Rome Point Oyster Farm
Narragansett Bay
North Kingstown, RI
United States
Ph :
Russ Blank has enjoyed a long history on the waters of Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound. Prior to starting Rome Point Oyster Farm, he dove for quahogs in the bay. In addition, he has run a charter boat company, Striker Charters, for over 20 years. Captain of a 31-foot Duffy that docks in Snug Harbor, he takes passengers fishing inshore for cod, blues, stripers and fluke, or on offshore excursions for tuna and shark. Following a class in Aquaculture at the University of Rhode Island, Russ applied for a lease on a 4-acre site at Rome Point on the bay, just north of the Jamestown Bridge and adjacent to the John H. Chafee Nature Preserve. In 2001, he acquired the lease, and later leased a neighboring 4-acre site. In 2008, Russ started the Ocean State Shellfish Cooperative with the late Lou Riccarelli, who later died in a diving accident. Russ said that the cooperative broke even in its first year, but has taken off since then, shipping oysters as far west as Chicago, as far north as Canada (in the winter months), and as far south as Maryland. With lots of gear spread over many acres, Russ updates a log book daily to track his inventory. Trawl lines dissect the sites. Tagged by a buoy marked with a number, each trawl line connects to three cages. Cages are hauled aboard and emptied. Handling and sorting oysters occurs constantly. The more the oysters are handled, the better the end product. For the marketplace, they are sorted into two sizes: “restaurant oysters” which measure over 3 inches in length, and “petites” which are smaller. From the last week of September through the month of April, Russ spots harbor seals in the water every day when he works at the sites off Rome Point. Harbor seals arrive at Rome Point as part of their migration south from northern habitats in Maine and Canada. Russ describes the flavor of his oysters similar to how you might hear someone describe the taste of a fine wine, more like an experience. In Russ’s words, eaten raw, his oysters have a “salty start, sweet finish.” He shares this cooking tip for the at-home chef and seafood lover. Oysters can be cooked right on the grill. Baste them with some tarragon butter, and they have a similar taste to steamers (steamed soft shell clams).