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We opened the Island Creek Oyster Bar to bring the restaurant to the farmer. It’s a collaboration joining farmer, chef, and diner in one space. We welcome guests to get to know their oyster grower, harvester, winemaker, distiller, brewer, and fisherman. One meal at a time.
A hybrid of New England shore food and creative, seasonally influenced seafood, our menu reflects our sensibility, printed just before service to ensure that we’re presenting the freshest ingredients possible. Our fish selections and oyster list change daily depending on what’s coming off the water while our New England classics, like steamed lobster caught by chef’s cousin Mark in Maine, and Mrs. Bennett’s seafood casserole, can be found here regularly. For a sampling of plates to share, look to the left or, settle in with a couple of substantial entree selections from the right.
Because owners Jeremy Sewall and Skip Bennett maintain close, personal relationships with many of our purveyors, you’ll find their names sprinkled throughout the menu along with the names of those who have inspired us (we’re looking at you, Ethel and Nancy). We hope you enjoy getting to know these personalities and their contributions as much as we have.
A new series of Tidings foryour oyster bar education and knowledge, Friends of ICOB, which will feature interviews, stories, and in depth perspectives from an array of ICOB relationships.
First up, Matt and Heather Linehan, owners of Sparrow Arc Farm, are one of our closest farmer connections and local sources of seasonal produce offerings for ICOB. Matt took time to discuss with me their move to Copake, NY from Unity, Maine last year, his passion for farming, and how he balances family and work with highlights of what's to come in the next year!
We were 4 hours north of Boston and expanding into NYC. Honestly after 8 years it was obvious that nothing would lower the logistics overhead. We're an hour and half closer to Boston now! We moved to better serve Boston! Boston will always be our bread & butter. Because we're closer we've been enabling chefs to use even fresher stuff. The commute is infinitely easier. And we're in the Berkshires; the NY/MA state line is a 5-minute walk from our fields.
How did Matt get into farming? With a yearning desire of an independent lifestyle, Matt fell in love with his first vegetable farming apprenticeship in Natick, MA. He decided to move to Maine to start his own production farm, Sparrow Arc Farm, which is coming into their 10th growing season.
I love growing produce and I love chilling with chefs, driving the truck between sucks. Restaurants are all we've ever done honestly. Cooks are our people.
Having served the Boston restaurant industry for years and gradually inching into New York City, which prompted the farm's move, Matt originally garnered more local chefs' interests by traveling around the city and meeting chefs directly.
Peter Davis at Henrietta's Table bought the first crop I ever grew: Baby Arugula. He took 100 lbs. in 1 delivery. Still got a copy of the check. From there I just knocked on doors. Ken Oringer was an early customer, I remember I had 4 bushels of green tomatoes (160 lbs) to move one day and he took all of them! He said he was going to turn 'em all into jam. I'm still shocked anyone could need so much green tomato jam.
Despite the difficult transition, moving to Copake has also lengthened Matt's growing season and will provide the farm with hotter days. They're excited that this allows them to try new crops and unique heirloom varieties that weren't viable options in Maine.
Leaving behind our friends, community, our kids' school was tough, no doubt. Heather and I were married on the farm in Unity. All 3 kids were born there. It's a little sad. Our youngest was 2 weeks old when we moved. Crazy stuff, never again. Copake is gorgeous though! We've found a great community, the soil is dank and looking at the mountains everyday while at work is not terrible. We really lengthened our growing season too, so we were able to grow some new things, like really nice sweet potatoes.
Days on Sparrow Arc Farm can vary depending on the timing of the season. A typical 4am start with copious amounts of coffee, meeting the harvest manager and crew at 6am, pick some crops, fix a few machines, and 11am means that it's time to load up deliveries. Finish packing by 6pm and if any earlier, get some weeding done, greenhouse work, then a few hours of office work in to end the day. After hearing this day-to-day schedule, I'm curious if Matt ever has any downtime with his family.
Most weeks I take Sunday off, but you're at the mercy of the farm. Just depends what time of year it is. Our kids are awesome. They are 7, 3 and 1 now. And you know, funny enough for kids on a produce farm, they'd rather eat meat!
Embracing that shorter commute to Boston, Matt hopes to deliver more frequently to chefs, almost 3-5 times a week, and try new types of crops in Copake.
I really like working with chefs who are at the top of their game. Our Baby Broccoli Raab is ridiculous! So good. I'm pretty excited to start picking our heirloom horseradish next year. Starting some crosnes now. Planting over 14 acres of potatoes this spring!
A huge thank you to Matt for taking the time out of his infinitely bustling farm schedule to chat!
