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