One of the most popular tours in South County is the Matunuck Oyster Farm tour. It’s a 90 minute tour of the oyster farm located in Potter’s Pond just outside this popular South County restaurant. It also includes a tour of the six acre vegetable farm located on the historic grounds where Captain Potter once lived and also grew vegetables. Did I mention the tour is given by owner Perry Raso himself? Well it is, and it’s an educational experience.
This past week we shot some footage of the tour to share with visitors. It wasn’t my first time at the restaurant, but it was the first time I’d experienced the tour. Just behind the restaurant, past the bustling kitchen full of delightful aromas, down on the dock on Potter Pond you get your first glimpse of the oyster process. A cylindrical machine spins and shoots out oysters in two different directions – sorting them by size. A tall man with long blond hair was manning the machine that day, in his waders – “that’s Big Sexy,” owner Perry Raso told us.
Once the barge arrived – we boarded and skimmed across the water, past elegant white egrets flapping their wings in the sun, to the middle of Potter’s Pond. We were surrounded by nature – herons and egrets lining the banks while fish, crabs, and of course, oysters teemed below the surface.
Perry stopped the boat, pulled on his waders and hopped in the pond, pulling out handfuls of glistening oysters from the bags hanging in perfect grid formation in the water. The air was still, and there was absolute silence save for the cry of a bird or the splash of fish. It was easy to understand why this is Perry’s favorite part of what he does. He explained the process of growing oysters and when you realize all the benefits of aquaculture you understand his passion for not only oyster farming, but educating people.
He hops back on the boat to float us over to where the scallops live. Having mastered oysters I get the impression he loves the challenge of farming scallops which he explains are a little more finicky to grow. He puts his hands in the water and when he lifts them out he’s holding several scallops – some chattering and spitting. He points out the blue dots that line the inside edge of the bottom shell, explaining these are their eyes and they sense danger. These bay scallops, like the oysters, will find their way onto the plates of patrons at the restaurant.
Across the pond we dock the boat and walk up hill to see six acres of lush farmland, including a 100-foot greenhouse. I see tomatoes, zucchini, kale, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and more. All of these vegetables – all certified organic – will be served at the restaurant. We often hear the term “farm to table” but to see it illustrated so clearly and so beautifully with your own eyes really puts it into perspective. This is sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and ecotourism at its best.
We climb up the hill and get a little bit of history on Captain Potter and the house that overlooks the farm. We hop into a pickup truck with our host, and head back to the restaurant, just around the corner.
Out back there is a crew of men in waders tending to the buckets and buckets of sorted oysters. Inside by the bar, two men are busy shucking oysters effortlessly. I try to get some insight as to the method having never successfully shucked an oyster myself, but their hands move way too fast.
We’re to shoot some of the lovely dishes the restaurant serves and as the plates come out, the realization that what we’re about to taste was all grown right here really hits home. Everything is delicious – beautiful, simple, elegant food.