It’s amazing how receptive our pallet becomes to new foods as we get older. I remember many a mommy/daughter lunch/dinner seafood dates. She’d order her crab leg entree with a glass (or two) of Leibfamilch. I’d order something less mature with an N/A Shirley Temple. Mom would often order raw oysters. She had to have offered them to me and convinced me to try them for me to determine I despise them. For one they’re raw, slimy, sea tasting, salty and just too grown up for my adolescent taste. Everything I’ve grown to love about them now. I don’t remember which particular experience was pivotal and set me on a quest to taste every distinct oyster I’d ever come across.
Before setting out on the raw oyster siege, I told myself I’d try them cooked in every other fashion I could find them. I tired them baked in Oysters Rockefeller. I tried them boiled in Seafood Gumbo. I even attempted the blasphemous deep fried oyster. After adding all of these notches to my belt, the purest in me was left unsatisfied until I could fairly write them off for good. I had to at least understand if I didn’t enjoy REAL oysters. LOL
At some point my love for all things seafood had me return to the idea that perhaps I needed to give these delicacies a fair adult shot. I’d only seen mom eat these either from mid-level seafood franchise restaurants or from a plastic semi clear containers from he grocer’s fish department. Were these fresh? Were they safe? Where they distributed in mass quantities, preserved and not freshly shucked the way I’d seen locals enjoy them in the Florida pan handle? Was I missing out on an obvious rarely appreciated aphrodisiac? I was too curious and my inner foodie FOMO had reached new heights. I lived further east now. After leaving Texas and returning to the midwest. I was dining in fresh fish houses that listed oysters from all over the coast. Some even from Canada. I was more than intrigued. Could their origins somehow dictate the character and taste of the mollusks? The hunt began.
What better way to start my hunt than to search the world wide web for critical reviews of “The best oysters”. In 2012, all searches led to Cape Cod Massachusetts. I searched every high end seafood restaurant menu in the metro Dallas/Ft. Worth area for the acclaimed half shelled “Wellfleet” oyster. I moved from Texas to the midwest shortly after. It wasn’t until I moved further east to New Jersey, that I decided if I couldn’t find Wellfleets, I’d explore oyster bars and seafood restaurant raw bars for the most briny and fresh oysters and take note of where they were from and my opinion of them all. Before leaving my beloved New Jersey, I checked out a local spot: Jockey Hollow in Morristown. The raw bar menu was extensive and slightly intimidating. I ordered 3 choice oysters. I regret not taking note of exactly what these were.
Jockey Hollow - Morristown NJ
Road Trip….next stop DC and Alexandria
Hubby and I love to travel (surprise huh ;-). One of the very cool things about being in Jersey is being a 3-4 hr road trip from some of the best places on the east coast. One the way into DC, we decided to cross the bridge into Alexandria to meet a friend for lunch where we found The Fish Market Restaurant. I always ask for a flavor profile for the menu options. The waiter explained the Maryland selection was particularly “meaty” oyster. Bring it on!!! Needless to say I put the DC oysters notch on my oyster belt. Compared to the Virgina selection, been there, had that. Not to allow meaty oysters to touch these lips again. Not what I’d expect from an oyster.
Fish Market Restaurant - Alexandria, VA
On the road again to site see in Rehoboth Beach, DE…have to hit the clam shacks off the water. We stopped in Clams Seafood House. The presentation was that of a cheap store front bar with ice resembling an old school ice tray. I don’t have geographic for these. They were briny enough for my liking. Nothing spectacular. Nonetheless, Rehoboth was an amazing experience.
Clams Seafood House - Rehoboth, DE
No food experience is worth the consideration without an NYC factor. Now I know most of you will come for me for even mentioning Red Hook Brooklyn as NYC. I know. I get it. Red Hook is Red Hook and Red Hook Brooklyn is certainly not NYC. But my love for NYC makes me factor it in at any level I can. What better way to spend hubby’s birthday than to have lunch in Brooklyn. It takes a Brooklyn seafood shack to offer “East and West Coast Oysters”. No specificity…just “East and West”. Much to my delight. These were fresh and briny. Just as I prefer
Brooklyn Crab - Red Hook Brooklyn, NY
5 years later, I moved to Massachusetts, where they dedicate an entire festival to the prized Wellfleets. I must say, I was impressed to say the last. I was especially psyched I was having them for the first time in Wellfleet Cape Cod. No mignonette, horseradish or cocktail sauce needed. I’d grown to be a lemon only girl. But when I saw fresh pico being served with these beauties as fresh as both were…I had to give it a try.
Wellfleet Oyster Festival
I would dare say I was “open” at this point. As I took a look around me, I was surrounded by some of the best and fresh seafood in the world. Why not set out on the road to see what the rest of New England could offer. Lobstah to the north, but first, we head south to Rhode Island.
At the Providence oyster bar, you can sit directly in front of the bar to witness your selection being shucked. I ordered the Walrus and Carpenter and the the Breachway. Both local. The Walrus and Carpenter won!!
Providence Oyster Bar - Providence, RI
As much as I appreciate the luxury of New England seafood, It doesn't take away from my love for NYC. Without designation or appointment. At the drop of a hat, I'm on the road to NYC. On a girls trip to celebrate the end of the summer, we visit John Dory’s Oyster bar at the foot of the hotel. This was my first experience with specific west coast oysters. John Dory options included Welfleets and Puget Sounds.
Every adventure has a food story. Any of you have an affinity for oysters? What are some of your favorites? Do you only eat them prepared a specific way?