The architectural elements of Island Creek Oyster Bar may appear simple, streamlined, and aesthetically pristine, but each individual piece designed and implemented by Bentel & Bentel has purpose and meaning that embodies the ICO farm in Duxbury. Muted greys and rustic wood paneling, caged oyster shells and the inverted mural of Duxbury Bay envelope our guests as they enter 500 Commonwealth, immediately transporting them to the nature of the farm.
As told by Garrett, the story goes that Peter Bentel preferred to spend an entire day on the farm, rather than first see the restaurant space with Skip and himself.
We met Peter and his family in Duxbury, ate oysters out on the water, saw all the sites, met the farmers. Every element of the design of ICOB was inspired by that day. I remember Peter was proposing the corrugated steel that's above 68/69, and I was having trouble picturing it and he said, Remember the way the light hit the side of the building that's part of the ICO offices that day in Duxbury? And I didn't remember, but Bentel did.
Without ever stepping foot in the future restaurant space, both prior to construction and during completion, Bentel's one trip to Duxbury Bay was all he needed for inspiration in designing ICOB. He wanted to evoke the oyster farm, Duxbury Bay, and the oyster species themselves, tying it together with rustic components of life on the water. He also had the challenge of redesigning a space from a previously existing seafood restaurant, Great Bay. Hiding the stairs to our kitchen with a floating wall of oyster shells, and juxtaposing the large windows with movable reclaimed wooden fences were brilliant resolutions by the architectural firm to create ICOB into a brand new space with a new feel and identity. All it took was one day on the farm to craft the oyster bar atmosphere we all amorously inhabit.
The slate-hued greys that weave throughout the design elements of ICOB, including the marbling in the granite bar and counters, bring to mind the softened colors of the sun setting over Duxbury Bay. These colors travel into the seating and 'boat-style' cushions along the banquettes and individual chairs. Unbeknownst to many, the shutters along the floor-to-ceiling windows are adjustable, allowing the ability to wash the dining room with natural light in the summer, or shutter them tightly to bring more intimate warmth to the space in the winter. These planks of wood masking the windows are past constructs of wooden fences from Wyoming.
Gabion cages, used for the oyster cages along the wall, hold thousands of oysters in place all stacked by hand over an eight month period. Opening staff and friends agree that it was quite the process, but certainly worth the beautiful, mosaic-like effect that it brings to ICOB and how beautifully the light reflects off of each oyster shell. Wainscoting surrounds the horizon line of the space, and reclaimed white oak comprises the floors that represent timber ribs originally used for old oyster sloops.
Every piece has its history, meaning, and purpose, which are all tied together by the 38-foot wide photograph anchoring the back wall of the dining room. Stephen Sheffield, a good friend and a visionary talent in the photography-design world, was approached by Garrett to provide a piece for the entire wall.
'Here is the wall you have to work with.' That was it. No directions, no design ideas. Complete freedom.
Spending a few days on the farm, Stephen took photographs throughout the day of the ICO crew on the bay, the oysterplex, and observing the drastic tides that give Island Creeks their distinctive, delicious flavor. Stephen's design inspiration is a photo of the farmers working at low tide as the sun rose over the bay, but also chose to give it a twist, making the viewer work harder to understand the image. Turning the photograph upside down, Stephen says, welcomes opinions and interpretations of the piece, making it more interesting. It creates discussion and provides people with another personal, intimate experience during their meal at ICOB.
We feel incredibly grateful everyday to work in such a beautiful environment. Even as employees of ICOB, Bentel & Bentel successfully transports us to the weathered, salt-washed docks of Duxbury Bay with each daily movement and service. Its design perfectly melds the concept of an oyster bar and Skip's oyster farm in Duxbury, MA.
We believe in supporting the farmer at ICOB. The ethos of growing and taking pride in what is produced is what most of our menu is all about. Not only is this true for the local vegetable farmer or oyster farmer, but this also represents winemakers and grower-producers of wine. Farmer fizz, as our beloved Terry Theise calls the grower Champagne revolution, includes sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France where the winemaker owns, grows, and makes their own wine within their winery. There are sparkling wines from regions within Spain, Austria, and a few other countries grown in the same manner, but are not directly classified as grower Champagne simply because they are not grown in that specific wine region of France. Grower-producers can be substituted for sparkling wines from countries other than France.
Opposite of the larger houses, like Veuve and Moet, grower Champagnes and sparkling wines are small families or producers who own their own vineyards. They focus on terroir with each vintage, harvesting all their own grapes, rather than purchasing grapes from other winemakers or vineyards and creating one specific brand of sparkling wine that consistently spans years and years in style and taste. Often smaller in size and production, grower Champagnes and sparkling wine producers may have fewer bottles imported and their availability can be scare.
