New York City was more than $70 with tax and tip.

“I’ll only bring them down if our customers are going to buy them,” Sunseri said of the colder water oysters.

Kennedy hopes to eventually resume selling oyster po-boys at Parkway, but not if he’s forced to sell them for more than the $13 he was charging prior to taking them off the menu.

“I can pass (the rising costs) on to the customer, but that’s not what a po-boy is supposed to be all about. It’s supposed to be cheap,” he said. “I don’t want to pass that cost along to the customer even if they’re willing to pay it.”


~ by maringouin on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.

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