Stephen Coe takes the saying “the world is your oyster” somewhat literally. The executive chef at the Mirbeau Inn & Spa at the Pinehills, located in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, is determined to personally introduce guests to the slippery and succulent aphrodisiacs in a series of hands-on oyster dinners that include foraging the bivalves first.
Next Wednesday, July 29, marks the first oyster outing of the summer. Some 10 to 12 guests, donning waterproof boots, will assemble at the hotel (doubles from $295) and embark on a two-hour aquatic evening complete with boat ride, Prosecco sipping, shucking exercises, oyster history and education, and the opportunity to pick your own gems from the sea. Later, your cache will be served at a beachfront dinner on tables set upon floating docks called mud flats.
“The property’s first anniversary was approaching, and I really wanted to do something interactive and food-related with our guests that also brought in the partnership we have with our local suppliers at the Plymouth Rock Oyster Growers,” says Coe, a strong advocate of sustainable agriculture, and who, at only 35, has already acquired 20-plus years of culinary experience. “Many people are afraid of oysters. I want people to appreciate the fact that, like honey, they’re all natural and have no human aspect to them.”
During the excursion, participants will spot three different types of cages that house oysters, each in different stages of growth—from seedlings, to two months old, to those ready for picking at one year of age.
“The perfect oyster is usually two to three inches long and encapsulated in a deep shell resembling a shallow cup,” Coe explains. “Once popped open, these delicious little morsels should be sitting in clear juice and be opaque in color.” The secret to finding great oysters lies in the tide, the natural flow of the ocean, and the minerals and vitamins found in the water. “Depending upon the time of year and where the oysters have grown, they can taste sweeter, saltier, or slightly metallic, which means they’re higher in iron,” he says.
While guests are educated on the bivalve mollusks by the Plymouth Rock team, Coe will be at a specially built cinderblock and beach wood grill preparing local lobsters, scallops, saltwater corn—and his special twist on oysters Rockefeller.
“I take baked oysters and cover them with house-made pancetta, bee pollen, tomato, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. When they turn a golden color, I pour a buttery, savory sauce on top. People who don’t like to eat raw oysters find they taste amazing,” he says. “At the end of the evening, any apprehension they might have had for eating them is gone.”
The oyster excursion is one of an array of special dining experiences offered at the property, which mirrors a French country estate, surrounded by beautifully landscaped Monet gardens, a tranquil waterfall and Koi fishponds. The 50-room haven includes a 14,000-square-foot spa and three restaurants serving local, sustainably minded cuisine, each run by Coe.
If you can’t make the oyster outing, Coe can bring the oysters to you. “On average we serve 1,500 to 2,000 of them a week in the restaurant,” he says. “They might be little, but they pack a wonderful, awesome, tasty punch. It’s my goal to make sure everyone has an opportunity to experience at least one while they’re here.”
Dinners are $150 per person, and will take place regularly through October—though tide and weather conditions will affect dates. Call the Mirbeau at 877-647-2328 to inquire and book.