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Peconic Bay scallop season opens with a flourish

Nov. 6 marked the beginning of the

Nov. 6 marked the beginning of the Peconic Bay scallop season, harvested in shallow waters through the end of March. Expect to see them around restaurants by the end of the week. Credit: The Plaza Café

The tides have turned for Peconic Bay scallops, at least judging from this year’s early haul — an about-face from last year’s lackluster start.

“They’re plump scallops, bigger than normal — even the shell size is a lot larger,” said Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market in Southold. He has upward of 10 people opening the scallops, which were selling for $16 per pound on Tuesday, though prices change based on supply. “We’re going to be opening them for days and days.”

Bay scallops are found in shallower water than their larger, sea-scallop cousins, and tend to be sweeter. The Peconic Bay Scallop season traditionally begins the first week of November, and runs until March; last year, the harvest was scarce, though baymen reported there were many young scallops — aka “bugs” — that might mature this year. “They say they’re seeing bugs already this year, too,” Manwaring said.

Bart Molin, owner of the wholesaler Gra-Bar Fresh Fish & Seafood in Westbury said his suppliers have told him “it’s going to be a banner season,” which is pushing prices around $15 lower than last year, when a pound of bay scallops cost around $35 retail. “It’s great news for all consumers, and maybe people who couldn’t afford them last year can this year.”

Calls to a few fish markets show that the bay scallops are selling for $16 to $27 per pound, with the lowest prices on the East End.

Chef Michael Maneri of Verace in Islip, a former commercial fisherman, said he had heard that “this is the best [season] they’ve had since the early ’90s.”

Maneri’s first Peconic bay-scallop dish of the season will be a crudo with Calabrian chili oil, roasted hazelnuts and crispy leeks that will be part of Verace’s $30 Wednesday prix-fixe wine dinners ($40 with wine pairings) and served a la carte later in the week for $15.

Asked about the allure of Peconic bay scallops, Maneri was blunt. “They’re like fish candy,” said the chef.

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