Oyster Festival on North Stradbroke Island

A dozen freshly shucked oysters for $11.  Yes that's what I found at the North Stradbroke Island Oyster Festival on Saturday.

Premium, freshly harvested oysters from Stradbroke Island's pristine waters were lined up from four local growers and our job was to taste the difference as we walked down the line, chatting with the growers along the way.

I'd done a little research so I could ask intelligent questions like "Where do you get your spat?" and "Do you cut and turn?".   It was interesting to hear the answers and I look forward to learning more about how the oyster industry works.

I could definitely taste the difference between the oysters with the ones grown in the more open sea waters having a sharper, salty sea flavour. However oysters grown further down the island's shore into the bay were really creamy.

Greg Nankervis of Dialba Oysters

Kevin Hall and friends show off his Kev's Ocean Washed Oysters

Lawrie McGrath shows his oysters

Oyster growers Gordon and Marion Gibson

For those of you who have never visited Stradbroke Island, you'll find it just 50 minutes off the Brisbane bayside suburb of Cleveland.  That's a barge trip where you can take your car to drive around the island as we did.

The Oyster Festival is an annual event so look out for it in 2012 - I'll certainly be there.

There's a small band of dedicated growers producing plate-sized rock oysters off Stradbroke Island which have some of Brisbane's top chefs eagerly waiting for deliveries.  You can find them at the moment at Alchemy, Aria, Augustines, Cabiria, Chelsea, Cloudland, Deer Duck Bistro, Esquire, Ortiga, Pescatore, QLD College of Wine and Tourism, Ricky's, Sake, Southbank Surf Club, Spring, Stokehouse, Tempo, Urbane and Via Italia. Don't dally if you want to try them as the season is short running from November to January.

Oyster growers shucking for the oyster eating competition

A premium Straddie oyster

This young oyster lover had no trouble gobbling down freshly shucked gems.

Shinichi Maeda, Executive Chef at Sake was on hand for a cooking display at the festival

I've heard stories that Straddie oysters are being sold at up to $9 each at some restaurants but you can try these gems for considerably less on the island.  And you'll want to experience the creamy, iodine tanginess and fresh saltiness straight from the sea that makes these oysters such a delight.

Oyster growing is a labour of love rather than a great profit making venture according to the oyster growers I spoke to.  Rock oysters grow in the intertidal zone to three metres below the low water mark. It's not always an easy place to work with maintenance and collecting governed by tides.

Saccoestrea glomerata, initially called Moreton Bay rock oysters and re-named Sydney rock oysters after the almost total collapse of the Queensland industry by 1936, are endemic to Australia. They are found in bays, inlets and sheltered esturaries from Hervey Bay in Queensland to Wingan Inlet in Easter Victoria.  Only a small number of leases operate on a limited commercial basis in the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Michael Dalton of Fino Foods has been sharing Stradbroke Island Oyster love by encouraging some of Brisbane's top chefs to visit the island and the oyster leases. Check out his blog for more details on chef visits.

One Straddie oyster farmer who was not at the festival was Ningi Nigni Yum Yum who has a travelling oyster farmer service - Shuck It. They will bring the oysters to you and shuck them in your home.  Call Damien on 0412 020 619 or Stuart 0418 723 868. Bistro size are $12 per dozen while large plate size are $17 per dozen.

I enjoyed oysters on the island at Seashells Cafe and Bar at Amity and The Whales Way Tapas Bar and Restaurant in Pandanus Palms Resort, Point Lookout. There's plenty of accommodation on the island so make a weekend of it or, better still, a week.

Check the Stradbroke Island website for more info on the island.

These lovely candles are a great Straddie souvenier - find them at The Fruit Barn or the weekend market.

The festival was a relaxed, fun, family day for all.