Yesterday on the show we did an impromptu interview with a chef at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Grand Terminal in New York City. The reason for the call was that we had gotten an email about an annual event there called Oyster Frenzy, not to be confused with our local Fettuccine Frenzy at Middendorf’s. There seems to be a lot of frenetic food activities this month.
This place brings back fond memories for me, because around twenty years ago I cruised into Grand Terminal aboard the Crescent, ending in New York City, the northern terminus of the Amtrak passenger train from New Orleans. Grand Terminal (if you call it Grand Central Station you are using the wrong term) had recently undergone a number of restorations, one of which was to upgrade the Grand Terminal Oyster Bar (since 1913.) The restaurant that came out of that process was perfect for the task, and the place got as busy as it became eminently edible.
In subsequent years, there came to be competitions about the excellence of the many oysters in and around New York. The first time I saw this, I asked whether New Orleans and Louisiana oysters were accepted in the competitions. I was very much surprised to learn that - then and now - Gulf of Mexico oysters are forbidden in such contests. I once asked a manager, as I did in the conversation yesterday, why this should be. Both replied that there is an unchanging policy against our local product.
It’s time for the annual Oyster Frenzy, and the prohibition continues. The list of available oysters at the Grand Terminal Oyster Bar numbers over two hundred. And not a single Gulf Oyster. The culprit is Vibrio vulnificus, the infamous bacteria that kill about a dozen people a year, from the millions who eat them.
The guy we talked to yesterday mentioned that he learned of this company ban the hard way when he purchased a sack of Apalachicola oysters as a newbie to the company. The response to that mistake stuck with him. They take their oysters seriously in the Northeast-as much as we do here. We'll eat theirs, but if they are afraid to eat ours, quite all right.
I’m happy to eat their share.
But, If you are an oyster lover in New York City on September 28th, this 17th annual event sounds like fun. All day shucking competitions and something called a "slurp off," Hmmm. Call for reservations: 212-490-6650. And don't expect to see our oysters.
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Lower Level Grand Central Terminal
89 East 42nd St New York City
Mon-Sat . 11:30 am - 9:30 pm