Sipping champagne and noshing on freshly harvested local oysters against a backdrop of some of the country’s most glorious scenery may sound like heaven, but it’s exactly what attendees at Newport’s anxiously awaited annual celebration of all things oysters experienced last weekend at the Newport Oyster Festival at Bowen’s Wharf. But Newport’s connection with oysters is hardly limited to one weekend. Read on for a closer look at the city’s rich oyster history, along with how you can get in on the oyster action anytime of year.
A Delicious Past, Present and Future
Oysters and Rhode Island have a rich history which dates back centuries to the days when Native American tribes feasted on the bounty of native oysters harvested from the area’s salt ponds. While native oysters in abundance are now a thing of the past due to overfishing and altered habitats, local oyster farms picked up where the the salt ponds left off -- with a newfound commitment to supporting productive ecosystems and sustainable aquaculture.
An Oyster-riffic Experience
During the annual Newport Oyster Festival, local growers come together to offer a taste of their treasures under the tents accompanied by live music, Bloody Marys, shucking contests, appetizer size portions of “chef’s picks” -- oysters and otherwise -- from some of Newport’s most beloved eateries, and much more. They are joined by aquaculture and reef restoration educators to help raise awareness among festival-goers about Rhode Island’s fragile, yet vital habitats.
Getting Your Oyster On
If you missed out on this year’s Newport Oyster Festival, we’ve got the scoop -- or catch, as the case may be -- on how to enjoy some mollusk merriment on your own. For starters, many local oyster farms offer public tours, where you can get an up-close-and-personal look at how shellfish are cultivated in local waters while observing different species of shellfish at different stages of growth. Many tours also provide information about how you can support local aquaculturists and farmers. We can think of no better way to follow up a tour than with a meal at The Spiced Pear featuring sublime Oysters on the Half Shell with pickled pear mignonette paired with Canella Prosecco from Conegliano, Italy.
It’s also never to early to start planning for next year’s Newport Oyster Festival. We recommend making a weekend of it with a stay at The Chanler, where you’ll have access to many festival-enhancing amenities, including chauffeur service to and from Bowen’s Wharf. Or, for an entirely different spin on the chic ride concept, take a coastal cruise to the festival on one of The Chanler's exquisitely appointed Tokyobikes.