oysters

Oysters Deluxe at The Boston Wine School - a great gift for yourself or a friend

Aren't you starting to think about next year already? I know I am. In the last flush of holiday hustle, there are so many decisions to make. I've been intrigued by the notion of decision-fatigue. Even President Obama understands the power of eliminating decision-fatigue. I think I read that he wears only one or two suits, completely eliminating wasted energy on unimportant decisions. Having some constraints actually can be freeing since it turns out, our brains seem to have a finite ability to make decisions. Even unimportant ones seem to detract from our ability to make later decisions. This applies to critical and non-critical things. It applies to will-power and food decisions. If you're starting to think about resolutions, it's an interesting thing to consider. While I love diversity in food, I've found that having the breakfast routine really helps me start the day on a positive note and that leads to better food choices throughout the day. But before we get to resolutions, let's finish up our holiday decisions, shall we?

Should we bake more cookies? What should we put on the menu for Christmas dinner - duck? Seafood? Turkey? Is it too late to do a year-in-review TinyLetter? (TinyLetters are shorter and more personal than a newsletter, sign up here and let me know what you think.) What's the best gift I could give myself or my favorite person?

My goal is always to make your life more delicious, more grounded, more informed, and more fun. So here we go, I'm reducing your decision fatigue right here and now:

1. Cookies: While some of us have been requested to "stop baking cookies" by those watching their figures. I think cookies are such a simple joy. I say yes! Bake one more batch. You can help moderate your sweet tooth in a couple of ways. Most all cookie doughs freeze well. This means you can bake a small batch and roll the rest in parchment and wrap well for future slice-and-bake treats. I have a log of peanut butter cookie dough in the freezer now. Okay, most of a log of peanut butter cookie dough...

Cookie Platter

2. Christmas menu: Unlike Thanksgiving which tends to be traditional, with favorites requested again and again; Christmas dinner around here seems to be the time for a little flexibility. This year I think we'll do a seafood risotto Christmas Eve and a roast duck Christmas day. Or maybe a turkey breast. I've got that killer cranberry-raspberry sauce from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and those crackly, sparkling cranberries are begging to be made again.duck_sugared_cranberries

3. TinyLetter: We do love to re-connect with loved ones this time of year. Newsy updates, photo cards, and year-end emails and "listicles". If it seems too much to create your newsletter from scratch, check out TinyLetter. I got great feedback on my first one sent just before Thanksgiving. (Included two recipes for apple cake, too. If you missed it let me know, I'll be happy to re-send.) I've got a special one coming out soon. BOLO: TinyLetter.

4. Killer gift ideas: Okay. I know some of you might still be hunting for the perfect gift. Only three days left to Christmas - how did that happen?  I love to give and get experience gifts. Who needs more stuff?

  • For Cooks: How about private cooking lesson in your own kitchen with a skilled and patient cook at your side? Learn to make food you love with Kitchen Confidence. Email me to set a time for a free consult call. What have you been dying to learn?
  • For the Bivalve Curious: A night out with a special meal, delicious wines, charming company sounds heavenly, doesn't it? Even better, how about a lobster dinner with the "snob-free" Boston Wine School preceded by an everything you always wanted to know about oysters but were afraid to ask class with me? Come join me for this fun tasting adventure, see what wines you prefer with your oysters, discover a few surprises, impress your friends with your new-found oyster lore. What better way to kick off the new year: well-fed, well-lubricated and full of new tastes and ideas. Also, did I mention? OYSTERS. Guests get Oyster Century Club membership and a special gift in addition to dinner and the oyster class. Jonathon's classes sell out and seating is limited so click today!

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Anything is Possible - Oysters and Out of the Shell Pairings at Urban Grape

Kicking off the news season of pop-ups at The Urban Grape, The Oyster Century Club co-hosted an evening of inventive pairings with five oystsers expertly shucked by The Boston Raw Bar Company.

Shucking and Slurping

TJ Douglas knocked it out of the park with the pairings:

  • Wellfleets (Crassostrea Virginicas) welcomed our guests paired with a sparkling Gruner Veltliner.
  • Urban Hops' Ben Bouton chose a Leipziger Gose to pair with Sunken Meadows (Crassostrea Virginicas) from Eastham.
  • Kiapara (Crassostrea Gigas) from New Zealand were paired with Bride of the Fox Saké.
  • Kumamotos (Crassostrea Sikamea) from Totten Inlet Washington paired with light Sicilian red: Cos Frappato.
  • and we ended with Pangea's own Standish Shore (Crassostrea Virginicas)from Duxbury. This was paired with an intense new gin from the Schwarzwald, Germany's Black Forest.

