Oyster Cookoff comes back strong

Apalach Surf and Turf takes top prize

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If you were questioning whether Apalachicola’s annual oyster cookoff would be successful last Saturday, the answer is in.

It outdid itself, big time.

Blessed with crisp weather, and sunshine up until the moment late in the afternoon, after the winners were announced and the hoopla was over and the sky darkened and rain threatened, the gathering at Riverfront Park was a huge success.

And while the final numbers are not in, the event appears likely to bring in at least as much as in years past, if not more, money for the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department to cover the cost of paying off a truck bought a few years ago.

The big winner of course was the team that took home the top prize for its oyster creation, as judged by Apalachicola Mayor Brenda Ash, City Commissioner Anita Grove and firefighter Bruce Hoffman.

After eight years of competing, Anna and William Avery, of Team Bi-Valve won the top prize with their Apalach Surf-and-Turf, a dish thought up by Anne that brought together filet mignon together with fried oysters, mashed potatoes with scallions and lemon aioli.

She decided it was time to move away from their dish of oysters and cheese grits. “Let’s do something we would like to eat,” she told her husband. “Let’s do steak.”

The duo had help from nephew Tanner Clemons, who’s in Navy flight school in Pensacola. That’s because their traditional assistants, Anne’s sister and brother-in-law, were sick with COVID-19. “He came over to help,” said Anne.

Coming in second place were the Batty Sisters, who whipped up the Ultimate Bloody Mary, as well as blackened oysters with cheese grits.

Now in their fourth year of competing, the Batty Sisters created a Bloody Mary with five oyster garnishes, including an oyster po-boy, a stuffed hush puppy, a bacon-wrapped oyster, vodka-infused oyster and citrus pickled oyster. 

In third place was Ted Okolichany, from Lake Park, Georgia, who together with his friend Debi Lovelady, from Tallahassee, created smoked oyster casino, a grilled oyster flavored with bacon and sauteed vegetables and cheddar cheese. 

All told, there were 10 entries, including 10-4 BBQ’s Bloody Mary oyster shooter; the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, which had John Solomon and Donna Duncan whipping up jalapeno and spinach bacon-wrapped oysters; the Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers, which saw Jeff Ilardi and Kathy Swaggerty making Mardi Gras sliders, fried oysters flavored with New Orleans remoulade and vinaigrette flavoring; Half Shell Dockside, which saw bartender Shawn Boatwright and K’yla Shiver creating oysters flavored with mango and Weedline rum; the Indian Lagoon Oyster Company, where Charlotte Morrison and Loup Georges served up raw oysters with mignonette, served with fresh baked bread; and perhaps the most extravagant of all, the Owl Cafe’s Millennium Mollusk Chocolate Stout Cake, baked with Oyster City Stout and topped with white and dark chocolate in the shape of oysters.

In addition to a host of kids activities and a silent auction that is sure to bring monies for the fire department, the event kicked off with the traditional firefighters’ dance. The dancers offered a moving tribute to the dance’s creator, Pam Nobles, who passed away a few months ago after a valiant battle with cancer.

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