Oyster KnowledgeJuly 10, 2016

Natural Wine 101 and Oyster Pairing with Sommelier Doreen Winkler

Before meeting Doreen Winkler, a natural wines expert and founder of Diamond Sommelier Services, I had honestly no idea what natural wines were all about. The two words sounded superfluous together, or maybe even “marketing-esque” at first. Then a few months ago, we hosted a Natural Wine and Oyster Pairing class together at Sel Rrose, and she opened my eyes to this growing niche. Here’s what I learned (and what you need to know):

2016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_8000

What is natural wine?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a complete layman when it comes to wine. I had a romantic view of winemaking as an artisanal, non-industrial process. Apparently, that’s only a small fraction of the industry today. The term “natural wine” is a broad umbrella that includes organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wine. Natural wine is about 1% of the wine produced in the world today. Note that not all organic wines are necessarily considered to be “natural.”

Instead of trying to sort out all of the labels (biodynamic vs organic vs sustainable), I found it easier to think of natural wine as a philosophy. “In the end is just about making wine that is a natural product with as little intervention as possible,” explained Doreen. It is a traditional view of wine as an expression of specific terroir and grape varieties, with minimal interference by the winemaker. So what does that mean from a technical standpoint? Here’s a summary from Urban Earth Wines:

For a wine to be considered natural, it must be also be vinified as naturally as possible. This means that after it has been cultivated organically or biodynamically, there must be a minimum use of additives and technological manipulations. Examples of additives include sugar, acidifiers, and powdered tannins. Manipulations can include the use of spinning cones to remove alcohol, micro-oxygenation to accelerate aging, and the use of laboratory cultivated yeast.

The key aspects of what we consider to be a natural wine are:

  • No synthetic molecules in the vines
  • Plowing or other solutions to avoid chemical herbicides.
  • Use of indigenous yeast
  • Handpicked grapes
  • Low to no filtering
  • Low to no sulfites
  • Winemaking that respects the grapes: no pumping or rough handling of the grapes, no micro-oxygenation.
  • No chaptalization

Additives in Wine

Let’s talk a little bit more about what’s actually in wine. In the US, there is a surprisingly large number of additives, cleansers, and fining agents are allowed to be used in the winemaking process—over 200 some claim. I was shocked to learn this from Doreen, and surprised that there wasn’t more reporting about it or alarm. Last spring, CBS broke a story about a Denver laboratory finding high levels of arsenic in a number of California wines. That news and subsequent class lawsuit have since been smoldered and cast aside. Despite our national obsession with organic and chemical-free anything nowadays, we don’t have that much transparency into our favorite fermented grape juice. “There are almost no federal labeling requirements to tell you what’s really in wine,” according to CBS. I find it strange that we know more about what’s in our shampoo than what we’re all drinking on a weekly (maybe daily for some?) basis.

Just for the record: I’m not against additives in wine. I’d just like to know what’s in it so I can make better informed decisions! Oh, and I bet that I’m not alone. It will be interesting to see how the natural wines niche grows, and through it, bring more attention to the fact that we’re all sipping on some pretty delicious ignorance right now.

2016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_79642016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_7936

Evolution through natural wine selection

I don’t have the time to become a wine expert myself, so thank goodness for sweet and knowledgeable somms like Doreen. When she’s consulting for her clients—like Sel Rrose—she challenges herself to curate wine lists that are both unique in taste and story. Natural wine folks are often seen as extremists and the uber-hippies of the industry. Doreen takes a more practical approach.

“I choose wineries that are organically farmed and have biodynamic practices. I don’t care if they are certified; it’s more about the lifestyle and meaning than the certification. Keep in mind that it takes 15 years to become biodynamic certified and a lot of money!”

It’s worth mentioning that Doreen didn’t start out as a natural wine specialist. As this part of the wine industry grew, so did Doreen’s expertise. She walked me through several of the milestones that led her to where she is now: hotel management school, an amazing job in Switzerland, consulting for Chef Fredrik Berselius, and starting her own wine & restaurant consulting practice. Above all, working with Berselius seemed to be the catalyst to her deep appreciation for natural wines.

“At the time, I hadn’t had many good [natural wines], and decided to take some time to really search them out for myself.” Doreen must feel the same way about winery/importer visits as I do for oyster farm tours. 🙂

2016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_79972016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_7990

Meroir, terroir, and Doreen’s pairing tips

Pairing oysters with natural wines is very satisfying in principle and practice, as there are many parallels you can draw between the two worlds. Both are basically created with simply what mother nature has provided, and in turn, both spark that “sense of place” that forces you to look up from your phone or stop mid-sentence, and to earnestly pay attention.

When a pairing works, they should be seen as true partners. “A good pairing changes the experience… it melds [the two elements] together.” Doreen offered a few basic guidelines of how to do this well:

When you’re pairing wine to brinier, leaner oysters, start with lighter, more minerally wines. “Minerality balances out salt.”

When pairing with creamier, more vegetal oysters, experiment with richer wines that have vibrant acidity.

For oysters that are clearly sweet and fat, perhaps a rosé champagne or a more fruit-forward white (that’s still bone dry) would do the trick.

