SacBee Article, Guinness and Oyster Festival

“Published: Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1D
      Surefire formula for a good time: Take a food item, pair it with a beverage, build a festival around them.
If that idea gets the kind of “woo-hoo” from you that it gets from me, you’re gonna love the rakish worldliness of the de Vere’s Guinness & Oyster Festival on Saturday. Mostly. Some people are not oyster fans.
Still, there is a grand international tradition to this concept, and – you may have to trust me here – it is a classic, delicious food-and-drink pairing, and don’t go crinkling your nose at the oysters.
Irish stouts and oysters is a mix almost as perfect as Champagne and oysters, but it works in a very different way. The smoky richness of the beer, and the creaminess of stouts like Guinness (the cream comes from the nitrogen, but now we’re way off the main road) match and blend with the briny salt of oysters.
       The point is, that seemingly oddball pairing is enough for the folks at de Vere’s Irish Pub on L Street in midtown, who seem to subscribe to my notion that any excuse for a festival is a good one.
“We’re partly celebrating the halfway point to St. Patrick’s Day,” said Simon de Vere, one of the owners. “It’s also something we’ve always wanted to do and we finally found the time to organize it. We do think it’s time Sacramento had its own.”
      So, no, Simon and his brother, Henry, aren’t the first people to think of this, and, yes, these oyster-and-Guinness festivals are all over the planet. The biggest – and the big bang that started all those oyster parties – is the Galway International Oyster Festival in Ireland.
      That one began in 1954 when a hotel owner was looking for a reason to extend the summer tourist season. His chef recommended adding oysters to the dining room menu, and the hotelier figured, OK, let’s celebrate the start of oyster season.
       These days, that Galway bash runs five days, draws tens of thousands of people, includes the world oyster shucking championship, and was called by the Times of London one of the 12 greatest shows on Earth.
Lots of cities have adopted the idea. San Francisco drew 15,000-plus to its party at the Great Meadow at Fort Mason in May, which overflowed with barbecue, beer and bands (including Sacramento-born Cake) for what is generally considered the biggest oyster festival on the West Coast.
       The de Vere’s crew isn’t thinking quite that large. It won’t, for instance, be nearly as big as de Vere’s St. Patrick’s Day party. They won’t close the street, at least not this year, though they will use lots of sidewalk.
“We’re trying to come out with this a little more softly,” Simon said. “This is a family event and we want to start a tradition with it. We’re expecting 1,000, 2,000 people through the day.”
They’ll have oysters served raw, barbecued, in shooters and more, plus music and an oyster-shucking competition – for the food-service industry only; opening those babies on the clock is not for amateurs.
And though it may pain them, they realize Guinness is not everyone’s cup of brew, so they’ll have sparkling wine to pair with the oysters, too.
It runs 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and costs $10 to get in. Kids 12 and under are free. More info: www.deverespub.com or (916) 231-9947.”
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