I shared some thoughts on the oysters, sustainability, merrroir, demonstrated how to shuck with our Oyster Century Club shucking knife, and chatted with new members. Good time had by all!

Follow the hashtag #oyster100 to see news of upcoming tastings and tweetups.

Thanks to Boston Raw Bar, Pangea Shellfish and the Whole Urban Grape team for a delicious and eye-opening evening!

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and you know me, if some is good, more is better...

 

my night cap:

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Sweet dreams indeed. See you at our next event!

Are You a Member? 5 Boston Social Clubs You Need to Know About | BostInno

We are delighted to be one of five Boston Social Clubs, BostInno singled out for "must join" status! We welcome all new members and have some exciting events on the horizon. Come slurp and sip and laugh and learn with us! We'll tell you why the old "R" month rule is passé and share favorite stories over a platter or two of our beloved bivalves.

Are You a Member? 5 Boston Social Clubs You Need to Know About | BostInno.

Oysters

Oysters

Aw Shucks Slurps & Sips Class: Hashtag Schwag Winner

Our sold-out Oyster Century Club© Slurps & Sips class was a hit! Sixteen oyster lovers became Oyster Century Club members and shared their favorite spots to enjoy oysters, as well as questions. image I demonstrated how to buy, store and shuck at home, shared oyster facts and trivia, and we paired our oysters with three different beverages: a Muscadet, a Saké, and a Stout. Two of the highlights for me were the knowledge that 13 out of 16 attendees said they were likely to try shucking at home as a result of taking this class. I was particularly pleased that the majority of the attendees were delighted at the pairing of saké with oysters.

During and after the class, attendees were invited to Instagram, Tweet, post to Facebook and Pin pics of the class and of their next shuck-at-home adventure. We capped the contest period on June 8 World Ociean Day. Robin Lowe is our winner. She's the one holding our youngest member, William below. I can see delicious days ahead for this young man. WFM_Collage

Oysters and Sustainability and Winning

Greenpeace's 2014 Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report evaluates and ranks supermarkets on their sustainable seafood policies. Whole foods and Safeway topped the ranking guide. One of the things we talked about was the role of the oyster in sustaining ocean habitat and maintaining protective reef structures that might mitigate super storms like Sandy or Katrina. Congratulations to Whole Foods for their commitment to sustainable seafood.

  • Did you know a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day?

Goodie bags for the class included:

  • branded Oyster Century Club shucking knives
  • a postcard with info on the Mass Oyster Project
  • mignonette ingredients and cocktail sauce

In addition to Oyster Lover placemats for quiz winners, Robin wins a Williams-Sonoma Cooking Class for 2 (a $90 value!) Congratulations Robin!

Social Creatures Ostreaphiles

Oysters are delicious fun. Oyster lovers or Ostreaphiles, are fun and social! Beginning with the class and ending on World Oceans Day, our slurping, sipping attendees generated over 82,000 impressions! Remember to follow the hashtag #oyster100 or bookmark this site, find my Pinterest Boards on Oyster Happenings and The Oyster Century Club© - join us for our next event.

...there will be bubbles...

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Thanks to Whole Foods Market Lynnfield, Williams-Sonoma for hosting and sponsoring!

Find out how we can bring oyster lovers to your venue, email me.

Stout Granita Oysters - Come Shoot and Slurp with the Oyster Century Club this Saturday at Mare Oyster Bar!

Pairing stout with oysters isn't a bad idea, here's a granita made with Guinness. What works in this photo? What doesn't? Come learn how to shoot dead sexy food photos from a pro: Brian Samuels.

Join the Oyster Century Club© and award-winning photographer Brian Samuels this Saturday, December 7th from 12:00 - 2:00 for a very special slurp and learn. Did you see Brian on CBS Sunday Morning?!

  • Get tips on creating and shooting great food with our smart phones culled from Brian's sold out classes.
  • OCC members enjoy half price oysters at this event and special appetizers on the house.
  • Be ready to shoot and share your sexy food pics on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. #oyster100 @MyFoodThoughts @LDGourmet @MareChef.
Oyster Century Club© members claim your early bird tickets today - Join the OCC - seats are limited at this event.  Register now! 
UPDATE: BONUS - Oyster Century Club members get free admission to the Eat Boutique Holiday Market! When you sign up for our class, we'll email you a special code for free admission. After our tasting, we'll head over to the market together.
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Oyster Lovers - Join us for a Special "Slurp and Learn" Oyster Century Club Event!

