Notkin’s, 1101 Bleury street, Montréal, 514-866-1101, http://www.notkins.com/en
It’s almost time for the 7th Annual Oysterfest in Montreal (Aug. 29-30). I have yet to get to what is hear is a wonderful freewheeling oysterlicious event but I plan to one of these days. If you’re heading to Montreal, for the festival or otherwise, make sure to stop by Notkin’s, the new oyster-bar-kid on the block.
I visited in May for a celebratory birthday batch of bivalves and was served by my shucking pal—and Notkin’s owner—Daniel Notkin.
The space is a new build—all snazzy angles and glass—a kind of retro/futuristic interior dominated by the long curved bar for drinking and dining. (Très sexy!) We sat at one end where we could watch the oysters being shucked and chatted with Daniel and his competent staff.
We slurped a selection of Canada’s finest bivalves. Sorry to say I didn’t take detailed notes (hey—it was my birthday!) but I did take photos. Check out these beauties! The dropper bottle is filled with hot sauce.
On your next trip to this fabulous city, make sure to stop by Notkin's. Order a dozen—and say hello for me!
Notkin’s, 1101 Bleury street, Montréal, 514-866-1101, http://www.notkins.com/en
One last quick photo-centric post on oysters in Paris. This fab fish market was in the center of the Alésia neighborhood—located in the heart of the 14th arrondissement—about halfway between my cute little Hotel Max and the Auberge du Moulin Vert (see earlier post).
Oyster! Oysters! Oysters! Boxes of lovely Fine de Claire and Gillardeau and Speciale Normande and more.
How I wish this were my neighborhood fish store. Note to self: Next trip to Paris buy an oyster knife to shuck my own!
I don't usually link to other oyster stories but this one in The Guardian is particularly interesting:
"Bringing oysters back home to Britain."
"Overfishing, pollution and disease destroyed them, but Andy Woolmer – a former postman with a PhD in marine biology – is determined to put the shellfish back..."
Make sure to watch the black and white oystering film from 1909!
While in Paris I contacted a local oyster shucker pal—2009 international shucking champion Xavier Caille—to ask his advice on where to find the quintessential Parisian oyster-eating experience. He recommended Brasserie La Mascotte, a fabulous looking spot with curved zinc bar in Montmartre.
Alas, my schedule didn’t permit time to catch the Metro to that part of town so it remains at the top of my “to-do” list for my next visit. Wah. But there’s no need to mourn these crocodile tears, as I found a truly wonderful spot to savor a variety of French oysters in the Alésia neighborhood—located in the heart of the 14th arrondissement—a mere ten minute jaunt from my hotel.
If you love Paris, and oysters, you must go to Auberge du Moulin Vert.
Lime green awnings and jaunty neon signage decorate the curved two-story building that hugs a corner in this residential district. An open-air display of a variety of oysters and other seafood drew me in like a moth to the proverbial flame. (See photo above and top of page.) Eying the wood crates and baskets piled high with bivalves—I spotted what I hoped to find: Belons! What more did I need to enter?
Inside, ferns and herbs grew on the wall above a stylish yellow banquette as strings of white lights loop overhead. I requested a selection of oysters and was brought this platter of five types plus a smattering of sea snails (bulots), giant shrimp and a dramatic dry ice fog wafting from a metal cup.
I asked the waiter to write down what he served—so I would get it correct. Here’s a combo of his notes (blue) and mine (black).
Here’s my understanding of what I ate: The long oysters are Ile de Re, from a neighboring part of France; the small ones are Rose de Bonbon; the large round flats are Belons; a similar looking, more greenish ones are from Normandy (most likely Gillardeau); and the others are from the Aquitaine region.
Got it? Needless to say: All were swoon worthy. In my fever to taste them all, I admit I fell down on my note taking duties and simply savored them slurp by delicious slurp.
As a lover off all varieties of oysters, I was thrilled to explore what tasty bivalves could be sampled in the City of Lights. Strolling down the Rue de la Bastille, a window display caught my eye. Magnificent heaps of silvery and green-layered shells, long and irregular tidal-shaped wonders—like piles of quartz and granite stones—nestled in their simple wood crates, called to me. Oo-la-la!
