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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pearls Before Wine: Get Your Oyster Fix with a Festival and a New App

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 4:06 PM

click to enlarge SAM ASHER/PEARL
  • Sam Asher/Pearl

While fans of lobster are giddy because Portland, Maine’s Lobster ME is coming to the Westfield Center this summer along with its chowder fries, lobster-on-a-stick, and lobster mac & cheese, right now, it’s really all about the oyster.

For starters, this Saturday is Oysterfest, which is not only bringing lots of bivalves to Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow, but also Warren G, Thievery Corporation and Grand Master Flash. (Just don’t do any “White Lines” with the latter, or you’ll be agitated and not at all hungry for oysters.)

General admission is a relatively steep $50 (including fees) but you get a lot: There will be lots of food, including four distinct oyster zones — California and Baja, the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Northeast, and Cooked Oysters. Thirsty? They’ll be pouring Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s and Smithwick’s Pale Ale, Brancott Estate Sauv Blanc, Kenwood sparkling wine, and Campo Viejo Cab, and there's also a full bar.

If being surrounded by a quarter million people eating half a million oysters isn’t going to cut it for you, a new oyster-finding app debuts next month in San Francisco, New York, and Boston. Pearl helps diners learn more about different types of oysters and where they might be available; at the other end, it can help restaurants showcase rare or unusual oysters and keep abreast of what their ever-more-informed customers are asking for, keeping lists updated so nobody’s disappointed.

“Merroir,” the list of factors that contribute to a particular oyster’s flavor profile, has long had a murkiness to it, but perhaps no more. Salinity, a body of water’s mineral content, seasonal fluctuations in water temperate, and even the algae oysters eat are all taken into consideration.

Indeed, founder Sam Asher wants people to regard seafood the way they look at wine, and he’s raring to spread his enthusiasm around the bay. “My uncle lives in Menlo Park, and the Water Bar and Hog Island are classics,” he told SF Weekly.

So far, some 16 Bay Area restaurants have signed up with Pearl, plus dozens more in the Northeast. Soon, everybody might be able to tell a Chincoteague from a Duxbury from a Tomales Bay Golden Nugget, and trade stories of what they were slurping when Warren G segued into "Regulate." It’s never been better around here for fans of the gem of the sea.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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