Most importantly, don’t worry so much about what’s right and what’s wrong.”For oyster pairings, one should have a little bit more fun.” It’s all about having an open mind and willing to try new things.

2016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_80182016-06-16 Doreen Natural Wines IMG_7940

Further reading…

NPR “What The Heck Is Natural Wine?”

Food Republic “How Natural Wine Is Driving The Lower East Side Dining Scene”

Vogue “Why Wild, Chemical-Free, “Natural” Wines Are Taking the Industry by Storm”

Oyster KnowledgeApril 29, 2016

9 Things To Know About Oysters

Oysters are exotic, mysterious, bizarre, gross, sexy, and just plain old provocative. No matter how you feel about them, there’s a good chance they stir your imagination in one way or another. If they don’t, this post probably isn’t for you. Look at this instead!

I don’t know about you guys, but I Google a lot of weird stuff. Sometimes, a simple answer comes up immediately. Other times, not as quickly. With oysters, it’s rather hit or miss. I thought it would be helpful to provide one place to get the answers to all of your most wondered about questions. Disclaimer: a few might be a little “TMI” for the casual oyster eater, so please read with caution. Ignorance could be bliss. 😉


1. What do oysters eat?

The truth: Oysters eat phytoplankton or small bits of algae suspended in the water. They are filter feeders, which means that they obtain their food by filtering water in and over their gills. Adult Virginica oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Sometimes they’re referred to as bottom feeders or detritivores, but don’t turn your nose up at them because of that.

To demonstrate their fascinating ability, here is a time-lapse of oysters in filtering action.

The whole truth: So now you’re probably thinking… if oysters are equal opportunity eaters, and they’re in water that’s full of “nutrients,” thennnn aren’t we just all eating crap? Well, that is why you can’t get New York Harbor oysters anymore and also why we seriously need to protect our waters from becoming even more mucked up. I found this guest blog post by Chris Len for Deep Sea News that is worth a read. Oysters are voracious vegetarians, but fairly picky about what they nosh on. Despite the absence of a brain, oysters “know” what they can and cannot digest. Bob Rheault, Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association elaborates, “Even as a dust-speck sized larvae they do this. Identical sized algal particles (say Isochrysis and Chlorella) will be sorted with 90% efficiency even when mixed with a soup of thick silt to confuse them. The Isochrysis goes into the gut and the Chlorella and silt goes into the pseudofeces (rendering it bright green!). I have done this with radio tracers and the degree of efficiency is remarkable. It is one reason why the American oyster is so adaptable and can survive in high silt loaded waters while many other organisms struggle and suffocate with fouled gills.”

What I’d personally like to find out: Knowing that oysters taste like where they’re from — everything in the environment has an impact — my continuing question is just how do specific algaes or water composition affect the taste, and is there a finite way to measure it?

Oyster QA IMG_4259

2. Do oysters poop?

The simple truth: Yes, yes they do. Oysters expel both real poop AND pseudofeces, which are particles of non-food things in their food. It’s called “false feces” (#fakepoop) because the particles never enter their digestive tract.

The really “you asked for it” truth: See Erin Byers Murray, author of “Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm,” blog post about it.

My pet peeve: When you google “oysters” and “poop” together, the conversation takes on a depressingly misinformed, ignorant, fearful form. Some particularly one-sided, skewed articles by fairly prominent publications aren’t helping the cause. I mean, can someone just register oysterpoop.com and clear the air about the whole subject of oysters and foodborne illness? It happens, but it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it does with other stuff we eat. I just don’t understand why the same people who cringe at raw oysters are happily scarfing down meat and poultry (or even lettuce) from sketchy fast food joints.


3. What is that green stuff in my oyster?

The truth: If you come across an oyster with green-tinted gills, like the ones as shown above, consider yourself lucky. The greenish color comes from a particular type of blue diatom that the oysters are eating. It’s not harmful to eat an oyster like this, and in fact, its flavor is highly sought after. In France, the “verte” oysters are considered to be a delicacy and demand a higher price than its “blanc” counterparts. You can also find them in US at random, but more frequently in the winter when the blue diatoms are more abundant.

Watch out for that marketing: I’ve noticed that oysters with green gills tend to be hyped as a “rare specialty” and marked up in price accordingly. Don’t fall for it.

What I’m looking forward to: According to a research study published in May 2014, scientists have proposed that the blue pigment, known as marennine, has been found to have powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties. So perhaps the green oyster will one day be considered a super sexy superfood.

Oyster QA IMG_5685

4. Are oysters alive when I eat them?

The truth: You don’t want to eat a dead oyster, raw. Oysters should be kept alive right up until the moment when they’re shucked. The heart is right next to the bottom adductor muscle, so in most cases, it’s killed when you separate the meat from the shell.

How can you tell if it’s dead or alive: A living, unshucked oyster will be fully closed up, like a rock. Its working hard to avoid being your dinner. If the bill of the oyster gapes open and doesn’t close with a few taps, it’s probably dead (or it might be really cold and sleepy… so give it a minute if you just pulled them out of the fridge). If you bought a bag of freshly harvested oysters and some are dead, they could still be cooked and enjoyed. Just throw them on the grill or fry them up. Masterful shuckers will toss out the dead ones long before they reach your platter. Sometimes, I will poke at the outer edges of the mantle with a fork tong to see just how “lively” they still are.