Mare Collage

The Oyster Century Club© invites you for a special midday oyster tasting event.

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 BREAKING NEWS: PARTICIPANTS ALSO GET FREE ADMISSION TO THE EAT BOUTIQUE HOLIDAY MARKET!

...register today, we'll all head over after....

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They Shoot Oysters, Don't They?

This Saturday, December 7 from 12 - 2 ,

we'll be enjoying oysters and special appetizers while

professional photographer and oyster-loving friend, Brian Samuels shares the secrets to capturing great oyster iPhone shots.

We'll be tweeting, instagramming and sharing photos as we shoot and eat.

Brian's classes have been selling out across the country, we're thrilled to grab some time with him Saturday!

Bring a friend!

Sign up today.

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New Friends, New Oysters - Join the Oyster Century Club - Today!

Top five reasons why you should join the Oyster Century Club - TODAY. 1. It's fun! 

We get together and meet new friends, taste new oysters. Here's our last get together at Maré Oyster Bar:

Mare Oyster Century Club

 

2. It's a totally unique thing that will make you the envy of your friends.

Do you long for the type of camraderie wine drinkers have? Discussing grapes, vineyards, holding tastings? Ever met anyone in a wine century club? Tasting 100 grapes is worthy undertaking. We are tasting our way through 100 varieties of oysters. What's more fun than that?

When you join you will receive your own tasting sheet, where you can track your progress toward the goal of 100, note your favorites, record tasting notes.

 

3. Discover hot new venues.

One of the things I love about Maré is that you can feel transported to someplace carefree and sunny, think South Beach with less attitude.

Mare Oyster Bar

 

4. Win cool prizes.

Along the way we've got some fun raffle items, from saké service, to cookbooks, t-shirts, to gift certificates.

 

Right now - new members will be entered to win a gift certificate for Maré! Drawing extended to 5 PM Wednesday October 16.

Another lucky winner will receive a Little Island Oyster tee shirt.

5. Enjoy sustainable seafood - at its peak right now!

At our recent screening of the documentary Shellshocked, we learned how and why oysters are good for the environment. When was the last time you could enjoy something so luxurious, so affordable, so sexy and so environmentally sound?

shellshocked

 

Oysters are storing up glycogen for their winter "hibernation" this means we get to enjoy extra sweet, plump and delicious oysters now and through the winter. These Nonesuch Oysters were fantastic last month, and the Little Island Oysters, too! Can't wait to try them both now! Thanks again to:

  •  Nonesuch oysters - Abigail Carroll, the accidental oyster farmer. See her TEDxYouth alk here: life lessons and getting your hands dirty, finding joy.
  • Frank & Tonyia Peasley – Little Island Oysters - on the Bagaduce River in Maine.

 

I asked Andrew Jay of the Mass Oyster Project for his tips:

  1. Ask your oyster bar if they recycle their shells.
  2. Email the governor that Massachusetts should do more restoration.
  3. Get in touch with restoration movement- Like Mass Oyster on Facebook.

 

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Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves - Tonight at Les Zygomates

LIttle Island Oysters  

 

From the pristine waters of Little Island in the Bagaduce River of Maine and the Scarborough River also in Maine, come two fine oysters you'll be invited to sample tonight.

 

Les Zygomates is hosting our Oyster Century Club© event which will feature a screening of Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves - this 40 minute award-winning documentary covers the history of oysters rise and fall and the restoration work being done today.

We're also honored to have two local experts joining us to talk about the science of biomimicry and how it's being used to restore oyster beds and coastal areas. Our second guest will share what local Boston area oyster recovery projects are underway.

 

Powerful film, great guests, terrific oysters.

 

Please join us!

 

 

Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves

Shellshocked Screening, Tweetup & Tasting

Monday, Sept 16 from 6:00p to 8:00p - Les Zygomates, Boston, MA

Love oysters? Of course you do!

Shellshocked

Come see the award-winning documentary:

Shellshocked - Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves

Oyster tasting to follow film.

From oysters' glory days through a sad decline, to restoration projects; learn what's happening today, and right here in Boston.

