Eat This Tonight: fresh shellfish 

Get shucking

There's just something fun about fresh seafood that doesn't apply to vegetables or meat, no matter how sustainable or local. Maybe it's because they actually have to be caught. It's much more exciting to imagine your dinner frolicking in the sea than ambling through a field.

Despite the Gulf oil spill, local restaurants haven't seen a major drop in availability. Chef Frank McMahon of Hank's Seafood says the specimens from the Gulf have appeared smaller in size recently, possibly due to being caught earlier to satisfy demand, and prices on oysters and shrimp have gone up somewhat, but the overall attitude is one of optimism, especially considering how dire the forecast appeared earlier this summer.

So in celebration of the sea, our Eat This Tonight installment encourages you to shuck, suck, and slurp your way through dinner.

Drop by Pearlz for an early snack and get a dozen oysters for $7.95 until 7 p.m. Or, for a more elegant dinner, try Chef Victoria Neikirk's pairing of four champagnes and four specialty oysters for $14.95.

If you like some real fish with your shellfish, check out Chef Frank McMahon's special at Hank's Seafood. He's pairing grilled cobia with crayfish, okra, fried mashed potatoes, and sweet corn leek and ham hock bisque. Or you could go big with Hank's legendary seafood tower, which comes stuffed with ice and piled high with fresh mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, and the like.

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet and Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar are both offering patrons a veritable national tour of oysters. Chef Charles Arena at the Boathouse has five different oysters this week: Peter's Point oysters from Massachusetts, Malpeques from Prince Edward Island, Steer Creek from Puget Sound, Penn Cove from Washington, and Apalachicola from Florida.

Over at Amen Street, Executive Chef Todd Garrigan and company have Indian Creek oysters from Prince Edward Island, Blue Points from Connecticut, and Island Creeks from Massachusetts. They also have a chilled cucumber soup with a jumbo lump crab roll as well as lantern scallops with chanterelle mushrooms, broccolini, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and saffron sauce.

Finally, Chef Michael Jackson and the kitchen at A.W. Shucks are dishing up an ol' fashioned steam pot full of Lowcountry boil that promises to be overflowing with shrimp, clams, mussels, oysters, sausage, and corn. A perfect meal for closing out one very hot summer day.

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