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EAT UP // Cape Cod's East Dennis Oyster Farm Hobnobs in the Big City

In their domain: John and Stephanie Lowell

Much to our enjoyment, the higher-end NYC food & bar scene has spent the last year embracing the oyster, in some restaurants, serving them exclusively. One of the sudden major players has undoubtedly been East Dennis Oyster Farm in Cape Cod, supplying renowned dining spots Marea, Oceana, and Momofoku. Landscaper-cum-oyster farmers John and Stephanie Lowell are the folks behind the award-winning mollusks. As aspiring connoisseurs of endless oyster consumption, we reached out to the Lowells to find out how this all started--and why their product is officially on par with that hoity counterpart over in Wellfleet. 

When John got an aquaculture grant in 2003, he set up the farm: rows upon rows of enclosed pallets on stilts which get doused with saltwater when the tide comes in. Though in an ocean of oyster farmers, Lowell's were initially a tough sell, but once John got people to actually taste the product, they were sold. Local oyster bars began furiously snapping them up--and shortly thereafter, the Lowell's broke into their target market: New York.

"Our oysters aren't cheap," John says with a bit of a laugh. "There's more of a market for that in New York. People are willing to pay a premium for quality." John and Stephanie--who also works as an accountant--treat their business as a boutique provider. They're mission is sell to the discerning oyster fan, people who will taste the difference between bivalves from Wellfleet, East Dennis, and Prince Edward Island. 

So far, this approach has provided some nice perks to the Lowells; "We get treated pretty well when we go to New York, wined and dined," John says. Though on a larger scale, the success of Dennis Oyster Farm has opened the door for oyster farms from other parts of Cape Cod to be seen as purveyors of a luxury product. And that's all perfectly fine by the Lowells. "We have some rivalry, but it's all in fun," John says. He's glad to see his colleagues succeed and for the increased attention to the food's provenance, which Lowell believes will open diners up to new types of oysters. At the end of the day, East Dennis Oyster Farm is a labor of love--it's about a couple working on a beach with their dog--and as self-professed fans of their product, we'll tell you: All of that shines through in a slurp of briny goodness whether you're at Manhattan's finest or at your local Cape Cod beach shack.

--Layla Schlack