The 2019 Oyster Rama was the biggest and boldest yet, with over 2000 attendees and 320 volunteers. Together we raised over $14,000 in charitable donations, bringing the lifetime Rama fundraising effort to $99k. The biggest beneficiary is the Hood Canal Education Foundation, which supports arts & science education at our local elementary school (and alma mater!).
The Rama is a communal party in every sense... we share food, explore the natural world, forage, create art, and raise money for future generations. This is a celebration of the commons: we all depend on, and impact, the health of the ocean. James Beard award-winning chefs, scientists studying ocean acidification, our elementary school lunch lady, and oyster lovers from across the country, of all ages, come to party and eat oysters. Thank you so much to all of you who schlepped, shucked, and showed up.
The photos below were taken by Amber Fouts, Nick Ulfik, and Christopher Biggley. We'd like to start by thanking Min Liao, who flew in from NYC on a James Beard fellowship and was willing to do everything and anything that needed doing. Min: you seriously saved our bacon!
Not pictured in the photos below: many people who worked their butts off to make the event successful... we'd like to especially thank our team of pro Rama veterans: Sasha Loberg & Mary Lynch.
The Rama doesn't have a VIP lounge, but for those folks interested in digging a bit deeper we offer a series of classes and seminars. New this year: we organized a Natural Wine Fair featuring natural wine samples selected by Olympia Oyster Bar (PDX), Vinnie's Raw Bar (Seattle), Vif (Seattle), and our friend Will Piper (NYC)... paired with bites from Seattle's Navy Strength.
For the second year in a row, Tournant came up from Portland to teach a cooking-with-fire class they call "iron/fire/brine." It was truly a locally-sourced meal: we milled cedar planks for the planked PNW salmon, sniffed truffles out of the forest, cut boughs for l'éclade de moules with Penn Cove Mussels, dug savory clams from the beach, and harvested kelp from our brand new kelp farm.
The meal was paired with biodynamic, organic wine from Rama sponsor Cooper Mountain Winery. Owner Barbara Gross came up early to bond over crisp whites, rich reds, and the ins-and-outs of running a multi-generational family-run natural resource business. She's the one getting photographed in the metaphoto below. Barbara: we love you, your wine, and your whole approach to life.
For the third special event, Rowan Jacobsen and special guest Bryan Rackley from Atlanta's Kimball House walked a group of oyster lovers through a shucking & tasting class featuring several different species of oysters from around the country. Guests learned to shuck using Toadfish Outfitter oyster knives and sampled wines from Ovum & Grochau cellars. This was a highly effective class: alumni took two out of the three finalist spots in the mystery oyster contest (more on that below).
We try to keep it silly, and we think we succeed. There are various contests at the Oyster Rama... a mystery oyster contest, an oyster trivia, an oyster sports race... and the [second most obvious] common theme is that they're not meant to be taken too seriously.
Again this year, our oyster farmer friends at Hog Island Oyster Company, Taylor Shellfish, and Chelsea Farms joined us in "coaching" an amateur team in the oyster sports competition, aka the Shuckathalon. However, in a last minute wrinkle: one of the teams signed up to compete ended up no-showing, so our Clambassador Casey recruited friends and family. This impromptu Hama Hama team did end up taking first place, which was slightly scandalous... although judge Robert Spaulding (from Elliots Oyster House) assured us it was well-deserved.Special props to the Shuckathalon team who brought the bunny ears: we see you.
Q: How do you know when Casey's team wins the shuckathalon??
A: Don't worry, he'll tell you.
Thank you to Rachel Hansen, mother of Sea Cows, mover and shaker, and mastermind of the oyster Easter egg scavenger hunt. And thanks to Adrienne Anderson, cross-country fixer, for the oyster trivia, the wine know-how, and the laughs.
