Olympia Oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarm prepared by Michael Millar at the Ark of Taste Tasting

April 5th, 2014 by Stacey Blaschke


Our Ark of Taste Tasting is a living and growing catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. The idea behind the this Ark of Taste catalog is continued education, identification and championing of these foods to make sure they continue to be produced and will be available for us to enjoy and eat.

Join us at the event, tickets are still available for our Saturday April 12th event and can be purchased at http://slowfoodoc-seeds-tasteofarkoftaste.eventbrite.com

The Ark of Taste catalog is also a tool for farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, grocers, educators and consumers to celebrate and preserve our country’s diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage.

At our upcoming tasting event we will be serving what is now the West Coast’s only indigenous rare oyster, the Olympia Oyster, which used to be plentiful along the West Coast but because of its popularity was overfished and almost completely disappeared.


Photo by VIUDeepBay from Flickr

A century and a half ago Mark Twain exclaimed, “T’was a brave person indeed, who first ate an oyster”. Yet like many San Franciscans in the 1860’s, he fell in love with the west coast’s native Olympia oyster. After abandoning the Mississippi riverboats for fear of being drafted into the army, Twain traveled to California and took lodgings at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, a hotel he soon titled “Heaven on the half shell”. There he wrote about gorging on the petite, coppery-flavored bivalves and indulgences until midnight on “oysters done-up in all kinds of seductive styles”. The Oly, as it was called, was the classic gold rush oyster, a staple of celebrations and everyday meals in San Francisco restaurants and oyster saloons.

It didn’t take long before the boom-town’s residents had mostly wiped out the native oyster population of San Francisco Bay and were getting oysters from whoever could ship them in especially Washington and Oregon who also sacked their native oyster beds to feed a growing California population. San Francisco’s appetites nearly wiped out the Olympia oysters.

Also contributing to the decline in cultured Olympia oyster production have been civil engineering projects in estuary areas along with urbanization and domestic and industrial pollution. Yet despite all this delicious oyster is slowly making a comeback.

carlsbadaquafarmThe oysters we will be serving are locally sourced and sustainably farmed in Carlsbad and have been donated for the event from Carlsbad Aquafarm, www.carlsbadaquafarm.com.

The oysters will be prepared by Slow Food OC member Michael Millar who also prepared oysters for all our guests last year at our Slow Food OC tour of the Carlsbad Aquafarm.

For the tour Michael smoked the oysters. His recipe for Smoked Oysters can be viewed on our blog also.

Michael’s Bio:

Michael’s cooking experience began in childhood, learning from his mother who prepared healthy meals for a family of nine on a daily basis. His first job in the food industry was assistant cook at a Girl Scout camp near San Luis Obispo, California, which he says was probably  the strangest job a 15 year-old could possibly have. But the sirens’ call of the theatre drew him to a career in stage production. He is currently the Production Manager for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre, a program that uses live storytelling to teach children and their families healthy choices such as nutritious eating and active living.

He discovered Slow Food while flying to Portugal, reading the cover article of the New York Times magazine that would become Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivores’ Dilemma” and he continues to search for Slow Food in far flung and closer to home places.

Michael cooks daily for his wife and friends, using seasonable items from the garden and the local farmer’s markets, getting to know his food purveyors as friends. He is the proud papa to a cat and three chickens who provide him with the best eggs ever. The chickens, not the cat…

Join us at the event, tickets are still available for our Saturday, April 12th event and can be purchased at http://slowfoodoc-seeds-tasteofarkoftaste.eventbrite.com

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