Posts Tagged ‘oysters’

Oysters buttered, oysters fried, oysters roasted, oyster pie!

June 4, 2011

Photo by Lika Miyake

New Orleans rewards eaters who aren’t squeamish. While other cities are famous for things like chili on spaghetti, New Orleans is famous for foods that are slimy, slippery, and buggy (if not amphibious).

That said, the way New Orleans robes its oysters in so much butter and fat, you might not recognize them as sea animals. I tasted oysters over a long weekend in 4 forms, not one of them raw. The BP oil spill showed how fragile the ecosystem is, but normally, Gulf Coast oysters are wild and plentiful, growing like weeds and thus suitable for inclusion in a “poor boy” sandwich. They can be eaten raw, but they’re too large and meaty to be swallowed quickly and daintily. Their shells are nearly as big as plates, which means they hold all kinds of sauces surprisingly, sometimes horrifying well.

Our first oysters were the char-grilled ones at Drago’s. I ate two, maybe even three, but I regretted it in the end. They had to be eaten quickly before the fat and cream congealed. I enjoyed the flavor—it’s butter!—but afterwards, it seemed like a waste of an oyster to smother its natural flavor like that.

Clockwise from top-left corner: roast beef, fried shrimp, and fried oyster.

Frying seemed more respectful, and I did enjoy the oyster po’boy at Tracey’s on Magazine Street a lot more. Crisply fried, clean-tasting, and a good foil to all the pickles and mayo. The fried shrimp po’boy was even better.

I only got a spoonful of the oyster and absinthe dome (see Slide 3) at Commander’s Palace, but this was a triumph, complex and delicate because the oysters had been lovingly bathed in cream, rather than drowned.

Before

But my favorite oysters were at Cochon, the hip Cajun restaurant that won the James Beard award for best chef in the South this year. They may be famous for their pork, but I was won over by their wood-fired oyster roast. The garlicky, spicy sauce was so good I licked my bivalve clean.

After

One day, I hope I can return and eat some local oysters nice and raw. It’s still not clear whether the local oyster industry is really back—the flooding hasn’t helped—but it’s nice to know that this weekend, people at the New Orleans Oyster Festival will be cheering for its full return.

First 48 hours in Sydney

May 17, 2009
The surfers at Bondi Beach

The surfers at Bondi Beach

I’ve been in Sydney, Australia, for about 48 hours.  I feel like I’ve fallen into a rabbit hole.

I arrived at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.  My friend Bianca picked me up, and after I showered and changed, whisked me off to lunch at The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, a swank and beautiful restaurant with an incredible view of the water, and surprisingly, food to match.  Then we walked from Coogee Beach all the way to Bondi Beach on a curving trail that goes through about five of the 80 beaches in Sydney.  We had dinner at Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant run by Hare Krishnas, finishing right before I almost fell asleep into my soup.  The next morning, I woke up completely refreshed and ready to go to 9 a.m. yoga class at Bianca’s favorite yoga studio, after which we went to yet another breathtaking beach for lunch with some of her friends.

I don’t live a particularly unhealthy life in New York, but so far, Sydney makes me feel like I might as well be that woman in black chain-smoking outside a bar at 4 a.m.  As we walked along the coast of eastern Sydney, we were constantly passed by runners with torsos so chiseled, you could see every muscle rippling as they ran.  The members of the Icebergs swimming pool by Bondi Beach swim everyday of the year, rain or shine.  Even the Central Business District, which is a lot of corporate sparkle and glass, has Olympic-size pools filled with bionic men in tiny Speedos.  Two of Bianca’s friends, who work in finance and are not at all New Age-y, offhandedly told me they had completed the 40-Day Revolution, a course of yoga and meditation that is supposed to change your life.

I could never live here.  I eat too much bacon, and even though I like yoga, I like sleeping in after a late night even more.  I know I’m an incorrigible New Yorker because I can look at the gorgeousness of Sydney, its greenery and its unending coastline, and sigh, “I miss grit.”  But for two weeks?  Sydney life is the life I want to live.

If you’re wondering what I’m going to write about on this blog when I’m eating Hare Krishna food, don’t worry, I’ve been eating very, very well.  Sydney is so healthy, it’s balanced.  It’s not like New York, where the macrobiotic restaurants seem to be full of diners competing about how much they can deny themselves.  The Hare Krishnas are eating delicious food with plenty of heat and spice, and my pizza at the Bathers Pavilion was topped with duck confit, beets, and ricotta.

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And The Boathouse serves the best oysters I have ever had in my entire life.

Eating an oyster always feels like a minor miracle to me.  The idea that someone years ago picked up what looked like a rock, pried it open, found something essentially slimy and decided to eat it!  Thank you, unknown ancestor, for discovering how good it feels to eat something so cold, soft and slippery.  I love oysters, whether I’m standing on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx at the sidewalk shellfish bars, or whether I’m on Hog Island doing that Northern Californian thing of drinking white wine while wearing a fleece jacket.

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But now I know I really really love oysters when they’re served on a large platter, each oyster in the circle representing a different region of Australia.

We worked backwards because Bianca likes the Claire de Lunes best, and she is not the kind of girl who gobbles up first what she likes best.  I didn’t mind, especially because the Moonlight Angasi literally turned to butter in my mouth.  How can saltwater end up tasting like butter?  That is the more-than-minor miracle of the Moonlight Angasi oyster.

Each oyster had its own particular flavor.  There was minerality in one, a sharper citrus note in another.  Even the En Surface, which I didn’t like at first, left a flavor in my mouth so good I wasn’t sure I could move on.  I wanted to take notes, but I’d left my pen at the apartment and Bianca thought I was crazy anyway for slurping the juice of each oyster as well the meat.

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I could have happily left that restaurant with just the taste of oysters in my mouth, but I’d ordered the signature dish, a red snapper pie.  It was a joke in a way, a classic English pot pie, and a funny one because it was so much better than a doughy pie normally is.  The waitress broke open the lid to reveal snapper fillets in a slightly sweet, creamy sauce.  It should have been overwhelmingly rich, but it wasn’t.  It was just perfect, as perfect as the buttery crust.

I’m in a different world, an upside down world where everyone is fit and buttery pastry tastes like it might actually be good for you.  I will not be surprised if suddenly, at our next yoga class, I find my inflexible body in some impossible pose.


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