Written By Kate Watson
A peek into the wonderful world of oysters, thanks to the professional perspective of Rodney Clark.
Living in Calgary, one might assume that we wouldn’t get to experience the luxury of fresh and delicious oysters.
However, with the opening of Rodney’s Oyster House, an established oyster and seafood restaurant that’s dominated the Vancouver and Toronto markets – Calgary has been given new found access to premium seafood.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rodney Clark, founder of Rodney’s Oyster House, and was able to discuss with him the unique qualities in tasting an oyster.
Seeing as Calgary is within a landlocked prairie, it’s likely many of us are unfamiliar with the appropriate steps taken when eating oysters.
Stand up or sit down. The most important tip in regards to oyster etiquette? Decide whether you are going to eat the oyster standing up (placed vertically), or sitting down (laid horizontally). If standing – without a doubt, slurp up the oyster and all its flavourful juices. If sitting – it may be more polite and elegant to use an oyster fork.
Dressing with condiments. Do not overdo it. As a staple, it’s okay to squeeze some lemon onto the oyster. This cuts back a bit of the natural juice that comes with such an organic delicacy. As you continue to slurp down your oysters, feel free to add mignonette sauces as you wish. Mignonette sauces usually consist of: cracked pepper, minced shallots, and vinegar. For first-timer’s, Clark says it’s important to “try a little bit of everything to fully understand what you like best with your oyster.”
The East and West Coast Battle
City trends. In discussing the delicacy of oysters with Clark, he describes the notable differences in how individuals eat them. How do, or will, Calgarians eat their oysters? It can differ per city. For example, Clark says that it’s typical for Montrealers to aureate the oyster out of the shell and suck them down. In Toronto, it’s common for locals to “almost put the whole oyster shell into their mouth and slurp,” he says. It will be interesting to see what Clark observes among us Calgarians next.
What are the major differences between West and East coast oysters? Clark describes east coast oysters with a tendency to be “more sweet and salty, whereas west coast oysters can be more challenging as they have a stronger mineral flavour.”
Clark also noted that east coast oysters last three times longer out of water than west, due to the certain family that Atlantic oysters come from called Crassostrea Virginica, and the west coast oyster’s family is known as Crassostrea Giga.
According to Clark, Major factors that play into the different tastes of oysters can range from the currents in the water, as well as the nutrients that the oyster is being supplied with from the ocean, as oysters are natural water filters.
One way to identify a west coast oyster from an east coast? Smell. West coast oysters have a more potent and stronger smell. In tasting notes, west coast oysters have different finishes in taste, such as melon and cucumber.
When is the best time of year to eat oysters? You can eat them all year round, but, the prime time to eat an oyster here in North America is in the months that end with an “R.” So, starting with September, October and November! Non-spawning months are the most desirable time to eat oysters as they tend to be more firm in texture, with powerful seafood flavour.
As I wrapped up my chat with Rodney Clark, I had to ask the man who knows everything there is to know about oysters – why does he love them?
He turns, looks me in the eye with a smirk and says with a laugh:
“We don’t do nothin’. It’s all Mother Nature’s job. That’s the beauty in oysters.”
They are entirely organic to eat and a fun, social food. For us Calgarians living so far from water, it’s great to slurp down an oyster with the smell, taste, and feel of the ocean.
Check out Rodney’s Oyster House