Every season brings something remarkable to my table. Spring brings tender asparagus. Summer offers a bounty of heirloom tomatoes. And as summer falls into fall, so does an array of apples and pears. But it is winter that returns each year with oysters. It is about this time each year that I dare the briny, salty liquor of raw oysters (drunk in with a chilled glass of lemony Muscadet) to cut through the richness of braised meats and mashed potatoes.
And it was in this spirit, in celebration of months that have the letter R in them, that I drove my mom north. Not to the Tulalip Outlet Mall, but to Chuckanut Drive where the Taylor Shellfish Farm and the Oyster Creek Inn have enchanted bi-valve lovers for years.
First, we picked up a dozen Virginica oysters from Taylor (for home) and then headed up the steep hill for an assorted dozen on the half-shell (Source:Taylor Shellfish). We happily slurped four each of the following with a glass of Facelli Fume Blanc,
The small deep-cupped, nicely fluted KUMAMOTO was brought to the US in the late 1940's as an experiment to replace the troubled native Olympia. The Kumo is definitely a giant among oysters, but not because it is large. It is, in fact, quite small, only slightly larger than the tiny Olympia oyster. With its deep cupping and highly sculptured, fluted shell, this smooth, fruity morsel makes it a favorite of half-shell connoisseurs.
Our "Totten Inlet VIRGINICA", grown in
Totten Inlet, is the first Eastern oyster
grown commercially in Washington since the early 1900s when a large quantity were grown in Willapa Bay (formerly known as Shoalwater Bay) for the oyster-hungry San Francisco market. Totten Inlet Virginicas take three to five years to mature to a minimum market size of 3 1/4 inches, a size that assures a sweetness and complexity of flavor not present in smaller oysters. The Totten Inlet Virginica combines a clean, briny, smooth sweetness with a pronounced mineral finish much favored by its fans.
Also, small cupped, the KUSHI oyster from Fanny Bay, BC is sprightly and headed to the top of my list.
In spite of expected offerings like hamburgers and clam chowder, the menu looked ambitious. After the delightful half-shells, mom got a bright and earthy Caesar Salad and I got the oyster stew. Now I am not a cooked-oyster-person, but i do love cream...so four oysters marroned in a cream and Pernod broth, aromatized with thinly shaved shallot and fresh tarragon sprigs sounded great. And it was, but very rich...not a surpirse.
The dining room at Oyster Creek Inn is small and very country--petite floral arrangements, warm wood tables, balloon valances on the windows. I woudl have not at all be thrown by crochetted doilies inthe ladies lav. But while homey deocr is part of the charm, this place is about shellfish with a view. Window tables offer views of a magical, emerald-green fern forest and cascading brook below and at 2:00pm on a Saturday afternoon (in December), requesting a window table was no problem. With one lead-slash-owner-slash-server and two young waiters running the busy floor, the service was friendly and casual.
The white wine list is thorough and heavy with Washington wines. Most of them are ideal for shellfish. I would have liked to see imports by the glass, but the half-bottle list is worth a look with two French-one Loire Valley and one Pouilly Fuissé-among the local offerings.
A dozen oysters is never enough for me. I was glad I had a bag on ice in the car. If you bring oysters home, here are some oyster wines to bring along:
Domaine de l’Ecu Muscadet
Chateau Bonnet Entre-deux-Mers (FR)
Roland Laventureux (FR)
Burgans Albariño (SP)
Terruzzi and Puthod Vernaccia de San Grimigano(IT)
Arco Nova Vinho Verde (IT)
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc (NZ)
Caterina Sauvignon Blanc (WA)
Vashon Semillon (WA)
Dr. Loosen Bernkastler Lay Riesling Kabinett (GER)