  • Dr. Anamarija Frankic - Associate Director of the School for the Environment at UMass, Boston, Dir. of the Green Harbors Project - Professor Frankic is also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Croatia and has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to establish a biomimicry course and the LivingLabs program in Croatia.
  • Andrew Jay of the Massachusetts Oyster Projectrestoring oysters to the Commonwealth’s estuaries. Mass Oyster has four primary activities- oyster shell recycling, education, direct oyster restoration, supporting other restoration programs.

Warm thanks to Les Zygomates and Nonesuch Oysters for joining the Oyster Century Club© in hosting this special event.

$20, Seats are limited - Register now.

Please arrive any time after 5:30; Screening begins promptly at 6.

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From Ennui to Joy - Delicious Oysters and Life Lessons from Nonesuch Oyster Farmer Abigail Carroll

Meet Abigail Carroll through this lovely TEDxYouth presentation. Life lessons for all of us. Get your hands dirty! Can you imagine leaving Paris, money, a Count for a boyfriend and trading it all for hip waders, algae, and Biddeford, Maine?

She did it and we're thrilled she did. In this TEDxYouth talk Abigail tells her story and shares the lessons she learned along the way.

Reminds me of the oft-quoted Hemingway remark about how oysters instill us with the sense of possibility, and how they immediately lift our spirits.

Oysters as Homecoming

Just as Abigail experienced a homecoming through the acquisition of her oyster farm, so do we have a homecoming of sorts each time we bring an oyster to our lips. We are kissed by our mother, the sea.

I am excited to announce that Nonesuch Oysters will be one of our sponsors at the Oyster Century Club's screening of Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves. Having just tasted her oysters I can attest to their lovely flavor. Abigail will be bringing oysters to share with us.

 

Nonesuch Oysters is a young, eco-friendly oyster farm located within a nature conservancy at Nonesuch Point in Scarborough, just south of Portland. Our Scarborough River is one of few in Maine to boasts outstanding natural resource waters. Home to these great-tasting, healthy oysters!

Already among Maine's favorites, Nonesuch Oysters are gaining fame nationwide for their bright, fresh, salty-sweet flavor with a delicate grassy undertone. In 2012, Nonesuch Oysters received the "Outstanding Micro Business of the Year" award from Scarborough Economic Development Corp.

Nonesuch Oysters have been showcased on the menu at New York’s celebrated James Beard House and the Grand Central Oyster Bar. We also received a lovely write-up in Rowan Jacobsen's, A Geography of Oysters website.

Our Oysters and Movie Night

We will be screening the award-winning documentary, Shellshocked which looks back at oysters' hey day in NYC which was then the oyster capital of the world, then look forward with the help of some very special guests at what is being done locally to restore oysters to their important place in our ecosystem.

Guests will include:

Dr. Anamarija Frankic, of UMass Boston:

Dr. Frankic, Associate Director of the School for the Environment at UMass, Boston, will discuss the exciting new field of biomimicry and how it can be used to restore our coastal environment.  She will describe the Green Harbors Project she created with UMass students to explore through "LivingLabs" what nature would do to improve conditions in the harbor.  Professor Frankic is also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Croatia and has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to establish a biomimicry course and the LivingLabs program in Croatia.

Andrew Jay, President of Massachusetts Oyster Project

Andrew Jay is the President of the Massachusetts Oyster Project.  The organization is dedicated to restoring oysters to the Commonwealth's estuaries. Mass Oyster has four primary activities- oyster shell recycling, education, direct oyster restoration, supporting other restoration programs. You can learn more at www.massoyster.org.
Many thanks to Les Zygomates for hosting this event. Please register via EventBrite, here The Oyster Century Club Presents...as seats are limited by space.
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Aww! Shucks - First Oyster Class Wrap Up and Giveaway

I know several of you missed the class at Whole Foods Market CRP. Here's a taste of what you missed. The first official word of it came to me from Doc, doing his early morning errands, when he texted me that he saw them putting this sign out:

Oyster Class sign

 

Then, I saw the Event Brite Graphic:

event brite Aww Shucks

 

And I kept checking the Event Brite registration. My goal was to sell out. But there seemed to be seats unfilled...I kept Tweeting, FB'g, reminding, cajoling. (Little did I know my view of the Event Brite page only showed me Facebook friends who registered!)

Guess what? We sold out!

My other goals included:  getting folks interested in oysters as a sustainable seafood, introducing them to some new varieties, and in between shucking demos, tastings, to ensure we learned about oysters in a fun, relaxed hour.

I guided the first volunteers through a tasting technique with Salt Aires from Canada, then the entire class tasted through eleven additional oysters.

