Friday, December 13, 2013

Best Oyster Dishes in Leonardtown, Maryland!

I have started to write for the Leonardtown Life Magazine and thought I would share my work with those of who do not live in the area. Check out this piece about the best oyster dishes in my town! 

St. Mary's County's love affair with the oyster began when Captain John Smith declared the species "Chesapeake Gold" back in 1634. As a staple to not only our local economy, but more importantly, to our local diet, Leonardtown celebrates our favorite mollusk each year at the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds. The Oyster Festival is home to the National Oyster Shucking Contest and Cook-Off; held at the end of October, this weekend is always packed with unique eats, live music and bushels of family fun. Mark your calendars; next year's festival will be held October 18-19. For more information, visit

Dishing Up Leonardtown

                “He was a bold man who ate the first oyster.” –Jonathan Swift

The muddy mollusk may not be the most pleasing to our eye but where it lacks in appearance, the hankered oyster makes up in its uniquely earthy flavors. Since the docking of the Ark and Dove, this briny bi-valve has remained a staple in the diet of Southern Marylanders. The options seem endless in the preparation of the oyster: a splash of hot sauce, scalded to briny perfection, battered and deep fried, smoked, raw with just a drop of vinegar, baked, sprinkled with the bite of raw onion, floating in a creamy stew, or delicately served on the half shell garnished with bits of salty bacon. Thanks to our large community of hardworking watermen, often times we can consume oysters for dinner which have been caught and shucked in the early hours of that very same morning. Leonardtown restaurants feature this coveted mollusk year round; from sandwiches and stews to perfectly posed half shells and mountainous dinner platters, take a look at the variety that our town offers with this local staple.

Café des Artistes, in the heart of Leonardtown Square, offers its patrons an authentic French dining experience with a charming local flare. The Café provides the ideal atmosphere for sharing a glass of wine with a friend or enjoying a quiet family meal. The oyster makes an appearance as an appetizer on their menu in the Oysters Café or “Les Huitres Café des Artistes.” Served delicately on the half shell, this dish featured a plump oyster topped with fresh Maryland crab meat, sautéed spinach and shallots covered in provolone cheese. The delicate taste of the crab meat works as an excellent balance to the savory oyster; the spinach, shallot and bubbling, crispy provolone topping serve as a rich blanket to the fresh seafood. Café des Artistes gives this local favorite a look and taste of pure elegance.

Fitzies Marina Restaurant and Pub, nestled at the end of Joe Hazel Road, is one of Leonardtown’s many hidden treasures; with sweeping views of Breton Bay, this spot is a must for indulging in the coveted oyster. Fitizies seasonally features oysters three ways: on the half shell, Rockefeller style and of course, fried. The Rockefeller features oysters presented in the half shell, smothered in a creamy spinach and green onion topping complete with a healthy covering of cheddar jack cheese. The sweetness of the spinach mixture acts as a perfect complement to the briny oyster and salty cheddar jack. Their fried version of our local favorite certainly cannot be beat. I downed a half dozen in the blink of an eye; the fried oysters were generously coated in a mild breadcrumb mixture and fried to a crispy, golden brown. The freshness of Fitzies oyster dishes: insurmountable. For an oyster feast with a breathtaking view, Fitizies Marina Restaurant and Pub has you covered.

The Leonardtown Grille, just blocks from the Square, presents its patrons with an inviting family atmosphere. Their convenient location makes the Grille a great stop for a quick oyster satiation. The oyster finds its spotlight on the dinner platter menu; served alongside either a crab cake or small rack of ribs. I found the barbeque and oyster combination to be quite intriguing; I do love both of these foods, but together? The smoky barbeque paired with the crispy oyster turned out to be quite the palette pleaser. The ribs were tender, falling right off the bone, as I alternated bites between the oyster and the barbeque. The dinner is served with two sides; I went for the coleslaw and garden salad. The crisp cabbage and fresh salad served as a fantastic counterpart of the saucy ribs and fried oyster. The Leonardtown Grille provides its patrons with a plethora of options when designing their ultimate oyster dinners.

Reader Recipe:

This month’s recipe is an original from local artist, Carol Wathen. As a resident of Rosebank, a waterfront community in Leonardtown, Carol creatively named this original oyster dish in honor of her long time neighborhood.

Oysters a la Rosebank

Originator: Carol Wathen of Leonardtown

1 pint of oysters with its juice
1 tbsp all-purpose flour to thicken
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsbp of minced onion
4-5 shakes of hot sauce
2 tbsp of brown sugar
Touch of black pepper
Season salt to taste
Paprika for color


In a skillet over medium heat, combine all wet ingredients, including the juice within the pint of oysters (add only half for a less briny sauce). Stir well and allow the sauce to begin to bubble; once bubbles begin to form, add in the brown sugar, flour and dry spices. Simmer for approximately 5-7 minutes. Add in oysters, wait for them to begin to curl up; once they begin to curl and reach appropriate doneness, transfer the saucy oyster mixture into a serving dish. This recipe can be served as a standalone appetizer or over rice for a more substantial meal.

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