The oyster bar I stumbled upon, Brasserie Bofinger, is a traditional brasserie with white tablecloths and Belle Epoch décor including tufted bench seats and beveled mirrors. In operation since 1864, they were advertising specials celebrating their 150th year of operation.
Were they open? Mais non. It seems I arrived between lunch and dinner, but that didn’t stop me from sticking my head in the street-side storage and prep area and attempting to speak with someone about their oysters.
As best as I could tell—my high school French classes didn’t cover oysters—they were offering three types of gigas in several sizes (2,3,4). The Speciales Gillardeau were described as “meatier and less salty" with a taste of hazelnut; and the Fines de Claires are supposedly sweet and salty. I say supposedly because—although friendly—they didn’t crack one open for me to try. I snapped photos of the boxes to see more details about the origins. The menu also lists Speciales Grand Crus de Normandie.
Research tells me that “claire refined oysters” spend varying amounts of time in "claires"—special refinement basins—where the shallow brackish water is rich in phytoplankton and microscopic algae. This brackish water adds a sweetish, aromatic, and rich flavor to the meat.
To read more on these oysters, check out this informative site: L'Affinage en Claires: The Quest for the Perfect Oyster! by John McCabe.
One last thing about Brasserie Bofinger: I loved seeing the dented metal serving plates piled upside down on stainless steel shelves, like squashed pork pie hats waiting to be filled with ice and oysters.
Lucky for me, I found a place near my hotel that evening to enjoy a large selection of oysters from France. More in my next post!
So excited my story about Patrick McMurray's Oyster Stout is featured in Modern Farmer Magazine. Here's a teaser...click link for the rest of the story!
Patrick McMurray, a.k.a. Shucker Paddy, knows a thing or two (or three) about oysters. Canadian and World oyster shucking champion, two-time Guinness oyster shucking record holder, author of Consider the Oyster: A Shucker’s Field Guide, and owner of Ceili Cottage and Pearl Diver oyster restaurants in Toronto, the energetic McMurray is a whirling dervish of oyster facts and ephemera....Keep reading...
Happy Oysterlicious New Year!
If anyone happens to be visiting Charleston, S.C. this year, make sure you visit The Ordinary, a must-visit “fancy seafood/oyster hall” located in a renovated, spacious and elegant old bank building.
I loved everything about this place: the ambiance (casual and elegant); the service (friendly but not intrusive); and the simple yet creative menu featuring cold and hot small seafood plates, salads, soups and three large plates and—of course--oysters. It would not be an exaggeration to say—after tasting the grilled octopus with potato, eggplant and Meyer lemon—that I lusted for every item on the menu.
We settled in at six-seat marble oyster bar in the far end of the restaurant where, behind the shuckers, one can see into the kitchen through the doors of the former bank vault.
We ordered a cocktail, and eyed a familiar selection of bivalves from NS (Wallace Bay); PEI (Summerside); MA (Honeysuckle, Katama Bay); and ME (Pemaquid) nestled on crushed ice. We were most intrigued by two additional offerings from SC, Caper’s Blades, and Coosaw Cups.
We sampled a selection of each—all perfectly shucked—and were most surprised by the SC offerings.
The Coosaw Cups were meaty and sweet with a light brine start and long slight-iron finish.
Equally yummy—and perhaps my fave—were the Caper’s Blades. Check out these beautiful, elongated shells! Nicely salty and sweet, the finish was earthy and funky with hints of seaweed. Our first-class shucker, whose name I sadly neglected to write down, provided some background info on these tasty bivalves.
Located just northeast of Charleston, at Caper’s Inlet on the Isle of Palms, a guy named “Clammer Dave” farms clams and oysters. Nearby tidal bays and creeks add the distinctive “merrior” flavor to the meat.
From the website:
“Oysters grow in clusters in elongated shells, locally known as "Blades". Sustainable cultivation is simply removing the large ones and always leaving the small. Hand harvested, they are uniquely reduced to singles by a method of chisel and stone…in continuation of the sustainable practice dating back 300 years.”