  1. See/Smell - notice the size of the meat, depth of the cup, amount of the liquor. Close your eyes and smell - is it a warm soft Gulf breeze or bracing snap of salty New England air?
  2. Chew/Notice - while some folks slurp the whole thing down, you actually miss many nuances of flavor and texture if you don't give it a chew. In fact, the enzymes in your mouth will interact with the amino acids in the oyster to bring out a whole variety of flavors you'll miss without a chew!
  3. Finish/Repeat - what is the finish of the oyster? how does it linger? is it vegetal, briny, earthy, sweet, metallic?

We went over time-wise, but people seemed happy. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in the class, Oyster Century Club members (Brian, Ruth, Nehal) and friends (Joseph, Kelley, Cruz, Marcela) and as well to meet new oyster lovers.

Oyster Class photos

The Whole Foods Market (Charles River Plaza) crew did a fantastic job. That's Oscar shucking, he runs the the seafood department and was the first guy I talked to about doing this. His enthusiasm for the seafood and oysters is terrific. I hope you'll go back and say hello. Buy some oysters to shuck at home, the best season for them is starting now! James (the tall one) is now at River Street, but he came back to help out. These two guys shucked over 200 oysters for us!

I handed out flash drives with oyster-centric posts, we had a couple sheets Rowan Jacobsen, A Geography of Oysters, author and oyster guru extraordinaire allowed us to use, and I listed Five Reasons to Love Oysters, shared Oyster Facts and Trivia, and this Oyster Lover's Reading List.

Participants went home with goodie bags including: their own oyster knife, WFM seafood rub, a lemon, other seafood collateral and the Holiday magazine.

Each of the place settings included a laminated placemat to take home, too. Check out these profiles on your own, great fun; are you a Brine Hound or a Grail Seeker?

 

Rowan Jacobsen's Oyster Lover Profiles

 

Aww! Shucks Coupon

 

Last but not least...

Updates:

  • New classes are in the works. Be sure to follow the #oyster100 hashtag for updates on Twitter or Facebook or email  me.
  • COUPONS: If you missed this class, Whole Foods Market graciously offered ten coupons. They're good for $5 off $15 worth of oysters! Get on it. Drop me a line and I'll pop one in the mail or hand it to you at the next Tweetup.
  • Stay tuned for a terrific giveaway sponsored by Whole Foods Market CRP -- coming soon!

 

More Oyster Century Club© News - Join me at Whole Foods Market CRP Oct. 11

As even casual readers know, I love me some oysters. That is why I founded the Oyster Century Club©; and this little club of ours is growing and growing. I love ordering oysters out - whether I'm at the local watering hole, Les Zygomates for $1 oysters or venturing just a few blocks to Oceanaire for one of their oyster specials. I also love shucking them at home. Even if I'm traveling, like this week in La Jolla, I know I can hit up a Whole Foods Market seafood counter to find some beautiful bivalves. Here we discovered these lovely Morro Bay oysters:

West Coast Oysters

Did you know?

Oysters are a sustainable seafood choice. A single oyster can filter up to 2 gallons of water per hour! Contrast to shrimp farms that foul the water and ruin the environment, oyster farms clean it. Oysters feed on the tiny phytoplankton and help clean the ocean environment in which they live. They've been used to clean up rivers like our Charles and to help restore the Chesapeake Bay (still works in progress, both, but improving every day.)

These oysters from Whole Foods Market are clean, delicious and a sustainable seafood choice. Check out your local Whole Foods Market today.

Welcome to our Newest OCC© Sponsor

Thrilling news for our Oyster Century Club©: Whole Foods Market - Charles River Plaza has joined as our latest sponsor. Thank you and welcome! Please go say hit to Oscar and his team for some of the best sustainable seafood including a great selection of oysters. But wait there's more: I'm doing a class on October 11. Just remember "10, 11, 12" - 12 oysters, 11th of October...yes we'll see a shucking demo by Oscar seafood team leader and sample up to one dozen oysters, maybe more. There will be fun handouts and short chat with me the designated "oyster fiend" for the hour.

Aww Shucks

Seats are limited and the first one sold just minutes after it opened for registration on EventBrite. Please join us and spread the word! Here's your link to "Aww Shucks! Oyster Class".

