Culture Club Meet Dan Long, a salty local who's helped create a market for the "Carolina Cup" single oysters
WRITTEN BY SANDY LANG
In our December 2009 issue, we covered the local “singles scene” revolving around a group of oystermen who are cultivating the Lowcountry’s favorite bivalve to grow solo rather than in clusters, making them perfect for eating raw on the half-shell. Another key member of this mollusk movement is Dan Long, vice president of Crosby’s Seafood Company, who is known to have coined the term “Carolina Cup” for local single oysters and has also worked to develop the market for them.
Long grew up on James Island and has been devoted to local oysters since his youth in the 1970s, when he and friends would gather oysters and roast them over campfires on Long Island, an undeveloped island not far from the Crosby Fish & Shrimp Company on Folly Road. That love of saltwater and seafood never left him. After a stint as a pipefitter, he went to work for Crosby’s and has been there for the past 26 years.
Sold mostly to white-tablecloth restaurants, the singles are “a relatively new part of the industry and market,” notes Long. In the early 2000s, he says he started noticing that cup-shaped single oysters were being mixed into the bushels of clusters and asked if those singles could be separated out into 100-count bags so he could market them. That led the oystermen he works with—in addition to harvesting wild singles—to also seed young oysters (spats) on sandy creek beds, encouraging the oysters to grow horizontally with a more round, cup-shaped oyster shell. (That’s different than the common knife-shaped shells of local oysters that grow in clusters.) Long figures that through Crosby’s, he’s sold about 500,000 Carolina Cups over the past nine years and says that brokers all along the eastern coast have shown interest in buying more.
If all of this talk of oysters has you wanting to dig into some of your own, you’re in luck, as the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association’s annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival is coming up on Sunday, January 31st at Boone Hall Plantation. It just so happens that Long is also the man in charge of supplying the event with some 1,600 bushels of oysters (that’s up to 80,000 pounds). For anyone thinking about entering the oyster-eating contest, this expert advises, “People always want to smash the oysters down and drain the liquid. But you need all that oyster liquor to get them down.” Also good to know if you’re competing: the top male winner in past contests ate more than 6.5 pounds of the slippery suckers, and the top female swallowed about 5.5 pounds. Now, that’s a lot of shucking.
To read the original piece, “Singles Scene,” from our December “Savor the Lowcountry” feature, click here.
For more information on the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, click here.