SeaGrub: a celebration of seafood, and how to cook the stuff. Or in this case, eat it raw.
The two of us sat at the table in a medium-nice Chelsea restaurant, scribbling on a small notebook. The place (Shaffer City, since closed), had a massive collection of oysters, listed on a separate, paperback-sized special menu. The mission was to sift through these bivalves and form a list of favorites. After the second dozen or so, we put down our pens and simply enjoyed the experience: sending back piles of empty shells, squeezed lemon quarters, and bottles of cheap beer.
Some people love oysters; others hate them. This is for the former group; I don’t have the energy to analyze the incomprehensible. It must be a texture, rather than a taste thing, for it’s impossible to dislike an entire selection of oysters; they’re that discrete.
Oysters are as complex as Mormon genealogy. They may appear similar: about the same size, knobby and a struggle to snap open, but the flavor within can be extraordinarily different. Some are large, pillowy, mild bites; some are smaller and briny; others combine both characteristics with a twist.
To enjoy them you need a sample, and, since Shaffer has closed, occasionally we go to Aquagrill, with its equally vast selection. A sample from this Sunday:
Blue Point Oysters - Connecticut
Gold Creek Oysters - Washington
Piper’s Point Oysters - P.E.I.
Sisters Point Oysters – Washington
Chefs Creek Oysters - British Columbia
Chincoteague Oysters – Virginia
Canada Cup Oysters - P.E.I.
Indian Creek Oysters - P.E.I.
Pebble Beach Oysters - Washington
Willapa Bay Oysters - Washington
Beavertail Oysters - Rhode Island
Hog Neck Bay Oysters - New York
La St. Simon Oysters - New Brunswick
Little Creek Oysters - Washington
Ninigret Cup Oysters - Rhode Island
Potters Moon Oysters - Rhode Island
Royal Miyagi Oysters - British Columbia
Umami Oysters - Rhode Island
Wellfleet Oysters – Massachusetts
Beau Soleil Oysters - New Brunswick
First Light Oysters - Massachusetts
Montauk Pearl Oysters - New York
Cotuit Oysters - Massachusetts
Effingham Inlet Oysters - British Columbia
Komoguay Oysters - British Columbia
What seems an intimidating selection is simplified by a brainlessly basic option of accompaniments, i.e. a squeeze of lemon. Cocktail sauce, and peppery mignonette are also acceptable, the idea being sharp acid matches the cold, briny meat.
Which is why sometimes oysters are topped with a small scoop of granita, an icy, slushy concoction, in this case made with an tart juice such as grapefruit or lime. We made a batch of lime-vodka granita and popped it in a shot glass, with an excellent result. Vodka, of course, freezes less readily than water, requiring a bit of patience and a less than perfect granita, but a perfect little shot of limy booze.
Alcohol tends to provoke a more adventurous palate. A good reason to set a tray of oysters and vodka granita before your friendly oyster hater, and see what happens.
Oysters w/ Lime Granita Shots
Serves 2 (about to be drunk people)
½ cup lime juice
½ cup vodka
a dozen mixed oysters on ice
lime zest, grated
- Combine the lime juice and vodka in a shallow bowl and freeze for about a day. It should be slushy. Stir in a bit of zest
- Serve the granita in shot glasses along with the oysters over ice.