It’s no secret that potential summer associates are often taken out for oysters. Here is how to order and eat them!
What’s a Kumamoto?
How do you know what types to order? In general, oysters harvested on the West Coast have spiny shells and a relatively sweet and creamy taste, whereas their East Coast cousins have smooth shells and a comparatively salty taste. Three of my favorite West Coast varieties are Chef Creek, Denman Island, and Kumamoto. Three of the top East Coast choices are Blue Point, Belon, and Diamond Point. All things being equal, I prefer East Coast to West Coast bivalves: “I like salt.”
Or, Just Ask
If you’re stumped by the choices, simply say to the waiter, “I’d like a selection of the freshest oysters you’ve got.” As with all seafood, what’s fresh is what’s best. You may also wish to follow the “R” rule. Oysters harvested in months without that letter (May through August) are edible, but they’re not mature and may have a slight metallic taste and chewy texture.
Half a dozen is an appetizer. A dozen and a salad is a light meal. Two dozen is a feast. Whether you order one variety or a mix, says Sale, is strictly a matter of personal taste.
First, you bathe the little beauties in cocktail sauce, right? Whoa, Emeril. Would you smother a filet mignon in ketchup? Oysters have a naturally subtle flavor that is best enjoyed unfettered. Try a squirt of lemon—it brings out the oysters’ essence. If you order several varieties together, eat the least salty ones first to protect the palate.
The Lift and Slurp
The point of eating oysters is to enjoy the sweet, salty, fresh-from-the-ocean taste and the soft, luxurious texture. Pick up the shell. Gently slide the meat—and the little pool of juice—into your mouth. Let it linger. Mmm. If you’d like to chew, go ahead. The taste stays in your mouth longer. Or simply swallow the thing whole and enjoy the unique pleasure of a tiny, raw, barely dead invertebrate sliding down your throat.
Raw oysters can carry bacteria and viruses, but the risk of getting seriously ill is small (pregnant women and the immune-compromised should avoid all uncooked seafood). Don’t want Vibrio vulnificus? Use common sense: If it looks or smells bad, don’t eat it.
Like many seafoods, oysters match well with dry, crisp white wines. I recommend a Crochet Sancerre, a Morgan Sauvignon Blanc, or a Muscadet Domain de la Tourmaline. If you just won the trial, make it champagne: A nice Paul Laurent Brut.