“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
—Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”
You’ve probably heard this pearl of wisdom: Oysters are best in months that end in “R.”
Which means that we’re now a month into “oyster season,” with plenty of slurping still ahead.
No dish in a restaurant screams “sophistication” more loudly than a platter of fresh oysters over ice. Foodies love the bivalve mollusks just as they are, while others require various accompaniments — just as many people consume escargot only if the meat is soaked in melted butter.
Chef Wayne Bush of the Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, told Edible Rhody, “When dressing your oysters, go easy and let their natural flavors shine. A good rule of thumb is never put too much of anything on an oyster.”
Bush’s recommended “sides” include Chablis mignonette with green peppercorn, cucumber and jalapeno salsa, and cherry tomato cocktail sauce — but only a small amount.
Keep in mind that the accompaniments can… and should… vary, depending on the source of the oysters. Although there are regional and even local differences, generally speaking, oysters from the East Coast are bigger, saltier and firmer, while those from the West Coast, in comparison, are smaller, sweeter and softer.
Those differences, as well as the accompaniments selected, also impact the wine pairing strategy. With sweeter oysters, opt for a semi-sweet or fruit-forward wine such as Moscato or a rosé. With saltier oysters, a Rhone-style white blend — Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, for instance — works very nicely.
And with either style of oyster, a well-chilled sparkling wine also makes an excellent, not to mention stylish, pairing partner.