Now this is our kind of March Madness.
At Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, the month of March (and April!) will be all about determining who grows the best oysters in the region.
The popular Greenport seafood spot is hosting March Oyster Madness, a five-week blind tasting bracket challenge featuring 16 local oyster growers. In the end, the No. 1 choice of the people will take on the best of Rhode Island in a partnership with the Bristol Oyster Bar in Bristol, R.I.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for the last three years,” said Little Creek co-owner Ian Wile, who said he finally pulled it together this year and hopes it will become an annual tradition.
For just $25, oyster lovers can buy a season pass and participate in all five weeks of the challenge. Day-trippers can participate for $2 an oyster.
In true March Madness fashion, the oyster companies are pitted against each other in a Sweet (or perhaps salty) 16 bracket, beginning Wednesday, March 11.
Four first-round matchups will be held in the opening week (3/11-3/15), followed by the next four from (3/18-3/22). The eight farmers who move ahead to the next round will then square off from March 25-29, followed by the Final Four from April 1-5 and the championship round on April 8-12. The winner will then take on the Rhode Island champ with tastings happening in Greenport and Bristol at the same time.
“There will be some trash talking among us about who has the best [oysters],” Wile said.
Participating shellfish farmers come from the Peconic bays, the Great South Bay, Moriches and Montauk, Wile said. The first round matchups were selected randomly.
There are a few ground rules to the competition. For starters, don’t even think about using condiments — they want you to taste the oyster itself.
“It’s not a cocktail sauce competition,” Wile joked.
And if you’re going to participate, you have to taste the full field to make a fair and honest judgement. It’s also blind, so you won’t be told which brand you’re tasting.
Beyond that, there’s no real criteria.
Wile said he definitely has regular customers who can see and taste the difference between certain brands and will be able to spot a favorite. Many tasters might just make their choice based on meatiness or the saltiness of the oyster.
“This is consumer-driven so it’s based on what people like,” he said. “Some people may say, ‘I don’t know why I like this, but I like it.’”
In an added wrinkle, anyone is welcome to participate in a bracket challenge in an effort to guess who will win each round of the competition. The winner of the bracket challenge will take home a $50 Little Creek gift card and t-shirt. Fill out your bracket at https://woobox.com/59jxwa.
Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market is located at 37 Front Street in Greenport, 631-477-6992, littlecreekoysters.com.