After harvest, clams and oysters are held in floating racks in the highly oxygenated surface water to purge grit from the shell and stomach. The last step in the process involves a pressure wash before they hand graded and packed for shipping.
At some point I’d love to visit this farm and check out the operations. Until then, I’ll keep an eye out for Caper’s Coves on future oyster expeditions.
(The Ordinary, 554 King St., Charleston, SC, 843-414-7060)
So excited for TONIGHT'S pre-screening of SHUCKERS...an inside look at the world of shucking competitions featuring the most eccentric, crazy and well-known oyster shuckers and restaurateurs in the business including Rodney Clark, Patrick McMurray, William "Chopper" Young and Daniel Notkin who attempt to shed some light on the mysterious and fabulous world of oysters.
Where/When: Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, 2357 Route 6, Wellfleet, 7:30 p.m. Free!
It's almost time for the Wellfleet OysterFest: October 18-19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Hard to believe it's now in its 14th year!) Hope you are all coming out for this gala weekend extravaganza featuring oysters, oysters, more oysters, and also Wellfleet clams, chowder and other goodies such as fish tacos, clam cakes, jerk ribs, conch fritters, lobster rolls, Portuguese kale soup, grilled sausage, plus beer, coffee, muffins, cookies, brownies and other sweets, all offered by local restaurants. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Of course the OysterFest is about more than just food. There's a fine arts & craft fair with over 86 participating artisans, educational lectures and walking tours, 5k road race, tennis, family friendly activities, live music and entertainment, and--my personal fave--the Oyster Shuck-Off. The preliminary competition starts on Saturday afternoon and culminates with the finals on Sunday. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest shucker with the cleanest tray: 1st Place-$1,000, 2nd Place-$500, 3rd Place -$250.
Also this year: Jamie Bradley will be returning to defend his title as Oyster Eating Champion. Last year he slurped 24 oysters in 54 seconds. Can he beat his personal best? Come and cheer him on!
Returning this year for a third season as shucking competition judge, the incomparable John Baby from Toronto. I'm thrilled to announce that he and volunteer Shuck-Off coordinator Nancy Civetta have tapped me to be a judge at the competition this year! It's an honor and I'm looking forward to learning from a master judge. And enjoying the free beer too. (There's free beer, right?)
The 'OysterFest is produced by Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, or SPAT, a non-profit organization devoted to fostering a greater understanding of the town's shellfishing industry and made possible through collaboration with the Town of Wellfleet, the support of many sponsors, the area shellfishermen and dedicated volunteers. Admission is $5 for a one day ticket or $8 for a two pass. Children 12 and under are free.
Check the website for a list of all activities. Hope to see you there. If you're coming--send a note and let me know! email@example.com
Oyster lovers will gather to slurp, swoon, and celebrate the succulent bivalve at the Galway International Oyster Festival (Sept. 25-28). Now in its 60th year, the weekend event is deemed one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas. Opening night kicks off with music, seafood, Ireland’s national shucking championship, and presentation of the season’s first oyster to Galway’s mayor by the newly crowned Oyster Pearl — a tradition since 1954. On Saturday, a parade weaves through the narrow medieval streets to the Spanish Arch and there’s a nonstop afternoon of food and entertainment. Representing the United States, Wellfleet’s William “Chopper” Young will vie to regain the title of world’s fastest oyster shucker— currently held by Denmark’s Jesper Knudsen — at the World Oyster Opening Championship. Events include late-night revels at Masquerade Mardi Gras, cooking demos, seafood trails, and Sunday’s family-friendly festival. Tickets $20-$130. 011-353-91-394637, galwayoysterfestival.com GO CHOPPER! MAY THE BEST SHUCKER WIN!!
I grew up spending part of every summer in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, which included eating many oysters. After stumbling into an oyster shucking competition in Miami Beach in 2006, I’ve become a fan of the sport and have written about local, national, and international competitions for the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, American Way Magazine, and the Huffington Post. I've also written oyster-centric stories for Rustik and Modern Farmer. I’ve never met an oyster I didn’t want to eat.