I arrived at Raspberry Point Oysters on a perfect summer afternoon, a beaming sun with a slight ocean breeze. Just a few minutes past the sights, sounds and buzz of the carnival like Cavendish Boardwalk was the most serene backdrop of a fishing shanty, amidst sparkling blue waters and a lush green forest. I knew right then I was in for a great day.
Scott Linkletter, owner of Rasberry Point Oysters had heard about my love of all things seafood and kindly invited me to spend an afternoon with oyster enthusiast, James Power. Now this guy knows everything there is to know about oysters, you would think he would have a fishing background but of all things, he is a chemist! He originally started working for Scott Linkletter, at his other business, Prince Edward Island’s very own Cows Ice Cream. James was the guy behind all those new flavours, that have now as much to do with PEI heritage as the Fathers of Confederation. He still makes ice cream, but his true passion is oysters.
So, I arrived at the fishing shanty and jumped out of my car into this seaside postcard scene, dressed in my most appropriate fishing attire of course (aka a striped nautical top and fashion rubber boots) and there to greet me were six men dressed in their overalls and fishing boots. Of course, the first thought that came to my mind was….“photo op!” With a laugh the guys huddled around for the first of many photos and off we went for an afternoon of oyster fishing. Starting out, my only goal was not to fall off the boat and by the time I left, my mind was swimming with oyster knowledge and I had a new appreciation for that hard shelled-mollusc.
When James first started 20 years ago Raspberry Point had 1800 oysters and last year 5.5 million were produced to meet the growing demand for the Island’s salty treasure. Supplying oysters throughout Canada, the US, and even internationally, Raspberry Point makes sure that each one adheres to a strict quality control process and is shipped out the very same day it comes out of the water. Now that’s FRESH. I learned, not all oysters are created equal either – the perfect oyster is 3 to 3.5 inches and a round tear-drop shape. James answered the question burning on my mind, “why are PEI oysters so special?” and the answer is that it is all about patience. Prince Edward Island has the most northern stock of oysters that reproduce and those cold waters mean they take a long time to grow. The typical oyster sold is about 5 to 7 years old – allowing that signature taste of the sea to accumulate like a fine wine.
As a perfect end to my oyster adventure, James shucked us a few oysters straight from their beds. That just got my taste buds going and I had my husband, Tim, and son, Enzo, meet me on the deck of Carr’s Oyster Bar for more. Even my 18-month old tried to slurp an oyster – he is well on his way to be being a future Island foodie!
As I reflected on my afternoon with James and his passion for what he does, I thought oysters and ice cream do have a lot in common; it’s all about being committed to providing the best product. We have the natural gifts of the salty sea and fertile land, but it is the enterprising, creative, hard working people that truly make our Island a world-class culinary destination.