Saturday, April 21, 2018
Restaurants

Oysters 101: We tried six different varieties, from Wellfleet to Kumamoto

ST. PETERSBURG

Chef Kenny Tufo clearly believes the old expression, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Only in this case, it was oysters. The executive chef of Sea Salt in St. Petersburg recently helmed an afternoon oyster tutorial for local diners, an event we couldn't attend. So we wheedled our own class time with him, which he began by teaching us how to shuck.

Heavy bar towel, folded in quarters. With the curved cup side down and the hinge side exposed, swaddle the rest of the oyster in the bar towel. Angle your shucking knife into the oyster's hinge, rocking back and forth, not forcing things, which can cause bits of shell to break off. Wait until you feel the hinge give way, then run your knife along the surface of the upper shell to make sure no meat sticks. Clean your blade. Pull the upper shell off and, without tipping the liquor out of the bottom shell, run your knife under the adductor muscle to disconnect it from the bottom shell.

We did it. Badly. Luckily the rest of Tufo's lecture was about oyster appreciation. The restaurant regularly offers more than a dozen varieties of oysters from most of the major growing regions. He walked us through the basics.

There are five species of oysters that we tend to eat in this country: the European flat oyster; the Pacific oyster, most common along the northwest coast and British Columbia; the Kumamoto; the Eastern oyster, produced from New Orleans to Nova Scotia; and the Olympia oyster of the Pacific Northwest. In general, East Coast oysters are very salty and briny, with a clean, crisp seawater flavor. West Coast oysters are richer, with a softer, creamier texture and a range in flavor from melony-cucumbery to strong, musky and minerally.

Tufo says that new oyster-farming techniques, better storage and delivery systems and an increased interest in clean sources of sustainable seafood have led to a renaissance of oyster bars around the country. And because oysters are filter feeders, their flavor is affected by the body of water in which they live — the bottom composition, salinity, river inlets, etc. It's terroir, only underwater. Tufo led us through a tasting to show us the wide range of flavors and textures — oh, and he says the old saw about never eating oysters during months that don't end in "r" is bunk.

WiAnno (Mass.): Raised in Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound with an elevated rack and bag method, these have white, slightly pink meat, a deep cupped shell and a sweet, very briny flavor.

Big Cove (Wash.): Cultivated in the South Puget Sound's Totten Inlet, these have a deep cup and a high meat-to-shell ratio. They are plump, with a crisp saltiness and sweet melon notes. Totten Inlet is famous for oysters with a nori finish. (I didn't get nori, but it was tasty.)

Wellfleet (Mass.): Wellfleets are Tufo's faves, and it's easy to see why. Very briny, they have a light body and a crisp, clean finish with an appealing butteriness. There are six different Wellfleet estuaries, however, so there's a fair amount of variation with these beauties.

Fanny Bay (British Columbia): Cultured in Baynes Sound, these are small to medium. Sweet and salty, they offer a slight minerally-metallic taste and a pronounced cucumber finish. The shells tend to be beautifully fluted and super colorful.

Shigoku (British Columbia): These are a relatively new oyster, debuted in 2009 by Taylor Shellfish Co. Seattle restaurants are gaga for them, with good reason: They have a clean, deep cup, not crazy briny, with a light, clean taste and a cucumbery-melony finish.

Kumamoto (British Columbia): Tiny, deep-cupped with a ridged and fluted shell, this is a crowd pleaser. Cucumbery, with a crisp, sweet flavor and creamy, melony finish, these are sometimes called the "chardonnay of oysters."

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

     
   
Comments
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago
Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

TAMPA — Who doesn’t love free food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, thanks to Little Caesars and some March Madness, everybody in the country can get free pizza today. Before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started, Little...
Updated one month ago