I do not weep at the world I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.
Zora Neale Hurston
One of the best kept secrets for lunch is tucked away on the waters of Westcott Bay on San Juan Island. Wescott Bay Shellfish Company is a twenty minute drive from the Coho Restaurant via Roche Harbor Rd. It is also accessible by dinghy. The dock is a working dock and they only allow very small personal crafts. From Roche Harbor Marina, the dinghy ride is approximately twenty minutes.
What is Westcott Bay Shellfish Company?
Westcott Bay Shellfish Company is a one-of-a-kind aquafarm in the San Juan Islands. The waters of Westcott Bay rarely exceed 52 degrees fahrenheit which creates an ideal growing environment for shellfish. Westcott’s oysters, mussels and clams live and grow sustainably with a traditional, hand-on approach. Every single clam, oyster and mussel is hand-raised on Westcott’s tidelands. They raise the Pacific oysters using a complex system of racks and flip-bags. Actually, it’s 340 bags on 85 racks, held together by 6,800 zip ties that will hold 1,000,000 oysters that’ll be ready for harvest in 2019.
The manilla clams are raised in netted beds along the beaches, while the Mediterranean mussels are suspended in traditional lantern nets. Westcott Bay Shellfish Company believes in the historic rituals of shellfish farming in order to offer the highest quality local shellfish. The island community recognizes and honors their practices as both a role model and a steward for respect within our natural marine environment. Westcott Bay Shellfish Company’s philanthropic ways reach far into the community, most recently in the form of academic scholarships for deserving high school graduates in Friday Harbor’s class of 2017.
The History of the Farm
Owners Erik and Andrea Anderson have strong island bonds, especially to Henry Island where they call home. The Andersons purchased the shellfish farm in 2013, but it certainly wasn’t in the pristine condition it is today. Once called Westcott Bay Seafarms with a renowned national oyster distribution, the aquafarm fell into dismal decline until it was listed for sale. Immediately after purchase, Erik and Andrea collected necessary seeds and focused their attention on replanting and replenishing the depleted oyster crop, vacant clam beds and torn mussel nets. They renamed the shellfish operation Westcott Bay Shellfish Company. The structures along the property were also in need of rebuilding and repair. From 2013-2016, Erik and Andrea worked diligently to rebuild the 400-ft pier. They also replaced the dock floats and the shellfish tank storage sheds. They also designed and built a new retail/packing house.
Why We Love Westcott
Westcott Bay Shellfish Company is an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. The staff is friendly and the spacious grounds have tables with a brilliant view of the aquafarm and the bay. The laid back vibe of the Shellfish Company is echoed by the Grunden commercial fisherman attire worn by the aquafarmers. Muck boots are common on the grounds, too, so don’t worry about dressing up because there’s plenty of empty oyster shells to walk atop and lots of primitive beachfront to explore. Eating at Westcott Bay Shellfish Company is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The barbecued oysters with chipotle oil are incredible and, of course, they harvest them a mere 100 ft from the picnic tables.
I love to go to the tanks and pick out my own oysters. Buckets of raw oysters are the best value, not to mention the best time. On the table are all the tools for raw oyster devouring: sturdy gloves, oyster knife. If you’re an oyster novice, the staff is willing and happy to show you the shucking secrets. The calamari is exquisite, and the warm Bakery San Juan baguette is such a great accompaniment to the shellfish. There is also a variety of gourmet salads and beverages to choose from. When it’s too good to leave, take solace in knowing they sell mussels and clams by the pound to cook at home.
So When Can You Try Some?
Westcott Bay Shellfish Company is open May 26, 2017 through mid-September, weather depending. In the summer, it is open 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, seven days a week. It is also open 4th of July and Labor Day. Westcott Bay Shellfish Company can also be found in the center of Friday Harbor on Saturdays at the Brickwork’s Farmer’s Market from 10 am - 1 pm, April 1st through mid-September. If you have any remaining questions, email the Shellfish Company at email@example.com.
Continue your culinary exploration with a dinner at Coho Restaurant. With a variety of Pacific Northwest cuisine options, you will feel like you are truly experiencing it all! We love doing the Chef's Special and let Chef Bill work his magic!
Photos and Content by Jennifer Furber published on July 27, 2017