2.01.2014

The Kindness of Strangers

When Mark and I bought our first home - an 1806 Cape in Kittery, Maine - our realtor brought a tray of goodies to welcome us our first night: champagne, cheese, bread, and a tin of smoked oysters.

When we opened the tin of oysters, we found a pearl. A tiny, misshapen pearl was there waiting for us, welcoming us, and it adorned out mantle until one day, during dusting, it must have ricocheted unnoticed into a crack in the old wide floorboards. Sad to have it disappear, but it is a wonderful memory that we will cherish.

Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt Hotel
When we were in New Orleans in November, one night we arrived an hour early for our table at Domenica, in The Roosevelt Hotel, with plans for a drink at the Sazerac Bar. As we often found, it was packed so we opted to have a cocktail and nibble in the Fountain Lounge, situated next door off the main lobby of the hotel.

It looked newish to us, but it turns out there is a great history there. "The Fountain Lounge” opened in 1938 under the direction of then-hotel owner Seymour Weiss...[it] was a place where the hip, sociable and fashionable met to enjoy cocktails and small plates in an atmosphere described as 'casual and carefree as a night in Paris.'"

I am glad we decided to try the Fountain - the cocktails were quite fun. Mark had a Mumbai Twilight (Old Raj saffron infused gin, chamomile tea, thyme, cucumber, and lemon), while I had The Rain Blossom (Hangar One mandarin-blossom vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, mint, and ginger beer). As we sipped, we thoroughly enjoyed a plate of grilled oysters.

The oysters arrived, served on the half shell, bubbling with cream and cheese. They disappeared way too fast. We were tempted to order another plateful, but dinner was only minutes away.

While waiting for our drinks and oysters, we noticed that each of the tables was set with a small polished steel oyster shell that served as a salt cellar. We asked out server if we could buy one and, indeed, they were for sale. We said we would think about it over dinner next door.

Think, we did, and we decided the salt cellar would be a great souvenir from our trip. After dinner we returned to the Lounge and asked the hostess to ring one up. She contacted one of the servers and he said he'd be right back with one.

We chatted for quite a while with the hostess, mentioning our next stop was Preservation Hall for the 10:00 show, when the server finally came back quite chagrined that they could not find a single shell to sell us. The delightful hostess took my business card and promised she would call once one was found. We left, a little disappointed.

We walked onward to the concert venue - and had probably walked a good half mile down and across several streets - when we heard hurried footsteps behind us, and shouts of "Hello! Wait! Gentlemen?!" We looked over our shoulders to see our hostess and server running toward us with a bag in hand. 'They had found one!' I thought. But, no, it turned out that they simply took one from a table, wrapped it, and brought it to us! I tried to give them my credit card, and they said that it was a gift - they had been so sorry to disappoint us, and wanted us to have it.

Photo courtesy of YouTube
Had we bought it, we would have loved it. But, with this kind and beautiful gesture, it is so much more special to us. It will be a favorite souvenir forever, reminding us that pearls do come from oyster shells and that we, like Blanche DuBois, can depend on the kindness of strangers.

~ David

Grilled Oysters

4 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
a pinch of salt
freshly ground white pepper
6 oysters, shucked and on the half shell, liquor drained


Preheat a covered grill - wood, charcoal or gas - to high heat.


Mix cheese, cream, salt and pepper, until a thick paste forms. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling on each oyster. Don't worry that it sits on top of the oyster - it will melt down on the grill. Places oyster shells directly on the grill, close the top and let grill/roast for 3-5 minutes, or until cheesy topping is bubbling and golden brown.
These can also be prepared under the broiler.

Makes 6; can easily be doubled.

24 comments:

  1. It seems obvious to say that you have luck in pearls David. I'm always amazed at that type of kindness, and they become sweet memories. Though I don't think I'll ever eat oysters, they do look tantalizing, all bubbly and cheesy! Cream and cheese, so good together.

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    1. And there is kindness in non-strangers, too, Paula! For example, you making such a sweet comment on oysters when you won't even go near them! That is friendship! Thanks!