Whole Foods Mkt CRP

Slurping Oysters & Sipping Sake by Richard Auffrey

Today's guest post is offered by Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie (AKA The Tipsy Sensei). Rich is a certified saké professional and has introduced me to a most wonderful pairing: oysters and saké. Please enjoy and visit him at his blog or find him on Twitter @RichardPF. Slurping Oysters & Sipping Sake

 "An oyster, that marvel of delicacy, that concentration of sapid excellence, that mouthful before all other mouthfuls, who first had faith to believe it, and courage to execute? The exterior is not persuasive."

--Henry Ward Beecher

It irks me. When I visit an oyster bar, the menu will usually have numerous wine options to pair with my raw bivalves, from Sauvignon Blanc to Muscadet, from Champagne to Chablis. But many of these restaurants fail to carry one of the best pairing choices, Japanese Sake.

Let me preface that my comments are primarily for raw oysters, and cooked oysters deserve their own article. Why is Sake such an excellent accompaniment to raw oysters? I think one of the main reasons these oyster bars don’t carry Sake is their lack of understanding of this diverse and intriguing Japanese beverage. In addition, many of their customers don’t understand it either, so they don’t ask for Sake to accompany their dozen bivalves. So let me explain why Sake and oysters work so well together.

Sake photo by Richard Auffrey

First, we should understand that oysters have different flavor profiles, often dependent on their geographical location, the impact of merroir. As a broad generalization, East Coast oysters tend to possess a more briny flavor while West Coast oysters are usually fruitier. So, the same wine may not pair well with different types of oysters. For example, the saltiness of oysters can cause problems for numerous wines, especially red ones. It is similar to the problem that many red wines have with the salty content of many cheeses.

Sake too does not possess a single flavor profile but rather has an incredibly diverse range, from sweet to dry, fruity to floral, bold to elegant, earthy to herbal, and much more. Sake has at least as much complexity as wine, and more in some respects, possessing twice as many aromatic esters as wine. That means Sake has the potential for twice as many aromas than wine, and aroma plays a significant role in flavor.

With all the different flavor profiles and types of Sake, there really is a Sake that is appropriate for nearly any type of food including oysters. The Japanese have an apt saying, Nihonshu wa ryori wo erabanai, which basically translates as "Sake does not get into fights with food." It is an indication that they feel Sake pairs well with many different foods, and generally won't overpower anything or be over powered by some dish.

There is some science behind Sake’s ability to pair well with different foods. There are twenty different amino acids in Sake, a greater variety than found in any other alcohol. Amino acids, at their simplest, are the basic building blocks of proteins and each amino acid has its own specific function. These amino acids play a significant role in the utility and versatility of Sake.

The quantity of each amino acid will vary from Sake to Sake, dependent on several factors. The protein in rice is generally located in the outer layers, which often get polished away, at least in part. That means that a higher quality Sake, like a Daiginjo, with a higher rice polishing rate, will have less protein available for conversion and subsequently a lower level of amino acids. A lengthier fermentation process also tends to produce more amino acids. The more traditional brewing processes, Kimoto and Yamahai, which can take twice as long to ferment, generally have the most amino acids of any Sake.

Five kinds of amino acids are considered to most affect taste: alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and succinic acid. Alanine is said to produce sweetness, while arginine produces bitterness and aspartic acid can produce acidity and astringency. Glutamic acid and succinic acid may be the most important components though because of their role in creating the taste of umami.

You probably already know the four basic tastes, including salt, sweet, bitter, and sour, but there is a fifth as well. Umami, this fifth taste, is often described as “savoriness” or “meatiness” though it is probably best understood through tasting foods rich in umami, such as soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, parmesan cheese, scallops, and mushrooms.

In 1908, Professor Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist, discovered that glutamic acid gave kombu seaweed a very distinctive taste, which he labeled umami. Later scientists would identify two other sources of umami, inosinate and guanylate, two nucleotides. Inosinate is found mostly in meat and fish while guanylate is most often found in mushrooms.

Umami does more than just make food taste better. It can also serve to suppress our appetite, causing us to eat fewer calories by convincing our stomach that it has had enough protein. In addition, because it tends to round out and deepen flavors, then it can also deter us from adding extra salt and fat to our foods.

On average, Sake contains 100-250 mg/l of glutamic acid while wine contains only 10-90 mg/l and beer even less, only 10-15 mg/l. As Sake possesses a high level of glutamic acid, it possesses plenty of umami taste. So what is the impact of that umami in regards to food pairings? First, you can pair glutamic rich Sake with other glutamic rich foods, which is similar for example as to what is sometimes done in Italian cuisine. Ripe tomatoes, used in red sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano are both rich in glutamic acid which is partially why they are considered an excellent pairing.

