Aw shucks, we hope you’ve been practicing your best tonging techniques: the Chesapeake Bay OysterFest is just around the corner…
When? 5 November 2011.
Where? Chesapeake Bay, people! St Michaels, Maryland, to be exact; just steps from boutique bayside beauty, The Inn at Perry Cabin.
What? OysterFest is an annual celebration of Chesapeake Bay’s bountiful bivalves held by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, featuring tours, tonging classes and an oyster-slurping competition.
Style Life aquatic
Setting Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Event highlights Oysters aside, there are plenty of fringe activities to keep you busy. Dog shows, for example. A crack team of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers demonstrates how they earned their name at a skilful fetching exhibition at Navy Point from 11.30am to 2.30pm.
IN THE KNOW
Head count About 2,000 oyster lovers head to the bay each year.
Packing tips Bring an appetite; those fresh-from-bay oysters on ice and piping-hot stews aren’t going to eat themselves. Don your deck shoes to play captain on a cruise.
Bar chat We like how St Michaels has something in common with Doogie Howser – MD. Ok, that’s not really a conversation starter, but we think you can manage without us…
DOs & DON’Ts
• Register for an oyster-tonging trip. Barks depart from the small boat shed, every half hour, between 10am and 4pm. The boats only carry six at a time and slots fill up by noon.
• Get your oyster stew early: samples from the cook-off fly off the tables as soon as they’re dished up. Chef Aaron McCloud of Sherwood’s Landing, the restaurant at Smith hotel The Inn at Perry Cabin, is a top contender.
• Come back and take a class. The museum offers a day-long apprenticeship programme teaching students how to build sea-worthy vessels.
• Make time to browse St Michaels’ vintage shops. Head to Antiques on Talbot, on North Talbot Street, to find china, chairs and oyster plates. Continue the hunt for treasures at Oyster House Antiques (+1 410 745 4044) on South Talbot Street.
NEED TO KNOW
Getting there Maryland’s Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport is just over an hour away; DC’s Ronald Reagan National Airport is two hours from town; and Dulles International in Washington DC is about two and a half hours from St Michaels. From the Bay Bridge, take Route 50 to Easton, then exit onto Route 322 and take it to Route 33 which lands you in St Michaels. Turn right into the museum entrance marked by a restored drawbridge raised above the street.
Children This is one child-friendly festival: under-fives go free and families are invited to climb aboard the replica buyboat Mister Jim (left; nb a buyboat was a vessel used to source the freshest oysters from the fleet working the oyster beds). These eco-cruises cost $10 a head and leave from near the lighthouse.
Parking Don’t fret if you run out of spaces to park near the main event–look for spots on Willow and Carpenter Streets. For a scenic stroll from your car to the bay, walk along Cherry Street crossing Honeymoon Bridge on foot.
Tickets Adults,$15; seniors $12; children over five, $6. Buy yours at gate when you arrive.
FOOD & DRINK
Start the day with blueberry pancakes and coffee at the Key Lime Café at 207 North Talbot (+1 410 745 3158). Situated on South Talbot, Ava’s Pizzeria offers an extensive wine list, wood-fired pizzas and perfectly seasoned house-made potato chips (+1 410 745 3081). For the freshest catches, head to Chesapeake Bay Landing. Don’t let the casual interior fool you, this local favourite takes its seafood seriously. Try the steamed crabs and the stuffed oysters (+1 410 745 9600).
After a full day of taste-testing and boating, bed down at bayside boutique hotel the Inn at Perry Cabin. With gently nautical modern interiors, smatterings of antiquity and the soothing on-site Linden Spa, this waterside retreat has just the right amount of aquatic associations. Time-worn sepia photos and sketches of sailboats and shells line the walls; common areas are dotted with model yachts. We love the bright and airy bedrooms and bay views.