What does it take to produce the fattest, juiciest bivalves around? We asked the best in the business, Taylor Shellfish, who has been farming oysters for five generations, to explain.
“Taylor Shellfish produces some of the best oysters and clams in the world, and they just happen to be in the Pacific Northwest,” says Mackay. “Just as location, or terroir, is important to making great wine, so too is location critical to growing great shellfish. And Taylor is in the right place.”
We’re talking about some pretty incredible geography in Western Washington and British Columbia: South Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Samish Bay, Port Angeles, Vancouver Island and Desolation Sound. Thanks to clean water and nutrient-rich bays, the Northwest has some of the best shellfish beds around. Taylor Shellfish Farms is dedicated to healthy watersheds and estuaries, and they were one of the first shellfish companies to have their farms certified as sustainable.
You might say that salt water is in the Taylor family’s blood. Bill and Paul Taylor began farming oysters as kids on Totten Inlet, where their great-grandfather, J. Y. Waldrip, had started the oyster business in 1889. Today, the brothers run the company with their brother-in-law Jeff Pearson, farming some of the same special tidelands from over a century ago. Many of their children have recently joined the family business, making it five generations strong.
With 10,000 acres now under ownership or lease, Taylor Shellfish Farms relies on micro-locations for a consistent supply to customers. “Every day is different based on the weather,” says Bill Taylor, president of Taylor Shellfish Farms and a fourth-generation farmer. “We monitor conditions carefully and shift production and harvesting as needed. Shellfish should come out of the water one day and be on the plate the next.”
Even though oysters can make it to your plate in a day, growing them takes a lot of time and attention. Starting out as seeds in hatcheries, oysters may move locations several times. The growing process takes about 18 months for Pacific oysters and up to four years for Kumamotos and Olympias. For Shigokus, Taylor floats the oysters in bags and allows the movement of the tide to create the deep shell cups and briny ocean flavor.
All of that careful, hands-on cultivation—coupled with great tidelands–results in the fattest, juiciest bivalves around.
For Mackay, who opened AQUA by El Gaucho at Pier 70 in 2000, sourcing the best oysters, clams and mussels is paramount. “We’ve trusted Taylor Shellfish as our supplier since we opened. The Taylors are an exceptional family and exceptional farmers,” he says.
That partnership leads to exceptional food. AQUA’s executive chef Wesley Hood creates menus featuring Taylor Shellfish Farms seafood, such as steamed manila clams with fennel and mussels in coconut milk and red curry. And there’s nothing quite like raw oysters on the half shell to deliver a sweet, briny taste as fresh as the smell of the sea.
Sourcing the very best products ensures unsurpassed flavor, the signature of El Gaucho restaurants.