The distinctive taste and unique quality of grower Champagne and sparkling wine producers can change from vintage to vintage. Sipping on bubbles is what we do best in the ICOB family, and we provide a continually changing list of our favorite winemakers and the Genuine Luster offerings. Here are a few current farmers and cuvees that we love:
NV Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs Vertus
This is a husband and wife team, Pierre and Sophie Larmandier. Both families come from a long lineage of wine making. In 1992, they were one of the first in Champagne to farm organically, leading them to biodynamic practices. Previously, the Latitude cuvee was called Tradition, a name that was chosen in the 1970's by Pierre's parents. The new name, Latitude, was selected since the wine is composed exclusively of Chardonnay vines originating from the same latitude: the south of Vertus, where Pinot noir was historically planted. Pierre believes this wine has Pinot noir-like qualities and feels it encompasses some red fruit and broader texture. Creamy on the palate with lively citrus, pear and white peach flavors, some herbal notes and a vibrant mineral driven finish. Excellent complexity and pairs with virtually anything!
NV Pehu-Simonet Brut Grand Cru Verzenay
David Pehu is the fourth generation wine grower from this estate, holding 7.5 hectares with six of these as Grand Cru level vineyards. In the 70's, his parents started the estate with the addition of his mother's estate wines, which created Pehu-Simonet. It is a classic refined style, golden apple, brioche, hazelnuts on the nose, with a vibrant, stony, lemon peel, creamy texture. A very clean, crisp everlasting finish. Elegant and slightly richer in style than the Larmandier-Bernier.
2010 Pavese Ermes Valle d'Aosta Spumante
About 1,200 meters above sea level in the Italian Alps, Ermes Pavese is a young, true grower-producer that focuses solely on the indigenous varietal, Prie Blanc. This rare Italian sparkling wine comes from a small 2-hectare parcel that is pre-phylloxera and made in the traditional Champagne method. Terraced vines, very steep slopes, and use of the pergola basso method require all grapes to be carefully hand-harvested. Bright minerality and racy acidity, this spumante is full of grapefruit, pear, white flowers, and unique savory qualities, like tomato leaf and rosemary.
Visit the ICOB menu page to view our wine list. Information and tasting notes courtesy of our wine steward, Noell, and our GM, TSG.
From interviews to seminars, cooking classes and published articles, Chef Jeremy Sewall is a go-to source on conscientious whole fish sourcing, purchasing, and preparing. Living by the water for most of his life, whether it was the east or west coast, his plentiful knowledge of seafood is a genuine resource to seek out and bring into one's own kitchen. After two Know Your Fish tutorials for the staff at ICOB and Row 34 along with The New England Kitchen cookbook release, here are Chef Jeremy's guidelines and tips on procuring fish responsibly.
We write the menu backwards, sourcing product by availability, then craft the menu around those fish that are in season.
In particular to New England, there is a seasonality to seafood and the fishing industry. Early spring isn't the time to find local swordfish, but there are beautiful mackerel and haddock available. Building a relationship with a local fish market or fish purveyor allows you to directly ask all the right questions.
Most of the fish ICOB buys are caught in the most responsible, ideal way. We try to avoid sourcing from fishing methods that are harmful to the environment, and are always excitedly featuring that fish and naming it accurately.
Chef Jeremy's requirements when sourcing and buying seafood are knowing the name of the fishing vessel that it was caught on, where and how it was caught, who caught it, and finally what particular methods were involved. He believes this information is essential to understanding the true quality of what you're consuming. He prefers to go local whenever possible, but responsibly sourcing seasonal favorites like softshell crabs or wild salmon to provide a wide selection at the restaurants is also important. Local day boats that implement hook and lining, or pole catching, is the most ideal catching method, while other forms include gillnetting, buoys, long lines, and some dragging can also be ecological.
Purchasing whole fish guarantees the quality and accuracy of that fish species, and if you're paying a certain price for that fish, you don't ever want to hide it.
A few tips from Chef Jeremy on critiquing the quality of a whole fish are that the gills should be a bright, healthy red, the skin is shiny and firm, and the eyes will be clear and brilliant without any trace of cloudiness. Fresh fish does not smell, it will have a pure ocean aroma, and you can ask your fishmonger to see the whole fish before they fillet it for you.
There are many types of round fish, and many have different bone structures and need to be filleted differently. Salmon, bluefish, and striped bass are examples of round fish. Flatfish, which swim flat and the eyes slowly migrate to one side of their head, are delicate and easy to fillet, such as halibut, flounder, and fluke.
