heaven on the half shell
the oyster cup-side down on the work surface and fold
a towel over it.
not a complicated guy, and it doesnít take much to make me
happy. Oysters are always a good start. Recently, I spent
several days at one of the happiest places Iíve ever been
ó on Tomales Bay, in western Marin County, just north of
happy was I? There are more oyster bars on Tomales Bay than
there are gas stations. I ate oysters four out of the five
days of our visit. The only one I missed was because we
arrived too late and every place had closed down (that
happens early there).
when it comes to oysters, Iím a purist. I like them raw
and I like them pristine. As far as Iím concerned, the
wedges of lemon and little bowl of mignonette that come on
the plate are decorations, not intended to be consumed.
belief is that if the good Lord had wanted us to eat oysters
with sauce, he would have provided it. In fact, he did:
There is no better accompaniment to a raw oyster than the
final slurp of juice in the bottom of the shell.
because Iím also broad-minded, on my trip I ate some
oysters that had been cooked. Barbecued, actually. I had an
epiphany about them several years ago, on my first visit to
the area, at a little place called Marshall Store. There
they grill the oysters over a live fire just until the
shells pop. Then they brush them with garlic butter and add
a shot of a chipotle-flavored tomato sauce.
lifetime of oyster Puritanism met its match the first time I
tasted them. And, of course, I had to check in again this
trip to make sure they were up to snuff. They were. Both
mention Marshall Store also stocks Kermit Lynch wines and
Cowgirl Creamery cheeses? Oysters with Hippolyte Reverdy
Sancerre? A little Red Hawk for dessert? Is this heaven? If
itís not, is it better stocked?
California isnít quite as oyster crazy as Tomales, but itís
getting a lot better. Even just three or four years ago, our
raw bar choices were fairly limited. Now weíve got Connie
and Tedís in West Hollywood, Water Grill downtown, Fishing
With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, L&E Oyster Bar in
Silver Lake, Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica, the
Hungry Cat in Hollywood, Bouchon in Beverly Hills. These
days, weíre never far from a good oyster when we really
why wait for someone else to serve you? There are few things
more pleasurable than shucking a couple dozen oysters for
friends before dinner. You can get them at your favorite
seafood store or order them online. I particularly like
Taylor Shellfish in Washington (www.taylorshellfishfarms.com),
especially if youíre ordering in quantity, which offsets
the shipping costs.
really, ordering in quantity is the way to go. Oysters
disappear quickly. A half-dozen is just enough to whet your
appetite. It doesnít take a lot to make me happy, but more
is always welcome.
Bay: Hog Island Oyster Co., 20215 Shoreline Highway,
Marshall, 415-663 9218, hogislandoysters.com; Marshall
Store, 19225 California 1, Marshall, 415-663-1339,
California: Connie and Tedís, 8171 Santa Monica Blvd.,
West Hollywood, 323-848-2722, www.connieandteds.com;
Water Grill, 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-891-0900, www.watergrill.com;
Fishing With Dynamite, 1148 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach,
310-893-6299, eatfwd.com; L&E Oyster Bar, 1637 Silver
Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-660-2255, www.leoysterbar.com;
Blue Plate Oysterette, 1355 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica,
310-576-3474, blueplatesantamonica.com; the Hungry Cat, 1535
Vine St., Los Angeles, 323-462-2155, thehungrycat.com;
Bouchon, 235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-271-9910,
SHUCK STARTS HERE
oysters takes a little practice, and there are a couple of
approaches to try, but soon enough youíll find your
rhythm. Hereís what works best for me:
the shells clean with a stiff brush under running water.
This gets rid of a lot of the grit.
the oyster, cup-side down, on a clean dish towel on the work
surface and fold the towel over it. This not only gives you
a stable platform for shucking, but the top fold will help
protect your hand should the knife slip.
with the tip of the oyster knife to find the gap in the
hinge at the back of the shell. You donít have to use much
the knife into the gap and give it a twist to pop the hinge.
The hard part is done.
the blade along the top shell, severing it from the oyster.
Work carefully here, because you donít want to spill any
of the oyster liquor.
the cup side and cut underneath the oyster to free it
THAT GO WELL WITH RAW OYSTERS
for something to drink with those oysters? Keep it simple.
Sure, Champagne is always festive, and if youíre in a
classic mood you could go with Muscadet, Sancerre or
Chablis. But you canít really do better than a clean,
solidly made West Coast white.
general, these arenít the flashy kinds of wines that
normally win wine tastings. Normal wine tastings anyway.
After almost 20 years as a judge at the Pacific Coast Oyster
Wine Competition, Iíve learned that what oysters really
want in a wine is something cold and crisp, not overly
fruity and definitely no oak.
talking about wines made from grapes such as Sauvignon
Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. And weíre
usually talking about wines that cost less than $15 a
are a few wines that have won the competition repeatedly. In
fact, of last yearís top 10 wines, seven had won before.
The Acrobat Pinot Gris, Foris Pinot Blanc and the Van Duzer
Pinot Gris from Oregon; the Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon
Blanc from Washington and the Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc,
Kenwood Pinot Gris and Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc from
California were all multiple winners.