Unbeatable Moonstones

Oct 03, 2007

For one night, on October 2nd, Bear Pond Books, in Montpelier, Vermont, was the hoppingest oyster joint in the landlocked states. Those who attended heard a lively reading from, ahem, a new oyster book called A Geography of Oysters and then filled themselves with four varieties of oysters and six wines and sakes. The oysters:

 

Oysterponds (Orient, New York)

Moonstones (Point Judith Pond, Rhode Island)

Kumamotos (Baja, Mexico)

Nootka Sounds (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

 

The oysterponds had excellent flavor and a strong brine. The shells were lovely, black and umber, but a bit on the brittle side; novice shuckers struggled. The reason is because the oysters are so happy in Reg Tutthill’s saltwater creek in Orient, right on the edge of the outer lip of the Peconic Bay, that they grow very quickly, reaching market size in a few months. This preserves a nice sweetness, but the shells don’t have time to thicken. The Moonstones had a similar flavor profile, but were slower grown and denser. They still strike me as the ideal virginica.

 

Kumos from Baja are appearing more and more frequently at raw bars, and they’re always good, as well as being more affordable than your California and Washington State Kumos. Sweet and melon-like, they should be tried any time they’re seen.

 

The Nootkas were the enigmas. Of the forty or so people who sampled all these oyster varieties, most dubbed the Nootka either their favorite or least favorite, with a fairly equal distribution. Weird. If I had to generalize, I’d say women lean toward the sweeter Nootkas, while men prefer the brinier virginicas. The Nootkas have gorgeous, scalloped shells, petite size, and a softness to the meat that can be offputting, but they are so sweet, with delightful nori flavors, fishy yet rich. Previous Nootkas I’ve tried have had beautiful pink and purple swirls on their shells, and seemed to be a product of suspended culture, but these had grit on the outside of their shells and clearly had been hanging out on beaches. I asked an expert from the British Columbia Shellfish Growers Association about this, and he said that they were probably started in suspension culture and then hardened on beaches in Nootka Sound.

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