Rain or shine, the Fiesta Oyster Bake was happening Friday night. That meant, rain or shine, I was going to be working. Thankfully, the rain held off, for the most part, until I was under the protective cover of the pavilion where the wine booth was located.
My friends and I felt a few drops and sloshed through some mud puddles on our way around the St. Mary’s campus. But for the most part, the evening delivered on the fun that the event promises each year — down to the fireworks that sends the crowds home.
Before our shift, we wandered the food booths, getting an early fill of chicken on a stick, shrimp on a stick and steak on a stick, holding off on sausage on a stick, pork chop on a stick and even cucumber on a stick until we could fully assess our choices. An oyster shot, chilled and briny, prepped me for the oyster bucket that was to come. Toward the end of the evening, my friend Cindy and I squared off: She purchased a bucket of baked oysters, while I eagerly went for a bucket of raw. The plump Gulf beauties went down easily. And thank you, Kathleen, for being the designated shucker (after I lightly punctured my hand on a particularly stubborn bivalve. Thank goodness for those wet napkins that came with the dozen or so oysters, priced at $7.)
This year, the Oyster Bake featured a food truck area that included such favorites as the Duk Truck, Wheelie Gourmet, Saweet Cupcakes and Cheesy Jane’s. From barbecue to bacon-topped tacos, they had you covered.
More music was on the menu, too, as added stages meant you could choose jazz, country, Tejano and hip hop in addition to the headliner, ’80s favorite Loverboy, who had the crowd singing along to “Turn Me Loose.”
This year’s wine booth featured Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge collection, and the lovers of sweet drinks were out in force.
“I want the sweetest wine you’ve got,” was a phrase we heard dozens of times throughout our shift. And when they saw the Moscato being poured in the cup, more than half would ask before taking a sip, “You sure this is the sweetest wine you’ve got?”
In a lineup that included Woodbridge White Zinfandel, Rosatello Rosso, a sweet red blend, and Rosatello Sparkling Rosé, the Moscato won the crown for being the sweetest. And the customers must have agreed, for we had many repeat customers.
We also had folks returning for the dry Woodbridge selections, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. And while they, too, were faithful to their choice, they were simply outnumbered, with Chardonnay and Merlot being the least chosen wines of the evening. That’s a change from years past.
We also had a captive crowd for an hour or so, as the sky opened up and sent those without umbrellas looking for cover.
The Oyster Bake was set to continue Saturday with more oysters, music and fun. Hopefully, the day will be a little dryer. But you may want to wear your galoshes, just to navigate the mud.