Fun on the half shell: Oysters make parties down-to-earth and delicious

Photo: Tom McGovern Photo: Tom McGovern

If the word “catering” makes you think of starched napkins and green bean almondine, here’s another side of the business: casual oyster roasts, where guests can slurp down the seafood along with Southern sides like cornbread and Brunswick stew. Ted Anderson, of Anderson’s Catering, says oyster roasts (and their cousins, pig roasts and crawfish boils) are getting more and more popular. “We do them almost every week these days,” he says. About half the roasts he does are at weddings, but people also call him about birthday parties, anniversaries, and so on.

Not all oysters are created equal. “There’s 80 to 100 different types now,” says Anderson— “some very briny from the Eastern Shore, then you have James River oysters, which have no salt taste whatsoever.” Bivalves may be sourced from Connecticut, North Carolina, and many other spots, but his most popular option is also fairly local: wild-caught Rappahannock oysters, which he describes as having “just enough salt to bring up the flavor. I’m very proud to have a Virginia product doing so well.”

Anderson’s will serve the oysters raw or roasted, and offers around 50 different go-withs. You can go for full catering services, including setup, cleanup, and bartenders, or something more stripped-down. Cost varies with market prices for the oysters, but Anderson’s rough estimate for a full-service oyster roast with 50 guests is around $1,000.

Are months ending with R really the best time for oysters? Traditionally, yes, but Anderson says fall isn’t the only good oyster season. “People say that they are bigger and sweeter in the colder months,” he allows, “but I personally eat oysters year round.” And something about that half-shell puts folks in a party mood. “These events I put on are so much fun,” he says. “People love them.”