Sparkling & Bright

Oysters and cider pair for festive party fare.

Raw oysters on the half shell and cider at The Boathouse.

Photography by Tyler Darden

Cool late-autumn air begins to shift to wintry weather. Everyone is abuzz with merry energy preparing for the holidays. It is a season of celebration.

Former governor Terry McAuliffe declared November as Virginia Oyster Month in 2017, and the seventh annual Cider Week Virginia takes place Nov. 15-24. What better time to fête two homegrown Virginia products? This is our Commonwealth twist on oysters and Champagne. And while November marks our tribute to these two flavors, our chefs’ recipes are festive enough for Christmas and New Year’s Eve affairs.

Explore the waters of Virginia and its land’s varied apple cultivars with a paired flight by Robert Nelson of The Boathouse. Andy Shipman of the Farmhouse at Veritas brings a sweet and sour element to his fried oysters with peach butter and sauerkraut, and Pete Woods of Merroir delivers a taste both savory and warming in his baked oysters topped with crab meat. Matt Hull of the recently opened BLU Point Seafood Co. presents oysters Rockefeller that are smoky and rich. Each chef offers the perfect cider pairing for their dish, but for a boozier take on apples, sip on the Tavern Fizz cider and bourbon cocktail by Shane Lumpp of The River and Rail Restaurant.

Raw Oysters on the Half Shell and Cider Paired Flight with Cider Mignonette

Robert Nelson, The Boathouse, Richmond and Hopewell,

Chef Robert Nelson

After joining the HOUSEpitality Family in 2012 as executive chef of The Boathouse, Robert Nelson now serves as culinary training and development chef for HOUSEpitality. Nelson attended culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina, where he also cooked for restaurants including Magnolia’s and Charleston Grill. His favorite Boathouse oyster is the West Oyster from the Piankatank River. “Trey invited us out to taste them straight from the water,” he says. “They have great balance and a good amount of salt without being overpowering.”

West Oysters grown in the Piankatank River by Trey Sowers with RVA Cider by Buskey Cider in Richmond

“These oysters are lightly salty and have an excellent balance of creaminess and minerality. They are great with the Buskey RVA cider, which is fresh and balanced with a little fresh apple sweetness.”

North Oysters grown in Little Wicomico by Myles Cockrell with Rosé by Bold Rock Hard Cider in Nellysford

“These are sweetwater oysters with buttery creaminess, the lowest salt, and light minerality. Bold Rock Rosé’s red apple and berry flavors complement the sweet creaminess of the North Oysters.”

Salt Oysters grown in the Little Machipongo Inlet at Hog Island by Shooting Point Oyster Company with Citra Amarillo by Potter’s Craft Cider in Charlottesville

“These oysters have a bold saltiness and sweet finish from the seawater to which they are exposed on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Potter’s Citra Amarillo stands up to the salty oysters with a crisp finish and the strength of its hoppy aromas.”

Raw oysters on the half shell with cider mignonette.

South Oysters grown in the York River by Colonial Oyster Company with Big Pippin Ginger by Castle Hill Cider in Keswick

“This is a mild-saltiness and sweet-finish oyster. The Big Pippin Ginger hard cider has spiciness from being fermented with fresh ginger and is a great accompaniment to the salty sweet South Oysters from Colonial Oyster Company.”

East Oysters grown in Nassawadox Creek by Shooting Point Oyster Company with Stayman & Rome Wild Fermented Cider by Sly Clyde Ciderworks in Hampton

“These oysters have a salty, creamy, mellow sweetness with a quick finish. Stayman & Rome, which is cloudy and slightly fizzy with earthy flavors and bitterness from apple skins, is ideal with the mellow, salty East Oysters.”

Cider at The Boathouse.

For the Cider Mignonette:

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup hard apple cider (Bold Rock Rosé or Buskey’s RVA Cider)

¼ cup fresh red apple, finely diced (Stayman or Winesap varieties)

¼ cup shallots, finely diced

¼ cup black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together and keep chilled. To serve, top each raw oyster with ½ teaspoon of mignonette and garnish with diced apple, shallots, and peppercorns.