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  2. What a lovely story, David! It's because you and Mark are so kind and sweet that they gave you that gift. It doesn't happen to everyone, only special people. I would have been sorry to lose that pearl too, how wonderful to discover such a gift. And of course, the oysters look wonderful :)

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    1. That is very sweet of you to say, Nazneen! I am so glad we have the memory of that pearl - so hard to believe it was almost 19 years ago!

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  3. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story, David... and I love the recipe too.

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    1. Thanks, Liz - it is such a simple yet special recipe.

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  4. And our oyster salt cellar ... Also a gift ... came from the Waterside Inn in Bray, England on the Thames ... Where we spent my 60th birthday ...xoxo

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    1. But, Susan.... you are only 29!! :) I called the restaurant yesterday to talk to the hostess or the waiter to tell them about the post and, sadly, neither works there any longer... I hope by some miracle of magic, they see the post!

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  5. Such a lovely story…and a cherished memento! I love reading your stories, David…you have a gift! Even though I’m not a shell fish fan those oysters look wonderfully delicious…all bubbly and cheesy!

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    1. Thanks you, Kathy! I really appreciate your kind words. When I started this blog, I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy the writing aspect. Hope you have a great Sunday!

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  6. Dear David, I love both your stories - what precious memories...and your Grilled Oysters look absolutely delectable! I have never tasted grilled oysters, as we do not really eat them much around here, but I did try fresh oysters twice. They are considered quite the treat fresh but I would rather try them prepared according to your recipe!
    Such wonderful photos too!
    Have a nice Sunday, dear friend!

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    1. Andrea - I actually always prefer cooked oysters to raw. And this is definitely my new favorite way! Thanks for your nice comment - and I hope you had a good Sunday, too, nibbling away at your Paris Brest!

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  7. Love the story and the oyster shell. May you find more pearls in your future together.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! We should probably get a tin of smoked oysters every year just for the memory - and in hopes of finding a pearl!

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  8. I do love oysters, any ol' way, and will try this recipe with a little glass of bubbly. Am also a sucker for a sweet story. Thanks.

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    1. What a great idea, Pamela - bubbly would be perfect with these! Glad you enjoyed the story!

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  9. What a lovely experience. You guys are sentimental about things just as I am. Such a lovely addition to your dinner table, D.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Love your recipe. With Valentine's looming, I'm stressing a bit about what to get my hubby. I think a special dinner w oysters would be a great surprise. I must admit I'm a bit intimidated as I have never served oysters before. But we do have a very good fish market nearby and your recipe looks full-proof! xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Colette - yes we can get pretty sappy here! :)

      Ask your fish sore to shuck the oysters and save you the deep end of the shell! Much easier than doing it yourself!

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  10. My heart is warmed by reading this post. Such good stories that I want to run across the street and buy six oysters. I usually just shuck them (okay...I get someone else to shuck them!) and eat them with a little of Towny's migonette but I will try this recipe (and tell your stories!).

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    1. I think you will like them, Susan - and you are SO lucky to have that fish market just across the street!

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  11. Our daughter went to Tulane's law school so we spent many a week-end in Nola enjoying everything about that city. They do have a way of going overboard with the hospitality card and we loved every moment of that. I'm not so sure I have ever tasted Grilled Oysters. They look very tasty.

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    1. Mary - I have to say that I loved the hospitality there, as I do in most places we travel. People are generally very kind and thoughtful, given the chance... Hope yo try and enjoy the oysters!

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  12. I love this post David. What a lovely set of memories to share around this gorgeous oyster dish! And as many have said, I do think that you've been blessed on various occasions as both you and Mark are such wonderful people. When the world works the right way, kindness is rewarded with kindness... so I am so happy that you've been gifted with memories and treasures like the pearl and the oyster shell! Anyway, back to this beautiful, cheesy oyster dish. It sounds divine! Aaron loves oysters (and cream!) so perhaps I'll make a plate of these for Valentines day next week :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Laura - really, everybody has been so nice about this post! I hope you get a chance to make them for Aaron!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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