Another shucking good cook-off
A break in the weather, a dedicated crew of volunteers, and a reputation for what has become perhaps the off-season’s most prestigious events all added up to an outstanding 10th anniversary of the annual Oyster Cookoff on Saturday at Riverfront Park in Apalachicola.
Crowd attendance of several thousand people was at least as good, if not better than recent years, as the cold snap took a respite and sunny skies and warm weather made for a perfect day.
“We ran out of the same amount of shrimp and oysters we'd served last year by about 2:30 p.m. this year, so had about 25 percent more delivered to see us through until 5ish,” said Shelley Shepard, treasurer of the volunteer Auxiliary that has been fundraising for the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department from the inception of the cook-off in 2010.
She said it was too early to determine precisely how much would be raised by the event, but if it is anything like last year, it will be in the neighborhood of at least $30,000 or $40,000, and likely more.
“The silent auction earned about as much as in previous years, approximately $12,000,” said Shepard, noting that the high-ticket items included a dove hunt to Argentina, a fire pit donated by Andy Stivers, and a stunning tarpon painting donated by Sea Grape Gallery.
“We cannot thank our local businesses enough for their generous donations to the silent auction; it has become a highlight for visitors wanting to see what items the businesses showcase!” Shepard said.
A half-dozen teams took part, but between them they whipped up a dozen dishes, so the three judges, Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos, Cutler Edwards, manager of The Gibson Inn and Danny Collins, government and community relations manager for Duke Energy, had their taste buds busy as they decided who would wear the crown.
Once again, the top prize went to ce went to Halfshell Dockside with their Apalach ceviche, a dish of oysters falvored with pineapple, mango, lime and orange juice, onions and love, whipped up by general manager Amanda Kelley, kitchen manager Mario Lane and service manager Jessica Burch. The team also entered an oyster stew, and a Creole oyster cornbread in the competition.
Finishing a close second, in a decision that required a tiebreaker, was the Over the Limit team of Cathie Korfanty and Levi Stanley, whose “East Meets Apalachicola Oysters” narrowly missed the top prize. The team also entered a Southern oyster casserole on the half-shell.
In third place were The Batty Sisters, a team made up of Rebecca Nelson and Chris Verlinde, who prepared poblano peppers stuffed with oysters in cream sauce. The sisters also whipped up “drunken oysters” and oysters Rockefeller empanadas.
For the sixth straight year competing, Team Bivalve, of Bill and Anne Avery, with Nancy and Dane Clemons, prepared oysters on a cloud, and poor man’s oyster stew, while the Cabana Boy Wanted (with Red Speedo) team of Earl Solomon and Valerie Covington prepared oyster egg rolls.
In terms of the People's Choice, the Owl Café, which submitted oyster stew for judging, raised a whopping $6,700 for the fire department, while the Batty Sisters brought in $660 and the Korfanty/Stanley team $308.
Highlighting the event, which included two bouncy houses, relay races, the county humane society offering dogs in need of forever homes, face painting, a Census Bureau information table, and more, was once again the Apalachicola firemen doing an original dance choreographed by Pam Nobles.