The anatomy of a seafood tower is more than just a clever way to arrange and display chilled shellfish. It is more akin to a work of culinary art than a mere appetizer. Of course, there is more than one way to shuck an oyster. Many great culinary masters have made their own versions of seafood towers. Not only will we give you some different ideas for your own tower design, but we will tell you the best wines for seafood served on these magnificent platters as well. Crack open a bottle of Oceano Chardonnay and let us give you some great ideas for your next house party or event.
What is a Seafood Tower?
When discussing the anatomy of a seafood tower, it is important to know the basics. “What is a seafood tower?” you ask. Great question. A seafood tower is typically a two-tiered structure with ice lining the bottom of each tier and then topped with shellfish. Some popular items on the bottom tier are clams, oysters, and mussels. On the top tier, you will usually find crab, lobster, and shrimp. Interspersed throughout the tower will be various garnishments. Dip your seafood in liquid butter, cocktail sauce, and fresh lemon juice.
One might order a seafood tower during a romantic dinner for two, but they work even better for parties, celebrations, or informal gatherings. If you’re like Kurt and I, you’ll want one for every occasion.
Sculpted Ice Seafood Tower
If you had a chance to read about my trip to Ireland, you’ll remember Dingle Crystal. It was such a lovely experience. While the techniques are vastly different, the result is the same – beautiful, crystalline art. Imagine layers of block ice covered in top shelf seafood sculpted into anything you can imagine. From mermaids to congratulatory well-wishes, the anatomy of a seafood tower very much includes the physical structure itself.
There are plenty of artists out there who make a nice living sculpting ice for various occasions. You might not want to foot the bill on culinary art for a run of the mill date night, but bringing one into a wedding reception or a graduation party would be a real show-stopper.
Now you just have to pick the seafood toppings. I would suggest shrimp ceviche at the top and clams and raw oysters at the bottom, paired with Oceano’s Chardonnay to really tie the flavors together.
Dry Ice Seafood Tower
If you want a seafood tower that is extra cold with an enchanting appeal, look no further than your local dry ice supplier. You can create a haunting tower with a cool, steamy aesthetic that will surely be the talk of the spread and it is so easy to do. Simply, fill the tiers with water and small shards of dry ice. You’ll need to keep adding dry ice as the evening continues, but the effect will be much more charming than standard fair.
For a dry ice setup, I’d recommend higher shelf seafood like crab, lobster, and little ramekins filled with colorful caviar. With buttery dishes like lobster and the flavorful explosion of caviar, Oceano’s Chardonnay will complement this seafood tower without masking it. Our Chardonnay is one of the best wines for seafood.
We can’t talk about the anatomy of a seafood tower without discussing this Japanese staple. We could write an entire blog post on this one topic alone. You won’t find a sushi restaurant that doesn’t have some variation of this platter on the appetizer section of their menu, and for good reason too. Sometimes, you can find one with a similar structure to American style culinary architecture with plated tiers. However, most of the time, the tower is constructed out of the sushi itself.
The sushi tower often starts on a cylindrical stack of sticky, white rice. Sometimes, it will have small layers of Nori (dried seaweed) to keep the integrity in place. From there, you’ll see layers of white tuna, Ahi tuna, smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese, and mangoes. Of course, each chef has their own variations, but these are pretty common ingredients. Aside from the fish and rice, there will be drizzles of ponzu sauce, wasabi sauce, and a side of soy sauce. Normally, I would recommend an Oceano Wine to go with any dish, but if we’re talking about the best wines for seafood, a traditional Japanese Saki was made for the sushi tower experience.
Fried Seafood Tower
This take on the seafood tower isn’t instantly conjured to most Northern minds when discussing the anatomy of a seafood tower. However, if you live in the South (especially in Louisiana) you were probably beginning to wonder if this tower would make the list at all. Fried seafood is a major part of the Cajun diet and no one does it better. The fried seafood tower doesn’t require ice and much like the sushi tower, it doesn’t even require a structure to hold it up because fried seafood is perfectly stackable with a little help from some strategically placed toothpicks.
Catfish, calamari, fried shrimp, and fried crawfish makeup the meat of a cajun fried seafood platter. Onion rings, fried pickles, and french fries covered in Lawry’s seasoning salt to help with the integrity will also likely be found in this platter. Garnished with lemons, cocktail sauce, and remoulade sauce should also be served with it. Don’t forget a large jar of Tabasco sauce or another spicy, pepper based sauce to squirt on every bite. As far as the best wines for seafood, our Pinot Noir or our Chardonnay both pair well with spicy, fried seafood for different reasons. The Pinot Noir brings out fresh, fruity flavors to counter the powerful spice and the strong flavor of catfish. Our Chardonnay, however, is perfect if you want a bolder wine to accentuate the heat.
Anatomy of a Seafood Tower: Rachel’s Global Favorites
We travel the Northern US coasts on a pretty frequent basis. Whether on the bustling Eastern coast or the sunny western coast, I am always looking for new seafood experiences. Not only have we tried some of the best seafood in the US, we’ve had some great seafood towers around the world too. Here are pictures from some of our favorite experiences.
Kurt and I had this excellent “Captain’s Board” with crab, oysters, mussels from Spain, a ton of shrimp, langoustines, cockles, and whelks. It was so savory!
Here I am enjoying a Fiola Mare lunch seafood tower with oysters, mussels, tuna ‘nduja, branzino, hiramasa, salmon tartare, wild bigeye tuna, oishii shrimp cocktail, and lobster catalana.
I also had some special ladies join me. My mother, Rita, is on the right and my niece. Juliane, is on the left. We had a lovely time.
J. Sheeky is a Victorian-Era restaurant that is over 100 years old. The original owner opened it, in part, to serve late dinners to theater goers and performers of the Salisbury Playhouse. The theater and the restaurant still have that mutualistic relationship with J. Sheeky’s being the hotspot for actors and audiences.
Kurt and I had the Deluxe Plateau de Fruits de Mer with prawns, oysters, mussels, dressed crab, langoustines, and lobster. This thing was massive!
Greenwich Village, New York
Jeffrey’s Grocery has fresh oysters daily.
We love the Le Royale with oysters, littlenecks, shrimp, smoked mussels, lobster salad, and king crab legs. The atmosphere is also very relaxed and our server made it even more fun.
Paradise Seafood in Florida is amazing. You can design your own platters and they deliver it right to your door. We relished this tower when we took a trip to visit Kurt’s parents.
This incredible tower is almost as big as me!
As I’ve mentioned before, I love seafood. It’s as if it was perfectly made to suit the light, citrusy flavors of Oceano’s Chardonnay and the fruity, aromatic flavors of my Pinot Noir. No matter how you design your seafood tower, Oceano has the perfect, flavorful fit for your creation. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more ideas on pairing our wines with different foods and occasions.