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Pigs and Pearls

Get a taste of the West and Rhode rivers while supporting their heath

“You couldn’t have picked a better time for a visit,” I told the friends coming our way this weekend. “This Saturday we’ll show you what Chesapeake Country is all about.”
    At Pigs and Pearls, Pirates Cove’s April 30 Barbecue & Oysters fundraiser for the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, we’ll taste Crassostrea virginica, the famed oyster of the Chesapeake. We’ll also get to know how riverkeepers are involving so many of us who live here in restoring our Chesapeake watershed to health — all right at the water’s edge.
    Pigs and Pearls is quite a package of local experience for the price of $40 a head, $35 if I remember to pay in advance. Local, after all, is what we want nowadays.
    I’ve since learned from Pirates Cove owner Anthony Clarke that Pigs and Pearls is doing local at closer range than I promised my out-of-town friends.
    “We’re offering good fun and the flavor of not just Chesapeake Bay but really local to our area,” Clarke told me.
    These pearls are oysters freshly harvested from the West and Rhode rivers by five watermen, living historians of the region earning their living as generations have before them. Prying open these pearls one by one with gloved hand and knife are five shuckers carrying on another tradition that defines the rivers and waters of Chesapeake Country. The oysters they open will be served raw on the half-shell. Still others will be roasted — under cover of damp burlap bags — over an open fire.
    You can’t get more traditional than that, and April 30, well that’s the traditional last day to eat wild-caught oysters until the R months return next fall.
    Whence the Pigs in Pigs and Pearls?
    “Not everybody likes oysters,” Clarke told me, “so to match them with barbecue coming in with spring seemed perfect.”
    The barbecue, too, is local, raised at Progressive Farms in Harwood and smoked at Pirates Cove by Chef Steve Hardison, who’s offering two of his signature sauces as toppers.
    My friends are planning to come hungry, and so are husband Bill and I.
    The date, April 30, is timed for more than my friends’ visit.
    “As well as ending the oyster season, the inaugural Pigs and Pearls kicks off summer fun with the seasonal reopening of Pirates Cove Dock Bar, where there’s music every weekend,” Clarke says.
    This Saturday, the musicians are Chesapeake-flavored Them Eastport Oyster Boys.
    If Eastport is a few miles from Galesville, one of the Oyster Boys’ founding members, Jeff Holland, is now local riverkeeper of the West and Rhode, beneficiary of the good times to be had by all at Pigs and Pearls.
    Through the Irish Restaurant Company, of which Clarke is also an owner, he is a longtime friend of Bay-serving organizations. At Galway Bay in Annapolis, he’s held fundraisers for the Annapolis Maritime Museum in Eastport, Holland’s earlier employer. When the two found themselves on the West and Rhode rivers, the alliance continued.
    For Clarke, Pigs and Pearls is opportunity to showcase Pirates Cove as a seafood and local restaurant.
    For Holland, it is one more way to get people connected with their waterways.
    “Having a chance to savor oysters raised and harvested by watermen right here on these very waters, and pork from a local farm, it’s very literally getting a taste for the West and Rhode rivers while supporting their heath,” the riverkeeper says. “That’s the whole point. You tell me how you have fun, and I’ll tell you how we can all work together to help the rivers.”
    Me, I’ll see you there!

Sat., April 30, 2-6pm at Pirates Cove Restaurant, Galesville, $40 w/discounts, rsvp: 410-867-2300.