Welcome to the only real reason I am in love with the chilly weather here in Washington State…OYSTERS SEASON! I am a fan of seafood in general but, there is a special place in my heart for a fresh, beautiful little bi-valve all packed with brine, salt and minerality. Cradled in its own little cup for pure enjoyment. In my opinion, what’s not to love? I know they’re not for everyone. And, do you know what that means in my head? More for me. Yes, I’m a greedy, little oyster goose…the more the merrier, loves.
I have done my homework and been around selling seafood and backing these babies for many, many years now. And, I happily pass some knowledge and preference onto you. Many of my friends are already in the know and are completely familiar with my, dare I say, slight addiction. Because, 3 dozen is no problem.
Did you know that oysters were introduced in Washington State from Japan in 1902? I would like to say 113 years later, thank you Japan, thank you! I’m sure a lot of other people are thanking them daily to still, since oysters have become roughly a $180 million dollar industry here in Washington State. That’s one big pearl. No, on the joke? Okay, anyway, there are countless species of oysters from different regions up and down our coast here and I’m here to tell you, they are not the same from one end to the other. In fact, the waterways count big for flavor. Adult Oysters can filter up to 25 gallons A DAY, or more. By doing that they filter out any gunk. And they, themselves, do us a huge solid in return, by helping us keep our PNW waters cleaner. You heard it right, the more oysters, the better for our waters. Oh, sweet luck. They also help with a slew of other critters in their ecosystems to form essential habitats.
Just like wine, another great love, oysters are known for their “terroir”, that’s the flavor imparted by the area that they grew up. Oh, how cute…I’m still gonna eat you little oysters.
Now onto some serious news…Oyster reefs in the world are in decline but, with correct harvesting, and habitat maintenance and growing, we can protect those tasty little buggers and reap all the benefits of doing so. And, Washington has had its fair share of problems here at home in the past. It’s a testament to taking care of our seas and oceans and protect the waters for all creatures in it. They are anything if not delicate. But, things are looking better and you may ask yourself, self, is it still good to eat my share? According to all the reading I have done, the information out there says it IS still good to eat and support your “locally ” grown, oyster farmers and go ahead and still do your research to support the ones looking out for our gorgeous state, right?
So let’s begin. Shall we?
As I said before, there are several kinds of oysters specific to each region and as you make your way by boat, car or foot there are many to choose from. Here are some favorites but, not limited to, in a few regions (I hate limits on oysters. You obviously realize this by now, I’m sure.):
Vancouver Island (No, not the “Coov” as it is affectionately known, the one closer to our Canadian friends):
Fanny Bay- 2″-5″ Sept-July Firm meat, mild brine, cucumber finish
Steller Bay- 2.5″- 3.5″ Sept-July Delicate, clean, and meaty
Kusshi- 2.5″ Year around Small, meaty, delicate (a little too small sometimes for me but, tasty)
North Puget Sound:
Penn Cove Selects- up to 4″ Sept-July Firm, meaty, bright and briny- a tasty oyster, hands down
Shigokus- 3″ Oct-Feb. Clean, firm, briny, cucumber/melon finish. In Japanese it means ULTIMATE. It’s one of my all time favorite oysters…amazing.
Snow Creek- up to 3″ Sept- July Firm, meaty, mild brine, minerally with a sweet finish. Sound good don’t they? They are.
Kumomotos -2″-3″ Year Around Deep cup, thin, mild, sweet flavor with a melon finish. A very “friendly” oyster for the beginner. Tasty for sure.
Totten Virginicas- up to 3″ Sept- July Plump, sweet, briny and clean with a small mineral flavor
Gold Creek- up to 4″ Sept-July Mild, clean flavor, light brine
Hama Hama- up to 3″ Sept-July Clean, crisp, never mushy. And these live up to all of those descriptions.
Deer Creek- up to 3″ Sept- July Clean flavor, meaty, crisp. You’ll notice a trend happening in this area. They got it goin’ on, when it comes to oysters
Dabob Bay- up to 3″ Sept-July Clean with a slight sweet finish
Note: I prefer cold weather months for oysters so, July is noted a lot. But, I personally stick to the adage of “the month’s with ‘R'” rule. Just sayin’. Also, brine refers to the salty flavor that naturally occurs. In case you’re not familiar with the terminology.
Now we come to a matter of preference. There are favorite ways to enjoy oysters and that is that. Sometimes it’s lemon, tabasco, creamy horseradish, or cocktail sauce. I also, personally dig a yummy mignonette. It has all the amazing things that bring out the flavors in oysters without junking it up too much. It seems a little fancy but, trust me on this if you love anything pickled, peppery and sweet, It all comes together for a perfect, little, balanced topper to your oysters. Here’s the recipe for the one I make at home:
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
Pinch of Sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Stir together vinegar, shallot, pepper, and sugar and let stand 30 minutes. Leave the parsley out and you can even make this a day ahead.
