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Way Downstream … (Oct. 10-16, 2019)

In Pittsburgh, Shucking for the Chesapeake

Chef Jessica Lewis, of Pittsburgh’s Spirits & Tales restaurant.

      A good chunk of Pennsylvania drains into the Chesapeake, which is why Maryland and Virginia routinely complain about half-hearted efforts to curb the flow of farm chemicals flowing down the Susquehanna River.

         But let’s spare Spirits & Tales and a half dozen other Pittsburgh restaurants from our Pennsylvania criticism. Once a month, a truck picks up oyster shells collected at the restaurants and hauls them for 300 miles to Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, where they’re sorted and cleaned with water from the Choptank River.

         After curing, some of the shells go to oyster farmers and the rest are used to rebuild the Bay’s ever-threatened oyster reefs.

         The story of the Pittsburgh oyster shells comes from public radio’s Allegheny Front as part of Wild Pennsylvania, a series funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation (www.alleghenyfront.org/about/).

         At Spirits & Tales in Pittsburgh, both East Coast and West Coast oysters are on the menu, as well as entrees that include grilled octopus and Marseillais Fish.

         When not overseeing the menu, executive chef Jessica Lewis says she’s trying to recruit more restaurants to the effort.

         “With climate change, and all those scary things, it’s like a bright light shining through, that we did something good,” she is quoted as saying.