Second, there is also a synergistic effect with umami, which means that when you combine foods with different sources of umami, the overall taste is intensified. So, when considering foods to pair with umami-rich Sakes, which are high in glutamic acid, then you can seek out foods with high levels of inosinate or guanylate to create that intensification effect.

Oysters also possess umami, derived from a high level of glutamic acid, so pairing them with an umami-rich beverage makes sense. It is thought that during the fall and winter, oysters possess their highest umami level.

Sake can also easily handle the briny nature of oysters, just as it handles well the salty aspect of cheese. Also consider that Sake does well with salty, umami-rich soy sauce. If Sake can handle soy sauce, then handling oysters should be quite simple. As for the fruitier oysters, Sake can easily handle those as well. For example, melon is considered a common descriptor for some West Coast oysters, and some Sakes possess similar melon flavors as well as other complementary flavors.

Besides glutamic acid, other amino acids in Sake provide additional benefits. They help to neutralize fishy flavors in seafood, something wine generally cannot do. Thus, Sake may be a better pairing with seafood than wine, especially any seafood that might tend to possess a stronger flavor, like uni or oysters.

We also have to consider any toppings you place on your raw oysters, from a spicy cocktail sauce to a mignonette. Once again, that topping could wreck havoc with a wine pairing. Your wine might not be able to tolerate the vinegar in your mignonette or the horseradish in your cocktail sauce. Yet Sake once again doesn’t have a problem with any of these. For example, Sake stands up to hot wasabi so a spicy cocktail sauce is not an impediment.

Embrace the versatility of Sake the next time you eat a dozen raw oysters. If your local oyster bar does not carry Sake, then recommend that they do. Go to your local fish market, buy some oysters and enjoy them at home with a nice, chilled Sake.

Richard Auffrey writes The Passionate Foodie blog, is a Certified Sake Professional and is also the author of the Tipsy Sensei series, a collection of Sake-related short stories. He consults to restaurants and wine shops and teaches classes on sake appreciation in and around Boston.
Oseki Junmai photo by Jacqueline Church
I put Rich's advice into action and thoroughly enjoyed this Junmai with the last of my Sunday Oyster Fest.
Blue Point, Salt Aire, Little Island, Beavertail Oysters

Heaven on a Half Shell - My First Belon

Oysters. Ersters. Oischchures. les Huitres. Whatever you call 'em, I love 'em. I recently had the opportunity to try a new one. And then, to share it with someone special, actually two special someones, and I did feel blessed by the universe. There's just something in my bones, when I enjoy oysters it's deeper and more moving than my normal, out-sized enjoyment of food. Reading Roy Blount, Jr.'s essay on oysters (at the ever-annoying we-don't-pay-writers - okay, we pay some, but generally no, HuffPo) shows once again how oysters are inextricably linked with something deep in our core.

Unlike many, I cannot recall my first oyster. I do recall the first time I had Kumamotos, the first time I shared oysters with my "little sister" at one of Paris' oldest oyster bars, and now, my first Belon.

We'll Always have Paris

On the occasion of her 18th birthday I decided to take my "little sister" to Paris. It was my first visit and I believe hers, although she had lived with a French family in or near Alsace for a school term. I explained that my belief was that Paris was a city that we could explore with only the faint outline of a plan. "Let's wander." I said. "Allons-y!" said she as ever, game for an adventure. And so we wandered. I tried on some impossibly chic suede boots with precisely the right heel and decided they were "trop cher." (too expensive) She later surprised me, somehow, with those very boots for my birthday. We sat amongst the dogs and doyennes in cafes, nibbling our pain au chocolate but declining to smoke. We stumbled on the January 1st sales - who knew? - and vintage post card stores - and fun, beautiful boys dans le Marais.

One of the highlights of trip, maybe only second to being mistaken for localsand asked for directions on the Metro (!) was our stumbling upon an oyster bar in the 8th Arrondissement. Turned out to be the oldest or one of the oldest oyster bars in Paris. We were thrilled. Amongst the hanging nautical kitsch, I imparted what I knew about wines to pair avec des huitres: a crisp Chablis, or a Sancerre; and how to eat them, light spritz of fresh squeezed lemon, maybe, maybe mignonette and that's it.

Island Creek and My First Belon

When Island Creek Oyster Bar opened, it seemed as if we'd waited forever. Finally the day came. We joined the throng (it seemed as if every soul in Boston had to be there opening weekend!) and I was rewarded with the taste of my first Belon.

