True oyster lovers feel like they have died and gone to heaven when they arrive in Apalachicola. Located at the eastern end of Florida’s panhandle, this quaint fishing village supplies a whopping 90 percent of the state’s oysters and 10 percent of the United States’ supply.
Oyster men harvest these delectable and nutritious morsels in Apalachicola Bay, which is fed with some the country’s cleanest waters. Paradise Flats, Cat Point and other distinctly named oyster bars line the bay for 12 miles.
Boss Oyster restaurant counts on Ken Folsom to supply it with top quality specimens. Wearing a ball cap, plaid shirt and athletic shoes, the scruffy-bearded oysterman shows the simple tools of his trade: a modest fishing boat anchored with crankshafts, 14-foot-long tongs, a cull board and plastic laundry baskets. When harvesting, he lowers the tongs over an oyster bed, clamps them shut to secure the mollusks, and then pulls them up and deposits the load on the boat’s cull board.
“The oysters come in clumps like this,” he says as he holds up a sizeable cluster. “I cull the best and put them in these baskets.” Each of the baskets holds 90 pounds.
Many would consider Folsom’s life a lonely existence, but he enjoys it. Out in the bay, he can crank up his favorite rock music full blast. And he gets a steady flow of compliments about the choice oysters he harvests.
Boss Oyster serves them 15 different ways, from fresh to traditional offerings like oysters Rockefeller to the chef’s creative concoctions. Each local restaurant has its specialty. Caroline’s River Dining, for instance, serves up a scrumptious breakfast that epitomizes Apalachicola and its Southern heritage ─ huge oyster cakes with grits and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.
IF YOU GO
For information about lodging, dining and area activities, call the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce at (850) 653-9419. The Consulate (800-624-3924) offers luxury suites, starting at $175 per night, in the historic riverfront district. The quaint, 31-room Gibson Inn (850-653-2191) has rooms starting at $90 and a full-service restaurant.