The San Francisco Bay Area is the envy of the entire country when it comes to fresh oysters. With a world-class oyster industry centered just north of San Francisco, in Tomales Bay, local fish suppliers, including Daily Fresh Fish literally stock the cream of the crop. Don’t take this succulent delicacy of the sea for granted this season. Ring in October with an oyster feed, whether you keep it a small, family affair, or whether you host guests.
Fall is a time when we enjoy the bounty of the summer. Farmer’s markets are brimming with the harvest. Gardeners are busy canning and preserving the fruits of their labor. Vineyards are picking the bursting grapes that will soon become this year’s vintage. And just like varieties of grapes, pears, and squash, varieties of oysters have delightful differences. That’s right. Just as different types and years of wine give your taste buds subtle hints and cues, oysters can convey flavors that range from nutty or smokey to buttery and even fruity.
For a sophisticated change of pace, consider throwing an oyster feed that is modeled after a wine tasting. Display different varieties on separate platters with labels. Give your guests time to enjoy and discuss each flavor before moving on to the next. It’s also a good idea to have something on hand to cleanse the palate in between types, like lemon sorbet, apples, celery or pickled ginger. This is a fun activity for kids as well, and an opportunity to teach them about the nature of taste, perception, and the indelible connection between the tongue and the mind. For adults, it’s a perfect compliment to the slow shift from summer into fall—a time of reflection, family, friends and feasts.
If you are new to oyster preparation, here are some simple rules to follow.
First, know that oysters are alive until they are cut open. Buy whole oysters from Pucci Foods that are still closed tight in their shell. If you see a shell starting to open, give that shell a tap. If it snaps shut, the oyster is alive.
Store oysters in the fridge, flat side facing up. Do not store them on ice, or in an airtight container. If possible, have your oysters delivered the same day you plan on serving them.
Cleaning oysters is easy. Run them under cold water and scrub any gunk off with a brush. To shuck oysters, make sure you have a protective glove and an oyster knife. Hold the oyster with the “hinge” facing you, cup down. Wedge the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge. Push down and twist the knife slightly, to create a gap. Next, slide the knife under the flat, top part of the shell, separating it from the meat. Take off the top shell. Last, run the knife under the oyster to cut it free from the bottom. Do not remove the flesh, though. Keep it in that wonderful serving bowl nature has created.
Serve your oysters from Daily Fresh Fish on the half shell, nestled in a bed of crushed ice, and fanned around your favorite sauces and garnishes. The tried and true favorites are simple: either a splash of lemon, or a drop of hot sauce, to keep the focus on that singular, firm, sweet oyster flesh. There’s simply nothing like it in all the ocean.