Tomorrow is National Oyster Day, as if we needed an excuse to honor the most delectable of readily edible seafood, fit for consumption as soon as it is pulled from the sea. We begged Executive Chef Sean Bernal of Blue Door Fish at the Delano, for public insight into his private collection of vast knowledge on everything oyster related; from their watery origins to instruction on how to shuck those little bastards at home.
When Bernal arrived on the scene at Blue Door Fish, there were only about three to four oysters on offer on any given day. Now he is proud to claim up to twelve daily selections from all over the country, representing unique taste profiles gleaned from the environment in which they are grown. "Oysters are like wine, they take on their climate." The seafood refrigerator is more like a closet in a Manhattan studio, and man is it cold in there, but they pack in those oysters in a most surprisingly organized fashion. It's pretty amazing.
What follows is not only a glimpse into the secret kitchen workings where oyster happiness happens, but also a comprehensive tutorial on everything you ever wanted to know about oysters, yet were afraid to ask.
The oysters are stacked and labeled by name and location.
Sean Bernal: "When we talk about oysters that are bag grown, they move them, they rotate them, to mimic the motion of the ocean, so to speak, and what happens is that it creates a deeper cup. We all like a deeper cup, means fuller meat, a lot more liquor."
Bernal: "We have to keep all of our tags from our oysters for 90 days according to Florida code. That way, if someone gets sick and they find out that there was a bacterial propagation in one of the growing areas, we can trace back to where the oysters came from, we know when we sold them, especially because oysters are eaten raw. That's how we keep the consumer safe. During the summer, water samples are taken daily by the CDC, so if
there's an issue, they will shut down the oyster bed immediately."
Bernal: "East Coast oysters are the native, virginica, to the United States, their range is from Apalachicola Bay, all the way up to Northern Canada. The flavor is usually on the briny side, like kissing the sea on the lips. Always expect a bit of firmness, and this is the typical oysters that you get in a restaurant here in Miami. It's a great oyster to drink with beer. These are my favorites, because you can eat a ton of them and not think about it, and this is the oyster that I grew up with."
From the right: Malpeques and Conway Royals from Prince Edward Island; wild raised Blue Point oysters from the Long island Sound; Pope Bay, Virginia oysters; and Kusshi oysters, from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. "These are tumble grown oysters with a really deep cup."
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Bernal: "These are West Coast oysters, Kumamotos from Humboldt Bay, California and Eagle Rocks from the Bernal: "Everyone talks about that "R" rule, that you should only eat oysters during months that have an "R' in them, but that was just to protect the oysters. Oysters like to spawn when the water warms up, and the best way to sustain any kinda of population is to let it reproduce. So we've got to protect these little guys, healthy oyster population equals healthy ocean."
That said, we recommend you keep an eye out for that slightly wavy texture pictured here, there could be spawning happening before your very eyes. Look away to give them some privacy, and discard the oyster if overt creaminess is not to your liking.
Tune in tomorrow when Chef Bernal provides an oyster shucking session for those committed to eating these little salty beauties at home. Plus, we will cover a few more exotic West Coast oysters, and let you know where oysters can be procured both locally and on the web.