Main Avenue Fish Market, Washington, D. C. and learning to shuck oysters

by Stevie on January 19, 2012

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One of the best things about visiting friends and family is… well, eating of course. Our recent holiday trip to Washington D. C. and Northern Virginia was no exception. Aside from a delightful lunch at the very chic Spanish style tapas place, Estadio, we were happily taken to an amazing seafood shop, literally floating off a pier in Washington: Main Avenue Fish Market.

Sea...

Sea...

Main Avenue Fish Market, Washington, D. C.

Main Avenue Fish Market, Washington, D. C.

Hegui had agreed to prepare paella with lobster for our Christmas Eve meal at his niece’s place. Wes and Juliana knew exactly where to go for the freshest fish. Plus Wes wanted live oysters as part of the holiday feast. So on our first day in the Nation’s Capital, jet-lag and all, we drove across the Potomac by the Pentagon (Wes and Juliana live in Virginia) to Main Avenue, under the Freeway.

Taylor Seafood and the Freeway overpass

Taylor Seafood and the Freeway overpass

the crew in front of Pruitt's Seafood.  See the Freeway overpass

the crew in front of Pruitt's Seafood. See the Freeway overpass?

crowds of seafood shoppers throng the pier

crowds of seafood shoppers throng the pier

Wikipedia says that this popular local seafood market, all on barges, is the oldest of its kind in the entire U.S. It used to be housed in an actual building, but that was razed in the 1960’s as part of urban renewal. The vendors protested and through some legal wrangling, were able to move the market to the barges. There are numerous “shops” floating around the pier. I was particularly drawn to Captain White’s Seafood City probably because I thought their signage was the most visually stimulating.

Captain White’s Seafood City

Captain White’s Seafood City

busy at work cleaning crab

busy at work cleaning crab

frisky blue crabs

frisky blue crabs

conchs and oysters

conchs and oysters

numerous kinds of fish

numerous kinds of fish

Everyone seemed to have tons of blue crab on sale. I love that and daresay prefer it over Dungeness, the common variety available in San Francisco, though perhaps in the spirit of the season, I should write, “They’re just different.” There were lots of fish of various shapes and sizes, shrimp, unusual shellfish like live conch, and of course oysters by the bushel. Wes bought four dozen. Hegui got a four or five pound lobster plus clams and other things for the paella. We took a bunch of pics and trotted home for a nap then some holiday revelry.

Wes and Juliana

Wes and Juliana

a happy holiday shopper heading for home

a happy holiday shopper heading for home

Now we're ready to go home

Now we're ready to go home

our holiday lobster paella

our holiday lobster paella

The lobster paella was a huge success! And I was amazed about the oyster shuck experience. Really they’re not hard to open—at least in theory. All you must do is hold the oyster firmly in one hand (with a thick glove of course, these babies are slippery) and using the pointy shucking tool, wedge it into the area where the shells hinge, then slowly and very firmly twist until the joint pops. That’s it. I think it takes practice, as I tired out after only a few. But Wes is a champ! He shucked two or three dozen right there and we had the rest the following afternoon at my parents for Christmas dinner. He even taught my sixteen year old nephew, Matt, the art.

Wes demonstrating his oyster shucking magic

Wes demonstrating his oyster shucking magic

this is the easy way to shuck an oyster

this is the easy way to shuck an oyster

here I am trying to shuck some oyster

here I am trying to shuck some oyster


What special memories do you have from the holidays? Do you have any oyster shucking tips to share?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara January 19, 2012 at 4:21 am

I’ve seen them do it really fast in Charleston…I’ve never even attempted it. Figured I’d slice my hand in half.
Great photos and it looks like you had fun!
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Alaiyo Kiasi January 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

OMG Stevie! You’ve inspired me to reinstate my regular visits to the Main Avenue Fish Market. Since I moved to Maryland, I’ve been shopping at grocery stores and at smaller fish mongers for my seafood. But your beautiful photos of the bounty has spurred me to make a trip THIS WEEKEND! You know how it is when you live in a place: you see the sites usually when family or friends visit. I’m definitely going to rectify this!

The Paella looks delicious! I know you guys had a wonderful time with all that good seafood.
Alaiyo Kiasi recently posted..Oyster Po Boy on A Gluten-Free BunMy Profile

Anna January 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

Oh my goodness! I am so glad to know about this market. I live very close to D.C. but haven’t heard about this yet :D SO happy to see this very informative post!
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Juliana January 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I miss you both!Come back already, so we shuck some more oysters :-)

Magic of Spice January 24, 2012 at 10:46 am

I must visit that market someday…the entire area is fantastic! What a wonderful holiday trip and the paella looks absolutely perfect!
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Devaki @ weavethousandflavors January 26, 2012 at 8:17 am

Alright I am officially waiting for the recipe for that lobster paella – it looks heavenly and you can’t possibly keep such decadence from us :)

chow :) DEVAKI @ weavethousandflavors
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Dave January 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

Hi there. We were at the Maine (that’s “Maine”, like the state) Avenue Fish Market on Christmas Eve too, shopping for our Christmas dinner. Judging by the shadows, it looks like yuou eere there a few hours after us. We scored a 5 and a half pound rockfish, some squid, scallops and shrimp. It’s a great place, and you can always find some new fish to try out like croaker, butterfish or mackerel.

Heguiberto January 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Devaki,

We already have an entry on this recipe: http://weirdcombinations.com/2011/06/seafood-paella-with-maine-lobster/

One thing that surprised me is that the lobster we got in DC was so enormous that it almost didn’t fit in the paella pan! It was a bit difficult to accommodate all the seafood items in there. Fun to make it though! East coast lobsters are huge :)
Cheers,
Heguiberto

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