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Day 4: A Night with Rappahannock River Oysters

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With Chef Robert Wiedmaier and wild oysters on the grill

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
With Chef Robert Wiedmaier and wild oysters on the grill

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

By late afternoon, after we had gotten a full tour of the Rappahannock River Oysters operation, Travis and Ryan invited us to stay on for a Virginia-style seafood supper.

Come evening wives and girlfriends started rolling in, along with several regional chefs (and RRO customers) that the Croxtons had invited for dinner. I coaxed my friend Jerry Bryan, chef/owner of the Coastal Grill, to drive up from Virginia Beach to join in the festivities.

We set up shop next to the harbor and had some picnic tables, a big charcoal grill, a fryer, a couple of camp stoves, and enough oysters, blue crabs, beers and bourbon to feed an army. Everybody had a job, from putting beers on ice to boiling the blue crabs to handing out hot cups of the chowder that Jerry had brought with him. The weather was cool, windy, and threatening rain, but nobody minded. This was my idea of a good time.

Oysters were the main event, and despite the number of chefs in attendance, the cooking was handled almost entirely by Ryan and Travis. They grilled both wild and cultivated oysters over charcoal, serving them up with garlic butter and grilled bread. Travis fried oysters according to his own recipe, one that he had been talking up all day as "the best in the world" (it was, in the end, pretty darn good). Jason Alley from Comfort in Richmond brought along a jar of excellent pickled watermelon rind, and David Guas had cookies, brownies, and pecan pie (a personal favorite) for dessert. I couldn't have asked for better hospitality, and I'm looking forward to having the Rappahannock River guys up to New York City to do an oyster tasting with my staff.

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