Greg Babinecz, the raw bar manager of San Francisco's Waterbar, demonstrates how to shuck an oyster two different ways.
Everyone thinks of a big glass of red wine and a big red box of chocolates when they think of Valentine's Day, but this year, we challenge you to think outside the box — with oysters and Scotch. That's right, save your food and wine pairings for the other 364 days of the year and get a little adventurous with this spirit and food pairing.
We shouldn't have to tell you why you should be eating oysters on Valentine's Day (hey, they're better than Warheads) — after all, it's one of the few foods that are proven to boost sex-hormone levels. But with Scotch, they become a new treat to your romantic dinners. Stephanie Ridgway, the brand ambassador for Highland Park Scotch whisky, took on the task of pairing the lineup of Highland Park 12-year, 15-year, and 18-year with oysters at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Maison Premiere (a tough job, but someone had to do it). After all, she said, it made sense: Highland Park comes from the seafaring Nordic Orkney Islands. "It would make perfect sense, a food that's a part of our national culture and pair it with our national beverage," she said.
So what can you look for when pairing Scotch and oysters? Ridgway knew she wanted to find oysters that complemented the natural flavors of Highland Park Scotches: the perfect balance of smoky and sweet. So she approached the task of pairing by looking for oysters with similar flavors to the Scotches. "I wanted to find flavors that would be the perfect juxtaposition," she said. Here's what she found:
With the 12-year Highland Park Single Malt Scotch, the Wellfleet oyster: This "mainstream" oyster had the perfect balance of salt and brine, Ridgway said, that matched the balance of sweet and smoky of the 12-year. "People say that the 12-year is the best all around Scotch whisky; and that's what they say about the Wellfleet oyster — it's the best all-around oyster."
With the 15-year Highland Park Single Malt Scotch, the Sewansecott oyster: This oyster is a bit harder to find, Ridgway said, but well worth it. This "kind of quirky" oyster starts off briny but ends with a sweet finish, much like the 15-year, which ends almost on a butterscotch note.
With the 18-year Highland Park Single Malt Scotch, the Malpeque oyster: Again, much like the 18-year that meets the balance between sherry sweet and gentle smokiness, the Malpeque oysters meet the same middleground between sweet and dry.
While Ridgway found oysters with flavor profiles that seemed to match the flavor profiles of the Scotch, she said the really, there are no rules. Ridgway advised to not be afraid to experiment. "It's an adventure to take the Scotch out of the steakhouse and put it with oysters. Even if you stumble, you'll still end up with a really good Scotch and a really good oyster," she said. "What could be wrong with that?"
Ridgway's favorite way to pair is to pour a tiny bit of Scotch on the oyster, so that the Scotch really penetrates the oyster for maximum flavor. It's one way to get adventurous on Valentine's Day. "It's a great way to be interactive with your date and start a conversation," she said. The only true word of advice from a Scotch and oyster-pairing professional: better do the shucking long before you start drinking.