Canadian Oysters in August

Aug 10, 2007

Visited Maestro S.V.P. in Montreal to see what was new with Canadian oysters. Had a plate of Beausoleils, which were godawful: tiny, shrunken, a couple even tasted spawny. Now, Beausoleils are consistently good (if small) oysters, so this just confirms my rule to Never Eat Oysters in August! A health alert the next day of Vibrio in Hood Canal further strengthened my conviction. Even when they don’t make you sick, they simply aren’t any good. Wait a month and you’ll be much happier.

Other oysters at Maestro were much better:

South Lake (PEI). I’d never heard of this oyster, and it seems to be a Malpeque by any other name: white shell with green-lined rim, medium size, good cup, and very salty. A nice oyster, especially in August!

Kusshi (BC). Like butter. It had a lot of sea in the aroma, a deep cleft (as all Kusshis do), and a surprisingly white shell; other Kusshis I’ve had have been purple-black. Whatever the shell color, Kusshis are some of the most reliable oysters you’ll find anywhere.

Trumpcap (NS). Never heard of this one, either, but it has that distinctive Mikmac-sounding name common to Nova Scotia towns and oysters. The salt was lighter here, the shell spotted with white, green, and brown, and the flavor quite light, all in keeping with Nova Scotia oysters.

Merigomish (NS). This had the long, shallow shell of a wild oyster, likely harvested from the Northumberland Straits. It was medium-briny with a slight tang I couldn’t identify. Nothing to write home about.

Belon (BC). Farmed by Keith Reid (that’s Mr. Kusshi to you and me) at Okeover Inlet in British Columbia, these are the only European Flats being grown in BC. And they’re some of the best in North America: Big, healthy-looking Belons (not all are), with unusually deep cups for the vertically challenged species. They attacked the tongue, as good Belons should, but without being overwhelming or unpleasant. These go on the must-have list.

The wine with these oysters was a 2006 Sancerre—ultra-crisp and very simple. It was an excellent match with the oysters—especially the Kusshi—but at $13 a glass was a bit steep for the simple service it was providing of being a tart foil for salty shellfish.

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