Belon are quite rare. (Less than 1% of oyster production!) In the 1950s some folks brought the Belons from their native France to Maine to try to cultivate them here. While the cultivation of them in Maine is nearly gone entirely, some wild Maine Belon are found.

Whereas the majority of oysters on the East Coast are Crassotrea Virginica, the Belon belong to the Ostrea Edulis. Rowan Jacobsen described them as "an anchovy dipped in zinc." I think that's a little over the top, but it is a distinctly strong and coppery flavor that the Belon bring to the platter. The oysters, also known as European Flats are indeed a flatter shelled oyster and they hold less liquid because the cup is so shallow.

If you like strong flavors, enjoy wines with a mineral flavor profile, you may well enjoy Belons. With the worldwide Belon population under siege from a unique parasite with the ironic name of Bonamia (sounds like bon amie to me) if you find them on the menu, you should definitely give them a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. At the very least you can check them off your tasting list and impress fellow Oyster Century Club© members with your find.

What Makes a Good Oyster Bar?

cages at Raspberry Cove PEI As we begin to roll out the Oyster Century Club© I'm thinking about my next oyster. Will I shuck and slurp at home? Will I go out for dollar oysters and what will they have available? (Become a member and log your adventures tasting to 100 varieties! The first ten Oyster Century Club© members will receive a free copy of Rowan Jacobsen's definitive guide: A Geography of Oysters.)

Jon Rowley of Oyster Wine fame, recently Tweeted an open question asking what an oyster tastes like. I answered, "The ocean. And possibility." That is always the beauty of oysters for me. No matter where I'm at before my first oyster of the day, the second one finds me in a much better state. You feel alive with that sense of anticipation -- all things seem possible.

Rapsberry slurp Here I am in PEI, on a boat in Raspberry Point, downing oysters just pulled from the water. Doesn't get any fresher than that. Somehow I'm smiling and slurping!

I have gotten pretty good at shucking at home and I have my own favorite mignonette, but the truth is I often get so excited about the oysters, I forget it!

• Why not have an oyster tasting at home? Both I Love Blue Sea and Taylor Shellfish will deliver oysters right to your door. Invite friends to bring a dozen along and shuck, slurp and sip while you compare notes about the flavors and pairings. Mark your new varieties tasted on your Oyster Century Club tasting sheet.

What Makes a Good Oyster Bar?

I love going out for oysters. It seems so luxurious. I thought it might be a good post to start us off on this tasting adventure to ask from my fellow lovers of bivalves, what do you think makes a good oyster bar?

1. A good shucker is key. No one enjoys the ptht ptht of spitting out bits of shell.

2. A nice selection. I like to see at least one or two from each coast. Hopefully, one I haven't had before.

3. A wine selection that includes French Burgundies - Chablis, Sancerre. And Saké which pairs really well with oysters.

4. Someone on staff that really loves oysters. It's always fun when you find a tasting guide, someone on staff who's enthusiastic about their oysters. Can they teach me something new?

 

 

And there's always with oysters, that sense of possibility. Maybe you'll meet someone interesting sitting on the next stool. Maybe you'll find your new favorite oyster or discover a surprising pairing.

What is your favorite oyster bar and why?

Eating Local as an Act of Intimacy

 

Living in downtown Boston, a stone's throw from South Station Train Station, we like to brag that it takes less time to take the train to Providence than it does to drive across town. Maybe a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

I was glad to be invited to join part of the first annual Providence Food & Wine Festival. With such a vital and engaged group of chefs, farmers, growers and a loyal local dining following, this is sure to become a regular event.

I was particularly moved by Chef Vestal's lovely way of capturing his devotion to local food. He says "eating local is an act of intimacy." That makes my heart swell - a perfect turn of phrase to capture the thrill of that connection between us when enjoy local food, food that has a sense of place. The shared moment that is both fleeting and lasting - fleeting because that one meal cannot last beyond its enjoyment. Lasting in that the memory of it, the feeling of it, can last and give us more that the actual dietary components consumed. It nourishes us in a deeper way.

We listened to and then joined in the conversation of this excellent panel of local producers, hosted by Chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers and moderated by David Dadekian, local food writer & photographer of Eat Drink RI.

 

Oyster lovers and Oyster Century Club© members should swing by New Rivers for their $1 oyster night and try the Plum Points! Don't miss the Blackbird Farm burger, either. Food that makes you happy in the most intimate way.