Whether it's a flatfish or a round fish, Chef Jeremy believes that any flavors and ingredients on the plate should complement the fish. You want people to taste the true flavor of the fish, so the type, texture, and size of the fish can dictate what cooking method and flavor profile is applied. Firm fish, like swordfish and salmon, take to the grill very well. Grilling a delicate fish will only taste of the grill and fall apart. Pan searing a fish and getting a hard sear on the skin develops layers of flavor, makes the skin crispy, and keeps the fish moist. Tilefish [pictured above], coming into popularity in the past decade, is a medium-bodied fish that cooks beautifully pan seared. Scallops and cod are lovely when baked, and a delicate dusting of seasoned flour can complement saute0064 skate wing.
For more information on The New England Kitchen cookbook, which also includes whole fish filleting tutorials, or Chef Jeremy, please visit his website here.
Even someone with a Ph.D., no one knows everything, says James Tran in a hopeful, light-hearted tone during the beginning of our Culinary Guild tour Friday morning. Tran, a 39-year-old native of Vietnam, has spent the last two years in endless trial and error scenarios attempting the first shrimp farm in Massachusetts. Mainly a three-person team, along with frequent consultants and some investors, Tran combined his engineering background, his upbringing in the family shrimp business, and his entrepreneurial spirit to develop a method of shrimp farming that is sustainable, natural and chemical-free for the shrimp, and aims to have no environmental impact or disruption to Stoughton, the hatcheries, and New England's coastal areas. We are happy to report that thus far, his goals and passion are slowly coming to fruition.
In a bare bones industrial park, lined with modestly staggered rows of brick buildings, Tran has nearly exhausted the space of his intimate shrimp farming facility from five tanks to eight tanks, and counting. Growing four different sizes of shrimp, he hopes to further expand his warehouse to answer the local restaurant demand for his gourmet Pacific White shrimp. Utilizing a zero water exchange facility, Tran takes fresh Atlantic Ocean water, trucked in from the coast of New Hampshire at high tide, and recycles this salt water after each consecutive shrimp crop. With high technology advanced recirculation, filtration, and temperature control systems, Tran can oversee every step of shrimp growth and has the ability to send messages to his phone if there is a problem with the tanks.
Sourcing their shrimp larvae from an FDA certified hatchery in Florida, Tran knows that he is purchasing from a very controlled environment. From larvae size, which is smaller than a mosquito, it takes about 12 days for the shrimp to grow to about one inch in size. Throughout the tour as we listened to Tran and his team speak about the shrimp, their vision and desire to respect the shrimp and bring a new perspective overall to the shrimp farming industry is inspiring. Multiple times, Tran expressed that when they are harvesting the shrimp from the tanks, he never wants to stress them out. They are never frozen and are only delivered directly to restaurants on ice without the use of any preservatives or chemicals.
His optimum goals are to develop more circular tanks for easier net harvesting, providing more room in the tanks for the shrimp, and one day to build his own hatchery and feed the shrimp with a 100% vegetarian feed. The 8 in Sky8 may mean that James Tran started the eighth shrimp farm in the U.S., but it is also the luckiest number in Chinese culture. From witnessing disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill that have nearly destroyed shrimp ecosystems, James Tran is ready to take on the challenge and provide the shrimp industry with an ecologically responsible, local source for freshly grown seafood.
Hosting the cookbook release party a few weeks ago for The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes, ICOB happily raised a glass to our Chef Jeremy Sewall! With Erin Byers Murray, Chef Jeremy's inspiration for his first cookbook stemmed from growing up in one of the most seasonal regions in the country: New England.
The roots of my love for simple, fresh food. Those fundamentals will stay with me forever.
With memories of nostalgic picnics by the waters of southern Maine and his family's roots as lobstermen, Chef Jeremy's cookbook blends some dishes that he grew up eating as a child, like the steamers on the cover, and recipes that span his entire culinary career. Similar to the menus at his restaurants, Chef Jeremy's recipes are seasonal, simple approaches to highlighting local, fresh ingredients.
Profiles of Chef Jeremy's friends are also in the cookbook, along with tutorials featuring fresh lobsters, oysters, and even curing bacon. The New England Kitchen is a cookbook that revives a timeless regional cuisine with a contemporary twist. We are eager to share our Chef's story with you, and look forward to seeing his dishes created and shared in your own homes. We will have copies of The New England Kitchen available for purchase in ICOB, or you can find the cookbook on Amazon for $28.48.