Tavern Fizz

Tavern Fizz
made with Tart Cherry Cider by Buskey Cider in Richmond

Shane Lumpp, The River and Rail Restaurant, Roanoke,

Shane Lumpp has served as bar manager at The River and Rail Restaurant for more than three years and has 10 years of experience in bartending, including as bar manager at Twist Martini & Associates in Virginia Beach. He has also completed the Master Bar Class by the BAR program in New York. At River and Rail, Lumpp makes almost all cocktail ingredients in house and focuses on using fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

Bar manager Shane Lumpp

“Buskey is a cidery out of Richmond, and their cherry cider is a nice dry and tart apple cider that we’ve come to love,” says Lumpp. “The cherry is very subtle; it just comes across as tart in the cider and adds a little color to the drink. Calvados is an apple and pear brandy that pairs very well with the spices of the bourbon, and the Cardamaro is a wine-based amaro that provides a little sweetness and some richness to the drink. To reinforce the apple flavor, we made a syrup using apple and ginger juices with some baking spices. The egg whites add texture and, with the cider, lighten the drink to not come across so heavy or boozy.”

¾ ounce Clyde May’s bourbon

¾ ounce Calvados

¾ ounce Cardamaro

¾ ounce apple and ginger simple syrup

¾ ounce lemon juice

1 ounce egg white

Buskey Tart Cherry Cider

Shake together first six ingredients and pour into a chilled Collins glass without ice. Top with cider, and garnish with an expressed lemon twist and a dried apple chip.

For the apple and ginger simple syrup:

16 ounces raw apple juice 

10 ounces water

8 ounces raw ginger juice

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

16 ounces white sugar

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for an additional 10 minutes. Strain off solids through a chinois.

Click here to watch Shane Lumpp make the Tavern Fizz.

Fried Chincoteague oysters with peach butter and sauerkraut.

Fried Chincoteague Oysters with Peach Butter and Sauerkraut
with The Haven or Hewes Crab by Potter’s Craft Cider in Charlottesville

Andy Shipman, The Farmhouse at Veritas, Afton,

Executive chef at the Farmhouse at Veritas, Andy Shipman is a Waynesboro native and University of Mary Washington graduate. He served as sous chef at Veritas in 2010 before working under chef Joy Crump at Foode in Fredericksburg for three years. He has worked at the Farmhouse since 2013.

Chef Andy Shipman

“Chincoteague oysters’ high salinity levels stand up nicely to frying, and I wanted to contrast their saltiness with something sour and sweet,” says Shipman. “The peach butter brings a roasted depth of flavor with caramelized sweetness, and the sauerkraut is young and crunchy with a lactic sourness that does not overwhelm the oyster or the peach butter. The Haven parallels nicely with the peach butter for a warm holiday pairing, or Hewes Crab contrasts with the salty-sweetness of the oyster with a pleasing tartness.”

For the sauerkraut:

10 pounds green cabbage

3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

kosher salt

Peel outside leaves off cabbages and reserve for later use. Quarter, core, and finely shred remaining cabbage. Weigh cabbage, carrots, and garlic and add 2 percent of the weight of the vegetables in kosher salt. Add vegetables and salt to a large bowl and punch down—this will accelerate the extraction of liquid from the vegetables. Let sit for an hour, then pack the vegetable mix and natural brine into a 1-gallon glass jar. Add water to cover if necessary. Submerge sauerkraut underneath brine and put reserved cabbage leaves on top. Place a jelly jar full of salt on top of the cabbage leaves to keep the sauerkraut submerged. Let sit at room temperature for seven to 14 days. The longer it sits, the sourer and softer it will become. Seal and transfer to the refrigerator when you are pleased with the texture and flavor contrast.

For the peach butter:

5 pounds peaches, cored

2 cups water

2 pounds light brown sugar

2 Ancho chili peppers, halved

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add peaches and water to a pot with the lid on and cook over high heat until tender. Purée the peaches in a blender until smooth and transfer to a deep baking dish. Add the brown sugar and peppers. Place in the oven on the middle rack and cook, scraping down the sides, until the peach butter is caramelized and thick, about an hour and a half. Once peach butter has reached desired consistency, strain and purée in a food processor until smooth. Chill and refrigerate.

For the fried oysters:

2 cups buttermilk

10 dashes Mexican-style hot sauce

50 Chincoteague oysters, shucked

1 gallon sunflower oil or peanut oil

5 cups of all purpose flour

2 ½ cups fine cornmeal


Combine buttermilk and hot sauce, then add oysters to marinate. Bring oil to 350 degrees in a Dutch oven, using a candy thermometer to monitor heat. Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl—use enough salt so the flour mixture tastes slightly salty. Strain the oysters out of the buttermilk and toss in the flour mixture until thoroughly coated. Let the oyster breading set up for 15 to 20 minutes or until tacky to the touch. Sift oysters out of the flour and fry batches until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch.

