Few things evoke the bracing, salty spray of the ocean like a freshly shucked oyster. Unlike other denizens of the deep, oysters tend to divide diners into one of two camps—there are oyster lovers and those who can’t imagine eating them. If you fall into the former, you will want to dine at Legal Sea Foods through October 14, as they host their sixth annual Oyster Festival.
They have put together a line-up of oyster dishes, oyster-focused happy hour deals, and a superb selection of oysters on the half shell; think of it as mollusk mania. To get the most from this salute to the slurp, keep things simple and order dishes that let the mollusk be the star.
Order the tried and true traditional fried oysters as an appetizer. Prepared with the local Stingray oyster, they arrive piping hot, crispy, and so plump you almost need two bites to eat them properly…well, almost. The perfect accoutrement is simply a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; the zesty citrus helps tame the oyster’s opulence and brightens the crunchy batter that perfectly coats the soft, sweet, velvety meat.
Beverage Suggestion: Guy Saget Les Clissages D’Or Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Loire France 2009
The next dish to try is the oyster stew, which in no way tastes or looks like a traditional oyster stew, but instead is more akin to a lovely bisque. The smooth, creamy texture and elegant presentation is deceptive because the short list of ingredients includes butter cooked Stingray oysters, sautéed celery, fresh chives, heavy cream, a pinch of Old Bay seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Based on the lingering finish and intense oyster essence in each bite, this could be a new classic.
Beverage Suggestion: DeMorgenzon DMZ Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch South Africa 2010
The crescendo of this oyster feast is certainly the oysters on the half shell. Legal Sea Foods selected six different East Coast oysters (all of them are the Crassostrea virginica species) served either à la carte or as part of a curated sampling. Order one of each or two of each, depending on your appetite, to discover the flavors of each.
At only $1.25 per oyster (they are normally priced $2.75 each), this is one of Washington D.C.’s best oyster values and, for an even better bargain, go for happy hour and order six oysters for just $6 dollars. Here’s an organized flight in the order they should be eaten. Bon appétit!
Stingray |Source: Milford Haven, Virginia
Profile: plump, juicy, sweet, and only mildly salty.
East Beach Blonde | Sourced: Charlestown Pond, Rhode Island
Profile: soft and silky, slightly salty, lots of liquor, and mildly sweet.
Wellfleet | Sourced: Wellfleet Harbor, Massachusetts
Profile: light body and clean finish, and salty.
Wianno | Sourced: Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts
Profile: if you think Wellfleets are salty, you will find the briny flavor of Wianno to your liking; its pale pink flesh is sweet and very salty.
Pemaquid | Sourced: Estuary, Maine
Profile: large, very firm but light, clean, lemony, and profoundly salty.
Merry | Sourced: Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts
Profile: named for Don Merry, the oyster farmer behind this bi-valve, these oysters are plump, buttery, rich, and brutally briny.
Beverage Suggestion: Jean-Charles Boisset JCB No. 21 NV Chardonnay Cr̬émant De Bourgogne Burgundy France