This past Sunday, Rodney’s Oyster House, the centre of gravity for all things bivalve in Toronto, played host to the annual Ontario Oyster Festival. This was the 24th year for the seafood celebration, which raises money for Environmental Defense, an organization which promotes green causes ranging from clean beaches to banning BPA. The highlight of the day (and the event which brought us down there on a rainy Sunday): the crowning of the Ontario Oyster Opening Champion, who gets to go on to nationals in PEI.
Tickets for the event were $35, which came with two drink tickets and a plate of oysters or tacos. A wide range of libations was present to keep the crowd lubricated, including a special one-off oyster stout from Amsterdam Brewery, wine from Cave Spring and Iceburg vodka. The crowd feasted on boiled lobster, fried clam strips and mussels, in addition to the plentiful oysters which were brought in from Rodney’s own farm in PEI.
The oyster shucking saw Eamon Clark (the prodigal son of Rodney Clark) defend his title for the fourth year in a row against 30 other competitors, including former world champion and Guinness world record holder Patrick McMurray of Starfish (Clark and McMurray went head-to-head last year at nationals, with the former eking out a win in a shuck-off). Each competitor was given a bag of 21 oysters, from which they had to open 18; speed was not the only factor, however, with points allotted for cleanliness and separation of meat from the shell. In the end, Clark easily took the win, with a time of 1:54, while Lawrence David (Starfish) and Mark Moore (Rodney’s By Bay) took second and third place, with 2:26 and 2:28, respectively. Despite the humid weather and a near-biblical thunderstorm, the Oyster Fest raised $15,000, with over 1,000 attendees (proof, if any were needed, that this non-coastal town loves its bivalves). With The Waxbills and Horshack providing live music, and Rodney’s neighbour Spin providing ping pong, the whole thing made for a genial way to spend a Sunday.