As you may or may not have read, Bluegrass Brewing Company recently started commercially selling food products such as beer cheese, remoulades and bloody Mary mix. The St. Matthews location also recently brought back original brewer David Pierce, which means some new old beers are on tap.
On my most recent visit, I noted there also is a new food menu, and the very first thing on the menu made my eyes pop out like one of those cartoon wolves eye-balling Bugs Bunny in drag.
“Fried Oysters & Florida Pink Shrimp,” it read. I stopped for a moment, contemplating — oysters are one of my favorite forms of seafood. I also love shrimp, and pink ones from South Florida trump brown any day, in my book. But to have them both together on the same plate, swimming alongside each other drizzled in spicy Cajun rémoulade? I’d never experienced that before.
At this point, it wasn’t a matter of whether I would order this appetizer, it was a matter of whether I would order the small or large portion. Told that the large portion (for $15) includes four ounces each of oysters and shrimp, the decision became a no-brainer. Four ounces is nothing.
And then a few minutes later, when my server placed the pile of shellfish and crustaceans in front of me, it clicked in my brain that four plus four equals eight ounces, and eight ounces is half a pound. And this appetizer was served over locally-sourced grits, which were buried and invisible as I picked up my fork to begin, which means I was looking at probably two-thirds of a pound of food. I knew at this point I may have literally bitten off more seafood than I could chew. But I soldiered on.
The plump shrimp numbered at least 12, maybe more like 15, and came in varying sizes. Most were medium-sized, and down-able with one bite. A couple were a bit smaller, and a couple required two bites. They were lightly battered to the point that the tender, pink meat was visible through the outer coating. And they sure felt and tasted fresh and sweet to me — this sure wasn’t the stuff you get in a box at the grocery store.
The oysters, meanwhile, numbered six, and all but one of them were large to the point that they were pretty messy to eat (in a good way); I ended up cutting most of them in half to better control the oyster spillage. This was because they were battered much more thickly than the shrimp, and in a cornmeal that was a tad peppery, and fried perfectly, crispy on the outside and moist breading on the inside. The thick crust helped the oyster inside to maintain a natural consistency, so they didn’t morph into an eraser-like consistency as overcooked oysters tend to do.
The mild shellfish I am fairly certain were Gulf oysters, which means they may have been neighbors with the shrimp they now shared a plate with at some point. (Probably not, but it’s fun to ponder that.) What I enjoyed was that the tender oyster played so nicely off the crispy coating that the shellfish almost literally melted in my mouth. It just disappeared into a salty, briny moment of oceanic goodness and then was gone.
The grits were clumped in the middle, and the outer portion of the pile actually had gone a bit on the dry side, but once I dug into the middle I found an oasis of tender, hot, cheesy white corn grits to complete this Southern comfort appetizer.
And of course I was stuffed to the point of wanting to do bad things to myself. Other than eating way too much, if I had a do-over I would change only one thing, and that would be to ask for a side of the remoulade. Nicely drizzled over the dish, it was present but didn’t fully assert itself like I would have preferred — and the stuff is so good that it deserves to be noticed. Next time I’ll know to get extra.
That is, after the Atlantic Ocean re-stocks itself.