"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oysters!!!

I admit that I am addicted to oysters, compulsive and obsessive.  I cannot walk past an oyster bar without at least considering going in.  I cannot stop thinking about their (raw of course) unmatched succulence, flavor, and texture.  There is no food that is so complete in its stimulation of the senses.  In a good Brittany oyster, Scottish rocks and Irish Sea oysters,  you are tasting the sea, smelling the sea, and eating the fresh, tangy, boldness.  In a warm water oyster like those from Apalachicola (FL), Beaufort, or Bluffton (SC) you will find incomparable sweetness, light brine, and soft but firm texture.

In the Pacific Northwest oysters you will get chilled brine with a cucumber finish.  In Northern California Hog Island oysters you will find brine, richness, and size.  Rhode Island, Provincetown oysters are flatter in taste, none of the sea-tasting salt brine, but a brininess which is the perfect match to West Coast oysters.  Chesapeake oysters and Blue Points have less taste, but are often large, juicy and like RI and MA and a good complement to the NW.  PEI, New Brunswick oysters are a bit of all the above.

Perhaps my favorite oyster experience is eating the warm water oysters from Florida and South Carolina and especially Apalachicola (above).  These oysters grow in the very fertile waters of Apalachicola Bay and are harvested by hand by tongs, then are brought to port and brought to nearby restaurants.  Nothing fresher.  The beds are divided into summer and winter beds, but the winter beds produce the biggest, sweetest oysters. It is a treat to watch the traditional oystermen (watermen as they are called on the Chesapeake) tonging up their catch, seeing the boats unload their cargo, and then eating the oysters an hour later.

I love to discover new oyster beds, particularly in the South because of my newfound love of warm water oysters; and on a recent trip to South Carolina read about the famous oysters of Bluffton.  They were delicious!! Two dozen eaten and stopped only because I thought I should.  Then went to the dock where the oysters were brought in and went into the shucking room where two women were shucking oysters for po’ boys etc.  A real trip back into time since this operation has been in the family for at least three generations.
I have one more month before the “R” months disappear.  I push it a bit into May and can still get some good West Coast oysters (my local seafood market assures me that he gets all the Coast oysters when they are not spawning and thus have not lost too much substance and flavor.  But June is pushing it, and forget about July and August.

I know of no other food which satisfies me so much – such a sensory experience, plus the harvesting, shucking…all a delight to watch.

I am looking forward to heading up to Boston soon and will eat oysters and sweet, delicious Cherrystone clams at Neptune; and now that I am back in DC after the South I must go to eat some West Coast sweeties.  Stay tuned.

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