To assemble, drain a quart of the sauerkraut and pulse in a food processor until it resembles confetti. Smear each oyster with peach butter and top with a pinch of sauerkraut.

Serves 8-10

Oysters Carrie

Oysters Carrie
with Copestone by Winchester Ciderworks

Peter Woods, Merroir, Topping,

Chef Peter Woods began cooking with his mother while growing up in Philadelphia. After graduating from culinary school, Woods eventually moved to Denver, where he served as seafood manager for Tony’s Markets. There, he met Ryan and Travis Croxton at an oyster tasting in 2011 and went on to open Merroir with them later that year. After nearly a decade at Merroir, Woods retired in October.

“A perfect pairing for crisp, dry cider on a crisp fall day, this recipe is one of my favorites,” says Woods. “It is named for Carrie Ruffin, the great-great-granddaughter of Edmund Ruffin, who is widely credited for firing the first shot of the Civil War.”

Winchester Ciderworks founder and cidermaster Stephen Schuurman describes Copestone as, “very dry, with subtle tannins that allow the food to shine with the cider.”


12 ears of sweet corn, cut from the cob

2 small red onions, finely diced 

2 cloves garlic, smashed finely diced

5 tablespoons parsley, finely diced

2 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

juice of 2 lemons

5 dashes Tabasco


freshly ground pepper

2 dozen Rappahannock Oyster Co. Olde Salts, shucked on the half shell

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat

melted butter

Italian breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a small amount of oil on a sheet pan, spread the corn in a single layer, and roast for 10 to 12 minutes. After removing the corn, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Sauté onion with garlic in a small amount of oil for about 3 minutes. Add corn, onion, garlic, parsley, red pepper, lemon, Tabasco, salt, and pepper to a mixing bowl and combine. Place a teaspoon of the corn mixture on top of each oyster, then top with a lump of crab meat. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake oysters for 12 to 14 minutes and serve hot. 

Serves 8-10

Oysters Rockefeller

Photo by Sera Petras Photography

Oysters Rockefeller
with Highland Scrumpy by Big Fish Cider Co. in Monterey

Matt Hull, BLU Point Seafood Co., Staunton,

A lifelong Virginia resident, Matt Hull studied at the Culinary Institute of Virginia in Virginia Beach. He joined the team at Zynodoa, BLU Point Seafood Co.’s sister restaurant, in 2015, shortly after graduating. Earlier this year, Hull began developing recipes and working to help open BLU Point, where he serves as executive chef. 

Chef Matt Hull

Photo by Sera Petras Photography

“Big Fish Cider’s Highland Scrumpy is a wild fermented cider made from more than 20 different varieties of apples,” says Hull. “It’s on the drier side and has a lot of wine-like characteristics. Its light tartness with a dry finish pairs perfectly with the smokiness from the bacon and helps cut the richness of the cream and Parmesan cheese.”

6-8 strips smoked bacon, cut into small pieces

4 tablespoons shallot, minced

2 tablespoons celery, finely diced 

1 cup hard cider

2 cups heavy cream

4 cups baby kale or spinach 

24 Rappahannock Oyster Co. Rochambeau oysters on the half shell, liquor intact

½ cup grated Parmesan 

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs, toasted

½ cup chives, finely sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, render the bacon over medium-low heat. Remove the bacon once it is crispy, reserving the rendered fat in the pan. Add shallots and celery to the pan with the bacon fat, and sweat until translucent. Deglaze the pan with the cider, and reduce by half. Add heavy cream, and reduce by half again. Once cream begins to thicken, add in kale or spinach one cup at a time until all is incorporated. Add Parmesan, mustard, and bacon, and stir to incorporate. Allow mixture to cool—this will also allow it to thicken up a bit. Arrange the oysters in a baking dish, being careful to not spill the liquor. Top each oyster with a spoonful of the kale mixture. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, then broil for 30 to 45 seconds to brown the top. Remove oysters from oven, top with toasted breadcrumbs, and garnish with chives.

Serves 8-10

This article originally appeared in our December 2019 issue.

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