Friday, August 8, 2008

Oyster Love: A Review of Hog Island Oyster Bar and my insatiable appetite for oysters

In French, seafood is called fruits de mer, and rightfully so. They are the fruits of the sea, but in particular one mollusk reigns supreme: The Oyster
The rich salty brine encapsulating the fleshy sweet meat is slurped up way too quickly. The oyster taste like the water it is in, kind a like terroir for wine or in this case, a merroir (tasting of a particular sea.) Oysters can be eaten raw, having the perfect shell, possessing a nice curved lip that allows for easy slurping. But they can be fried, grilled, baked and enjoyed many other ways, but in all heat methods, they risk being overcooked. A good chef wouldn’t do this to the mighty oyster.
The local favorites I indulge in each weekend our Kumamotos and Sweetwaters. Kumamoto oysters are very small, and have a salty sea like flavor. Sweetwaters are bigger and meatier having a much sweeter quality. Both are delicious paired with a simple minuet, which adds a bit acidity to complement the salty sweet creamy mollusk. I get these at the farmers market from Hog Island Oyster at 8:30 am. I don’t care what time I get them, as long as I get them.


Today, we went to Hog Island Oyster Bar, in the Ferry Building. Having a very limited menu of oysters, manilla clams prepared 3 ways, baked oysters, salads and really good beer, there may not be a lot to choose from, but who needs to? We started off with raw oysters again Kumamoto and Sweetwater and then got baked oysters done with butter and tarragon. The baked oysters were enhanced with the buttery goodness, making them seem succulent, meaty and oh so sweet. We then had a beautiful salad of white peaches and beets (more on my recreation of this salad later). We also enjoyed manilla clam (which are small tender clams) steamers, opening up their shells in a shredded pork and slightly spicy broth, accentuated by bitter chicories and cecini beans.
The clam chowder was equally impressive, tasting of cream and leeks but not thick at all. With big chunks of potato and clams in their shell, this made for one of the best chowders I have ever tried. Funny it was on the west coast, since east coasters would be up in arms about such claims. But its true, a west coast mentality towards food (putting the ingredients on the pedestal) works for these bivalve creatures. The oyster should always be the star and Hog Island truly sees their potential.
Check out Hog Island online:www.hogislandoysters.com

10 comments:

Denise said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE oysters and it is so hard to find really excellent ones around here -- even good ones are hard to find. Most are tasteless and not worth the money . Bill and I loved going to New Orleans and the first stop was the Mike Anderson's oyster bar! So sweet and salty on the half shell . My mouth is watering now. What a heavenly taste on the pallet.

Dee said...

I don't eat raw oysters anymore. I had a terribly encounter with a rogue oyster when I was on holiday some years back, and had to be hospitalised. The manila clam sounds amazing!

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

I'm so jealous....I love shellfish, all shellfsih. yum yum!

Manger La Ville said...

Dee, I have the same problem but with scallops, I used to love them. But I got sick from one, and now I am extremely sensitive.

Anonymous said...

What a great article on a really incredible restaurant at the Ferry Building. Love to eat there and your article catches the quintessential character of this spot. Try the clam chowder with Manila Clams. Keep writing these great articles.

Anonymous said...

I love oysters, but what is the correct oyster-eating/slurping etiquette? Is it ok to (quietly) slurp them out of their shell, or is one supposed to use that tiny fork?

Manger La Ville said...

The proper way, in my opinion, is anyway you enjoy them. I will say, I wouldn't use the fork, because then you don't get all the brine/liquid that the oyster sits in. And that liquid gives it a great sea flavor and imparts some of the vital characteristics that makes each oyster different. As I stated in my blog, the oyster reflects its maritime location, like terroir for wine. So I would say SLURP IT UP. Anyways slurping in some cultures means you enjoy it. So what better way to honor your mollusk.

Cookie said...

Do you know that they have Happy Hour Mondays and Thursdays from 5-7pm? All the oysters are only $1 each!

Manger La Ville said...

I know - it is such a great deal - but it is really crowded.

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

OMG, if I was in SF, I would totally shove my way through for that kind of deal.