What will they do next? First, it was Bleu Duck Kitchen, then the Bleu Duck Truck. Not long after, they introduced a line of gourmet frozen dinners. Now they're raising their own oysters in Casco Bay, Maine.
Jennifer Lester and Erik Kleven, business partners and entrepreneurs, know no limits. As you might say, the world is their oyster. This newest venture is sure to be as successful as the others, though it will be a few years before those oysters will be available to Rochester diners.
It started two years ago, when they added an oyster bar to their restaurant. Kleven was looking into various oyster suppliers in Maine, went to a bar in Portland, and as luck would have it, happened to sit next to an oyster farmer.
They struck up a conversation, which led Kleven to meet with John Herregil, an owner of Maine Oyster Company, which supplies oysters from small boutique oyster farmers to restaurants that have oyster beds up and down the Maine coast. While the rest is not quite history, he has become something of a mentor to the two.
Since then, oysters have become an important part of the Bleu Duck experience. The Maine Oyster Company ships in 400 oysters a week, while other sources also send many hundreds. Shipments arrive from their various sources Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It will, however, be three years before their own oysters can be harvested. The wait will be worth it.
Meanwhile, they serve the best you can get. The menu includes 10 different oysters from many select beds along the Maine coast. And here's a heads-up, oyster lovers: On Wednesdays with a wine order, you can get them for $2 each. Usual price is $3.75.
So why Maine, and not another well-known oyster-growing area?
"What's unique and special about those in Maine is that the coast there has a lot of fingers — bays, peninsulas and islands, the water is clear and cold, and overall, it's a perfect growing environment," Kleven said.
They currently have 5,000 oysters in the waters of Casco Bay in bags that then go in cages. Kleven and Lester will go back in the fall to separate the large from the small, then back they go into the water.
While I do like oysters, I really hadn't given much thought to these bivalves, so it was interesting to learn that there is just one species of oyster for the entire East Coast, as well as throughout the rest of the country — or wherever oysters are grown: Crassostrea virginica.
They may all be the same species, but they don't all taste the same. Their flavor profiles come from their location, the water, and what they consume. They can be briny, buttery, sweet and mild — even metallic. They are named after the specific locations they were harvested, like Casco Bay or Robinhood Cove — just two of the 10 varieties available at Bleu Duck.
Another interesting fact about oysters is their shapes are determined by their beds. Once they attach to a "bed" — a surface occupied by other oysters — they grow and form around it, as well as the other oysters around them. They filter water through gills, and consume food, like plankton, in the process.
I had to ask the Bleu Duck adventurers: What could they possibly follow this up with? Lester simply smiled.
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to email@example.com.