From right: our third, second, and first place contestants in the Mystery Oyster Contest. Special props to second place finisher and defending champ Michael Li (center), who not only correctly identified his oyster as a virginica, but pinpointed it as a Taylor Shellfish virginica from Totten Inlet. And, in an unexpected twist: first place winner Charles LeFevre, pictured on right, hadn't even eaten an oyster before he took Rowan & Bryan's class. It should be noted that Charles has a well-regarded palate and is kind of a big deal in the food world.
Of course, you can always come to the Rama and NOT compete in any way, shape, or form. Folks chilling in the beer garden enjoyed music from The Lowest Pair, Great American Train Wreck, The Pine Hearts, and our pal John Fogerty.
Harmonica Pocket returned to the kids tent, which also featured arts and crafts and salt water touch tanks.
Menu (and oyster) artist Dozfy took a break from painting murals on our delivery trucks, and instead setup shop on the shell pile to paint 'choose your own adventure' oyster shell keepsakes.
In the artist & environmental boot fair: local artists sold jewelry, artwork, and crafts, and nonprofit groups such as the Nature Conservancy and Warm Current shared good work and current research.
This year's silent auction killed it with donated gear (including Patagonia workwear & xtratuf boots), artwork, overnight stays from Alderbrook Resort & Shelburne Inn, and more. The door prize / raffle drawing gave a lucky winner two tickets to Tournant's July 20th farm dinner at Hama Hama (tickets now on sale!).
Left: winner, winner, oyster dinner! Right: Rama sponsor xtratuf boots took a colorful turn this year with their 6" deck boots.
The heart of the Oyster Rama will always be the beach experience. Oyster farmers from around the Sound and volunteers from Sea Grant, Puget Sound Restoration Fund, and Pacific Shellfish Institute help attendees explore the flats, identifying clam shows, midshipman nests, and moon snails. Humans of all ages harvest their own shellfish and play in the mud, only returning to dry land when the tide says it's time.
This year we extended the outdoor dining area onto the tideflats and built a bonfire, creating an epic battle between earth, fire, and water.
(The water won.)
FOOD & DRINK
This 2019 Rama had the best darn food lineup of any oyster rama in history, if we do say so ourselves. Crowd favorite Paellaworks returned, joined by Alderbrook Resort (tacos), Tournant (PNW cassoulet), Melusine (eponymous burgers), Yodelin (world's best broth), Musang (sliders and lemonade), Olympia Oyster Bar (ceviche), Taylor Shellfish (geoduck chowder), Chelsea Farms (pozole), Hama Hama crab cakes, Olympic Mountain Ice Cream and pizza, roasted oysters, raw oysters, and smoked oysters stuffed into quail and roasted over a wood fire. Yep.
Thanks to our colleagues at Set & Drift Shellfish, Olympic Oyster Co, Chelsea Farms, Baywater Shellfish, and Hood Canal Snail for donating oysters & shucking power to the Rama raw bars.
Beverages included beer, wine, and cider from some of our very favorites: brews from Holy Mountain, Timber City, 3 Magnets, Propolis, and newcomer Headless Mumby, cider from Finnriver & Eaglemount Cider, and wine from Cooper Mountain, Elk Cove, Port Townsend Vineyards, and Browne Family Vineyards. Iggy's Kombucha and Urraco Coffee came in clutch for those looking for nonalcoholic refreshment.
Below, our furthest flung foodies: Michael Scelfo of Waypoint and Alden & Harlow who flew in from Boston with his partner-in-crime Mike Seely to grill oyster stuff quail and smoked oyster sausages.
We meant to get a group photo of all of our volunteers wearing their 2019 Oyster Rama t-shirts... but the day got away from us. Here are a few of our smiling (and non smiling) faces:
Peace, and see ya next year!
2019 Oyster Rama Donors
These companies went above & beyond to support the oyster rama. If you see them out and about, tell them thank you for us!
The Oyster Rama was the best organized event I’ve been to. Plus it was absolutely delicious, friendly, and loads of fun. Good job!