That’s it. Simple right?
A little can top each raw, or baked with butter oysters for a bit of a switch up to the ol’ norm.
Speaking of Champagne, guess what makes a perfect pairing with oysters? Drumroll please…you guessed it Champagne. Now, there all sorts of wonderful things out there lining the shelves that will work just fine, from cheap to pricy. There are some real goodies. If you’re on a budget, a Spanish Cava will easily fit the bill. Made in many ways the same as true Champagne it’s not a bad alternative for low cost, in my opinion. There also some fantastic Sparkling wines and some terrific local things. Treveri winery is located in the Yakima valley and I have tried several of their “sparklers” (why wouldn’t I, of course) and I liked. Bonus points if you head over to the “Palm Springs of Washington” in Yakima and pick it up. It’s lovely, the snacks are on point and Owen Roe is right next door with a whole bunch of other choice wineries, as well. If you are ready to throw down the gauntlet and go for it, in a momentous celebration of these beauties then I have a few for you too. These are all still fairly priced and tasty bubbles:
Bollinger Special Cuvee – Broad flavor and toasty
Gosset Brut Excellence NV- Bright, Zesty, and good bubbles…literally.
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut- Buttery, consistent flavor
If you really want to splurge a bit more of course there is Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, or my personal crush, Billacart Salmon Rose.
Honorable mention goes to the traditional martini, Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, and the ever classic and refreshing beer. Keepin’ in simple can go a long way.
Well, all this talk and planning has made me excited and hopefully you too. What if your like me and you’re ready for some right now? Well, I’ve got something for you. Seattle is a city for seafood and there are some great spots to get it. By the way, FYI there are two new hip spots that I am in the know about and very excited for. One, in the market across from the Inn at the Market is going to be the famous chef Shiro’s newest venture. Expected opening is in November and promises some ridiculously fine seafood, accompanied with a prime view of the water. This man is sushi and fish royalty and if you don’t know, it’s worth a Google. Then another few close friends and formidable restaurateurs are going to make a big splash, with a new spot in the Ballard district of Seattle that will tentatively be Latin. I don’t know about the amount of seafood that will be on the menu but, be ready for delicious, from a James Beard Award winning chef and amazingly gorgeous since I have seen a secret preview of the architecture and Interior to come. Seriously stunning. Okay, okay, back to the subject at hand. You can’t wait to sit down to a plate of a dozen tasty treats. Here’s where I think to go right now in the Greater Seattle area:
The Ballard Oyster Annex
5410 Ballard Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107
They have Happy Hour from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM with $1.50 Chef’s choice oysters and 6 champagne! Oh yeah. Get on that pronto and tell the Chef Seth “hello” from me! The best.
Taylor Shellfish Farm
1521 Melrose Ave
Seattle, WA 98107
It’s $4 off a dozen oysters from 2-4 PM. The décor is modern the selection is good. And, there are some nice choices on the wine and beer menu.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
4743 Ballard Ave N.W
Seattle, WA 98107
Renee Erickson believes in clean and fine seafood. She’s a talent without a doubt and they go through triple digits in oysters in that spot. It’s nautically gorgeous and will set a fine mood for “oysterfesting”. It is 50% off of oysters from 4-5 PM weekdays daily and 25% from 5-6 PM.
Honorable mention goes to the Brooklyn Seafood and Steakhouse that has an oyster happy hour, Elliott’s for being down in the market and a classic and Ray’s Boathouse Bar downstairs has had oysters for a happy hour in the past and the view is unstoppable. Let me remind you to check up on the current deals and times since, things change and specials change from time to time. And, everyone Is always working hard and trying there best in all these great places. Let it be noted I love my restaurant peeps and all their dedication. Be kind.
For live fresh oysters in the South Sound when you are ready to bring some home call the wonderful people at:
Rocky Bay Shellfish
Tony and Patti Softich
5730 E. State Route 302
Belfair, WA. 98528
The nicest people growing Pacific’s and farming oysters right on there own property. They are a wealth of knowledge on the topic and the process. Delicious, and by the dozen. They also sell clams, as well. Call them in advance take your cooler and they will have an order ready for pick up. And, you get one gorgeous drive out of the deal. Tell them Jay, Sonya and Jackson sent you!
I think I have covered most of the major bases and now you know my excitement for the season! I will leave you lastly with some favorite kitchen and party essential links to make things stunning and easy to entertain and indulge for seasons to come. Happy Shucking everyone!!!
LITTLE TREASURES THAT THIS DESIGNER LOVES…