Jonathan Swift once famously said “He was a brave man that ate the first oyster”. I’ve thought the same thing myself before about many ingredients that are commonly seen on menus.
Oysters are interesting in that they can be prepared so many different ways: Grilled, smoked, roasted, boiled and of course they can be eaten raw.
While I can appreciate cooked oysters, I much prefer them raw. Oysters are filter feeders, processing as much as a gallon and a half of water per day, filtering out plankton and excess nutrients from their habitats. One of our guests expressed some skepticism last week when we were describing the tastes and subtle differences between each of three oysters, but like humans, oysters are what they eat. Japanese oysters, like the Kumamoto, have a distinctly different flavor than the Caraquet from Canada. Throwing back a raw oyster is almost like visiting the waters of their origin and getting hit in the face with a wave.
Some people enjoy a splash of lemon, grated horseradish, hot sauce or cocktail sauce, but I’ve always felt that these things overpower the nuances of the various varieties. If anything, I like to have a bite of something afterwards that will compliment their natural flavor.
For this oyster tasting I have three varieties of oysters: Hootenanny, Chesapeake and Fanny Bay. The Hootenanny is from the Puget Sound in Washington State, it has a beautiful shell and the meat Is very full and moist. The flavor reflects the mineral rich waters it comes from. The Chesapeake Oyster is from my home state of Virginia and is a bit smaller with a very mild sweet and salty flavor. The Fanny Bay oyster is from British Columbia and has a briny flavor with a mild cucumber-like finish.
Accompanying this tasting is a salad of apple, fennel and micro chervil with an apple and shallot vinaigrette. Also served on the table was apple “caviar”, served traditionally on ice with a mother of pearl spoon. More on the caviar here.