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        Oysters are the food of tsars, movie stars and kings and have been a rich delicacy since the days of ancient Rome. Global production is now more than 4.5 million tonnes a year.

        First up, there are two main types of oyster - rocks and flats. The rocks (generally Pacific Oysters) take three years to grow, or four years for the really tasty ones.  The flats (or Native Oysters) take five years or more to reach their full size and tend to have a higher price tag and stronger metallic flavour.

        Most oysters are farmed on tidal flats and shallow sea water, although wild native oysters can fetch a premium too.

        OYSTERS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

        Oysters have high levels of tyrosine, which is used by the brain to help regulate mood and adapt to stress.

        Oysters are the most concentrated natural source of zinc, which is essential to maintaining a strong immune system

        The rare amino acids in oysters trigger increased levels of sex hormones and zinc aids in the production of testosterone. LOVE DRUG

        Oysters help maintain collagen and elastin fibers that prevent skin sagging and wrinkles

        Oysters are rich in iron, calcium and vitamin, low in fat, calories and cholesterol

        SO MANY OYSTERS, SO LITTLE TIME

        Just as the geography, soil, and climate of a vineyard gives a distinct flavor to its wine, so oysters develop their own nose, body and finish.  Oysters feed by filtering water through their system, and the flavour of oysters is a function of the minerals, salinity, and the type of algae they eat in the water.

        Like wine tasting, oyster tasting has a whole vocabulary of sensory perceptions.

        Some key nose words are: sea breeze, salty, ocean wave, iodine, rock pool, pepper.

        For body words, try: salty, sweet, cucumber, melon, buttery, nutty, plump, meaty, silky

        As for the finish, how about: mushroom, leather, white sugar, steel, iron, tin and copper.

        WHAT DO I LOOK FOR IN AN OYSTER?

        There’s an ocean of choice out there in the world of oysters. Maybe you’ll love the sweetness of England’s West Mersea rocks and dislike the brininess you get with Tasmanian Oysters. Maybe you’ll like bold, tangy natives with their zinc finishes from northern Holland, or the refined slender Fine de Claire from France’s Atlantic Coast. Or perhaps the smooth mellow Gallagher Specials from Ireland push all your buttons.

        Wherever you start, there are a few golden rules to follow:

        Do order a few of each variety. Give yourself multiple tastes to identify the character.

        Do pay attention to the flavor and texture from beginning to end.

        Don’t drown oysters in toppings. Naked is best, with a squeeze of lemon if you must.