Organizers of the third annual Oyster Cook-off are delighted at how well Saturday’s event went, and with the large amount of funds raised for the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department.
Marisa Getter, who helped coordinate the event, said the affair, held under sunny skies and drawing a surprisingly robust number of visitors, deposited more than $25,000 in the day of the event, plus drew more than $7,000 in sponsors.
In addition, credit card charges for the silent auction and additional sponsors are still coming in. “I can safely say we drew over $33,000 for the gross,” said Getter.
Happiest of all the attendees at Saturday’s cook-off had to be members of the Eastpoint Volunteer Fire Department, who walked away with top honors for their “Lazy Lester,” a deep dish oysters Rockefeller, garnished with romaine lettuce and lemon wedges.
The team, overseen by Capt Jim Joyner, took pains to improve on their presentation this year, serving up their culinary delight on an antique sea motif platter.
A second place finish was the prize for Rusty Hamlin, who created a half-shell oyster, topped with smoked mullet stone-ground grits, Bradley sausage and parmesan crumble. Hamlin is the executive chef for the Zac Brown Band, a country/folk band based in Atlanta that is on tour.
Third place went to Kevin Maxwell for his "oyster mushroom crostini,” a toasted crostini with white cheddar, topped with an oyster roasted in garlic butter, with sliced mushroom and julienne orange bell pepper, scallion, rosemary and thyme. Maxwell credited his success in part to the fresh oysters supplied by RD’s Oysters in Eastpoint.
Eight other competitors also took part, including last year’s winner, Jeff Ilardi who served up "Mardi Gras oysters" that featured kumquat liqueur and jam, tupelo honey, rice vinegar, Tabasco, chopped andouille sausage, chopped roasted sweet red pepper and shallots. Ilardi also won FCTV’s inaugural award for best booth exhibit.
Christine Smith served up “oysters diavalo,” with an oyster shooter in a Bloody Mary. She described the dish as “a little bit of Italian and a little bit of Latin,” made from shocking the oyster in olive oil and Italian seasoning, and flavoring with a jalapeno aiolo.
“They melt in your mouth with a lot of heat,” she said.
Richard Radford created the “orange blossom special,” with an oyster in the middle on a Ritz cracker, with a couple of little pieces of orange, peeled and ready to eat, and a spot of Nana’s pepper sauce,
“Just a spot,” he stressed.
Allen Mathis took part with succulent oysters on the half shell, while Up the Creek’s Brett Gormley did his "a la Caesar.” Joel Norred cooked up "roasted garlic oysters and grits,” the Weems Hospital Foundation made "gray oyster stew,” and John Solomon created two entries "Bacon BBQ" and "Expensive oysters,” the latter topped with caviar.
Judging again this year were Oyster Radio news director Michael Allen, and St. George Island real estate agent Jerry Thompson. In the place of State Senator Bill Montford was Ron Sewell, a Ford dealer in Odessa, Texas who likes to visit.
“We eat oysters every day we’re here,” he said.
Sewell later donated a $500 check to the fire department, noted Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, in his remarks following a spirited dance performance by city firefighters, led by Pam Nobles and some of her young dancers.
The many booths, from Capital Area Health Plan giving away fresh fruit, to the St. George Island Civic Club making funnel cakes, to the Chamber of Commerce and area volunteers serving up lots of varieties of oysters, were busy all day long.