When it comes to the scallop, bigger is not necessarily better.
The Atlantic sea scallop, with a soft, inch-wide body, is a year-round fixture on many menus; whether seared as an entrée or sliced into sashimi, it’s the scallop diners are most familiar with. But early fall is prime harvest time for the Nantucket Bay Scallop—a rare and highly prized variety of the shellfish raked from the harbor floor of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
Much smaller than their cousin the sea scallop, only the size of a dime, bay scallops are much sweeter, with a tender, firm flesh that hardly needs adornment. They’re often served raw as a ceviche, or flash-seared as a starter; most chefs let the baby scallop’s subtle flavor carry the dish itself. But others have built entire menus around the Nantucket Bay—notably Michael Psilakis’s three-course tasting at New York’s Dona, pairing scallops and bacon in three different ways.
In the interest of keeping the scalloping tradition alive, Nantucket regulations designate October a month for recreational scalloping, so that any islander brave enough to don rubber boots and wade into the biting Atlantic waters can get the first pick of the season. Beginning November first, however, the harbor opens to commercial fisherman and the scallops hit the market—in recent years, $25 per pound on-island and up to twice that on the mainland. Finding the tiny morsels is difficult, and freshness is imperative. But several island providers ship right from Nantucket, getting you bay scallops at island prices overnight. Short of a trip to the Faraway Island, that might be the next best thing.