Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oysters on the Half Shell

On our August vacation, we traveled though Apalachicola, Florida. Outrunning Tropical Storm Fay, we had one night and one day to spend here.

Apalachicola is located in the Florida panhandle, where the Apalachicola river drains into the Gulf of Mexico. It's part of a stretch of Alabama and Florida coast sometimes known as the Redneck Riviera, for its attraction as a vacation and retirement spot. The town of Apalachicola faces a wide bay protected from the Gulf waters by a series of barrier islands.

The historic downtown is charming and its streets are fun to stroll along and windowshop. The town was founded as a shipping port for cotton and cypress lumber brought down from upriver to be milled here. We stayed in a guesthouse whose building used to be the French consulate. It seems odd to have a French consulate in a small city like Apalachicola, but French business interests in cities on Gulf of Mexico needed support from their government in the early years, and the consulate continued well into the Twentieth Century. There are many charming inns, hotels, and B & B's.

The oyster and fishing industry developed, too, making Apalachicola oysters famous, and supporting generations of fishermen and oystermen - and women.

More than 90% of Florida's oyster production is harvested from Apalachicola Bay, and the bay supplies 10% of all oysters consumed nationally. Apalachicola oysters are known as among the finest oysters in the world. The bay, with its mixed flow of Gulf waters and waters from the Apalachicola River, is a perfect environment for oysters and other seafood.

We learned of a great waterfront oyster bar, Papa Joe's, so we checked it out. It's right on the marina.

As we sat in the glassed-in porch overlooking the water, we watched the storm clouds come in.

The oysters were as promised - big, delicious, and fresh! And cheap - a dozen cost only $5.95! In Los Angeles, you pay $15 for only a half dozen. We also ordered some cooked oysters - they had a trio of Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters baked in butter and parmesan, and Oysters baked with jalapenos and jack cheese. My favorite was the simplest one - butter and parmesan. Although, I must confess I like my oysters raw on the half-shell best.

Outside the window, the clouds continued to build. You could actually see the line of rain moving across the flat grassland.

Then suddenly it was right outside, dimpling the water's surface and lashing at the windows. There's something so cozy about being safe and warm inside while a storm rages. You could hear people murmur and exclaim at the fury of the rain, but everyone continued to eat and drink, and the waitresses moved around the room.

We were just trying to decide what to order next when suddenly the lights went out. Oh. It didn't feel quite so safe anymore.

This isn't the first time this has happened to [The Man I Love] and me. Would the power come back on? We asked the waitress for another dozen oysters.

But it was not to be. "Sorry, we can't take any more orders." The word spread around the dining room. People finished their meals, and fumbled for cash to pay their tabs. As the darkness deepened, the room emptied.

Outside in the parking lot, headlights shone on the heavy falling raindrops. We picked our way through the puddles in the gravel. The cars slowly inched out of the lot, defaulting to a "4-way stop" at the dark traffic light.

We only had one day in Apalachicola - so this was our only chance at Papa Joe's. If you go there, stop in and have a Seafood Platter for me!


Scooterblu's Whimsy said...

Great tour! Glad you were able to outrun Faye and enjoy! Love the pic of the pink scooter below! Your picture on it is too cute! :) ~Rhonda

Jason said...

Awesome! What a great time. Minus the oysters.

barbara said...

These are beautiful photographs. You have captured the mood so well.