What happens when a fisherman and a marine biologist come together with one shared bivalve vision? The Montauk Pearl is one of our all-time favorite oysters, with impeccably clean shells and pure, briny flavors that capture the heart of the ocean. The team behind Montauk Shellfish Company is incredibly dedicated to what they do, and it shows in this gem of an oyster.
Mike Martinson and Mike Doall are the farmers behind Montauk Pearls, and in Napeague Bay, off the easternmost reaches of Long Island, they reap the benefits of pristine ocean waters. “This is such a no-brainer,” said Martinson. “We are in such a prime location for what we’re doing, it’s actually surprising that we’re the first oyster farm here.” The cool waters give their oysters an abundance of briny liquor, which hugs a dense, rounded meat. But flavor is only part of the battle; the Mikes also strive to create perfectly polished, teardrop-shaped shells. To do so, Montauk Pearls are raised in floating bags along trawl lines. Growing out the oysters at the surface of the water means phytoplankton is abundant and the oysters will be well-nourished. Plus, the oysters are constantly tossed and turned by the surface waves, creating a strong shell and uniform shape. The sun also helps kill any sponges or microorganisms growing on the shell, keeping the oysters clean. For the last few months just before harvest, the oysters are submerged in cages in Block Island Sound, giving them an “ocean finish.” The end result is oysters that are beautiful inside and out, with a distinctive black stripe that marks their shells. The dense, firm shells also make them a favorite choice of shuckers.
The oysters are delivered to chefs and retailers within a day of harvest, and on Manhattan delivery days, Doall starts his van at 4 am to get the morning deliveries done on time. “It’s a very labor intensive job,” said Doall. “But you know what? It’s a lot of fun.”
“We’ve put tons of time, energy and love into creating these oysters, and the earth has been as good to them as we have. They really are perfect,” said Martinson. We have to agree, and hope the Mikes continue sharing their slice of perfection with us for years to come.