On the heels of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival about 30 Charleston bar managers and staff boarded a pontoon boat at the Isle of Palms marina. Our journey was sponsored by Don Julio Tequila for the purposes of demonstrating the reasons farming and processing of ingredients are so vital to the quality of the finished product. Local shellfish farmer Clammer Dave uses similar dedication to growing, harvesting, and processing his main ingredient above and beyond that of his competitors similar to how Don Julio prides itself on its treatment of agave plants for tequila.
As we cruised slowly out toward Capers Island our boat driver Robert of Barrier Island Eco Tours showed us lots of local bird varieties and told us why the Charleston marshes so vital to our ecosystem and lifestyle in Charleston. We sipped on mason jars of Don Julio margaritas as we enjoyed our tour of the beautiful marshes.
As we approached some of Clammer Dave’s oyster beds he discussed how jet skis and the surge of boating in this sensitive oyster bed area can have a dramatic negative effect on clams and oysters.
Clammer Dave discussed how poaching has started to become a problem and how he has begun using HD cameras installed on buoys to help combat this.
He then took us to a floating house boat near his oyster beds. He said that when we started this business around ten years ago that he would live on this boat from time to time so that he could spend more time getting all of his work done. Both clams and oysters are planted and harvested by his business. He sells to many downtown Charleston, SC restaurants and also ships to restaurants around the country including some in New York City. Visit his website for more information. www.clammerdave.com
After our boat cruise we headed back to Clammer Dave’s processing plant located near McClellanville, SC and he spent some time explaining to us the ways his crew uses their senses of hearing, sight, and smell to sort out any poor quality oysters. They also sort them by hand one at a time by weight so that they can deliver a superior and consistant product to his customers. This type of one by one hand sorting is almost never done by other oyster producers. At 3:40 in the below video there is a great discussion about how both Clammer Dave and Don Julio respect the ingredients and do everything in their power to keep them at maximum quality.
Then the party began as the bar managers and staff started sampling Don Julio oyster shooters and a local bluegrass band got our collective juices flowing. There was Don Julio cocktails including the “50/50” and “Basil Smash”.
We then sampled roasted oysters (steamed) in clusters as well as selects (singles). At the end of the night we finished with a Lowcountry boil of clams, shrimp, corn and potatoes.
I definitely have a greater respect for the companies that take the time to focus on quality. Taking pride in delivering a world class product like Don Julio and Clammer Dave requires a dedication most food businesses lack. In the age of the global industrial food market it is nice to see and support those companies that do it responsibly.
Cheers to Don Julio for this wonderful day, your dedication to quality, and your delicious tequila!