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From ocean, lake, and river, seafood is a vast category of fare that ranges from just-caught lobster at a sunny picnic table along the rockbound coast of Maine to all-you-can-eat catfish in the Deep South to cool Dungeness crab Louis in a Pacific Northwest diner.
An addition to the above-mentioned joys, uniquely American seafood highlights are Lowcountry broiled whole flounder, a Chesapeake Bay blue crab feast, a Milwaukee-tavern Friday night fish fry, Maryland lump crab cakes, shrimp and grits in South Carolina, Minnesota Walleye, Oregon smoked salmon, Alaska crab legs, and whole-belly fried clams along Massachusetts’ north shore.
Oysters are especially sought after by many Roadfood adventurers, favorite varieties for eating raw being velvety Pacific oysters, smoky and custard-smooth Olympias, earthy Wellfleets, buttery/sweet Apalachicolas, powerhouse Maine belons, and fruity Hog Islands from California. Probably the best place to eat massive amounts of oysters is New Orleans, Acme Oyster House in particular.
In the Lowcountry, oysters star in a unique feast known as an oyster roast. These oysters are covered with burlap and cooked over smoldering charcoal. Unlike urbane oysters that are bright and glistening in their clean marine liquor presented on the half shell on a bed of crushed ice, oyster roast oysters are quite hideous to see, bunches of them stuck together and smelling of the sea, all gnarled and splotched with pluff, which is the oysterman’s term for the fine silt that sticks on them when they are harvested and clings to them when they are roasted so that merely touching a cooked cluster will smudge your fingers. The oyster roast is a communal event where amenities are minimal and camaraderie is huge. The rare restaurant that serves one along the South Carolina coast is ebulliently colorful, parking lot paved with millions of crushed shells, tables topped with newspaper instead of cloth, oysters quite literally shoveled from the grate onto the table, where the only utensil provided is a knife to wedge into the place the oyster has begun to spring open and pry it all the way.
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