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An Apalachicola Christmas

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Apalachicola is the premier Gulf oyster appellation. Even snobby oyster bars that normally don't include Gulf oysters feature these beauties from Northern Florida.

The last time I checked, Apalachicola oysters were going for $2.25 apiece at Oceanaire Seafood in the Galleria--the same price as the precious little farm-raised oysters from New England. They aren't available all the time, but you also sometimes find them at Reef, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, and a couple of other upscale restaurants. They are expensive--but for good reason.

Apalachicola oysters are harvested exclusively by tongers. This old-fashioned oyster harvesting method is easier on the ecology of the oyster reefs and it spreads the harvest out over the entire season. (In Texas over 400 oyster boats dredge the public reefs bare within weeks of opening day so there's none left at the peak of the season.) But of course, it also raises the price.

Florida fish and game authorities license only around 400 tongers. On a visit to Apalachicola Bay with the Southern Foodways Alliance a couple of years ago, I went out on a tonging boat to check it out first hand. I decided against applying for a license--it's backbreaking work. But I sure like eating them. I had some on the half shell and I grilled some for Christmas brunch this morning.

- Robb Walsh

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