What I found out the hard way: The French take quality assurance to the next level by leaving the bottom adductor muscle attached. This allows you to experience the freshest, most alive oyster as possible… but prepared to do some work (and get silently judged on it).

IAHS 2015-02-28 KSO IMG_2753

5. Do oysters feel pain?

The truth: It’s still up for debate. We don’t really know. Some say no while others say yes. From an anatomical standpoint, oysters do not have a brain or a central nervous system, so it is not likely that they would experience the world in the same way that other animals do. That said, it is unclear whether or not you need a brain in order to “feel” or process pain.

I asked Guinness World Record Oyster Shucker and restaurateur Patrick McMurray for his thoughts. “My belief—as I am not a scientist—is that oysters feel pain as much as plants feel pain. Pain is a perceived sense—what your brain chooses to “feel” when nerves are activated. Oysters do not have sensory perception or ability to sense. Oysters react— close when touched, use cilia to move food particles etc. Some plants react the same way—flowers open and close, Venus Flytrap per se.”

My two cents: A lot of people ask this question, but in my mind, it’s kind of a trick. This question is not about the oyster at all. It’s about us and what we choose to believe, and how we want to live in this world.

Photo by Julie Qiu / InAHalfShell.com

6. How can you tell if you have a bad oyster?

The truth: Have you guys heard of the egg test (good eggs sink, bad eggs float)? I wish there were something as simple as that to gauge the quality of an oyster. There is no straightforward way to tell, but you can train your senses to pick up red flags. I asked my favorite SF Oyster Nerd, Greg Babinecz to take a crack at this one in a few sentences. Greg, true to his oyster-nerdy-nature, couldn’t help but submit a comprehensive perspective on the matter.

Greg’s cliff notes version:
1)  If it’s open and does not close to the touch, throw it away*.
2)  If it smells strongly sulfuric or rotten, throw it away.
3)  If it is very dried out and has no juiciness to it, throw it away*.
*or compost (see #9)
The full enchilada: 

Smell: Anything slightly afoul to your innate sense of what smells right, I would say is best to avoid.  Certainly there are oysters that inherently have a little “funk,” and are prized as such, but anything that strongly smells of rotten eggs, petrol, or fish tank gravel, go ahead and light a match and toss it in the trash (outdoor trash, preferably).  Some oysters will have unique “low tide” or metallic smells and are good, but those are rare and if you’re seeking those out, you’re probably not a novice shucker.

Look: A good oyster looks plump, juicy, and has a glistening sheen to it.  It simply looks fresh.  Quite often you’ll open an oyster and it will have a dried out, Jackson Pollock-esque splatter look to it.  If they still smell okay, they aren’t necessarily bad, they just aren’t good. Best use them for fried or BBQed oysters, or simply discard.

Taste: Several oysters I’ve shucked have passed the previous two tests, but then just taste like they’re spoiled. It will look great, smell fine, but upon consumption, taste terrible.  And there is a discernible difference between a strongly flavored oyster and a bad one.  Copper, musky, and even low tide flavors don’t mean it’s bad.  A very noticeable lack of salinity and a sulfuric-gaseous pop once bitten and you’ll immediately know it’s bad.  These rogue goblin oysters are the bane of many shuckers around the world.

Lastly, shell inspection: This should come first, but not without understanding smell and look.  A good rule for any bivalve is that if its shell is cracked, has holes, or is open and will not close to the touch, it’s best to avoid (mussels and scallops are kind of an exception).  An open bill that will not close to the touch usually indicates the oyster is dead.  All oysters should be alive right before they are shucked, and eating a dead one can be dangerous (see #4). Even if it smells and looks fine, but was open, I’d say best to avoid.  I’ve certainly gambled on some open bivalves before and been okay, but it’s best to play it safe.  But hey, it’s your stomach and your dice to roll.


7. There’s a tiny crab in my oyster… is that normal?

The truth: “Sure it’s normal; it’s called a pea crab and lives her entire life inside the oyster. The crab doesn’t hurt the oyster and it won’t hurt you to eat both. In fact it’s good luck to eat the pea crab. Enjoy!” That’s reassurance from Chris Ludford, grower of Pleasure House Oysters and full-time fire boat captain for Virginia Beach.

What do they taste like? Not much. Salty like the sea, and the texture is like kind of like alfalfa sprouts. If eating them alive makes you squeamish, then pan fry them up with a dash of Old Bay.

Are they in all oysters? In my experience, pea crabs are most commonly found in Eastern oysters from brackish water. In fact, I can only recall finding them in oysters that are harvested from the Long Island Sound and inlets along the Chesapeake Bay. That doesn’t mean they’re not elsewhere though! Random fact: male pea crabs will move from oyster to oyster to do “house calls,” while the ladies stay put.

©2014 Julie Qiu Photography for In A Half Shell. All Rights Reserved.

8. There’s a creepy looking worm in my oyster… is that normal?

Stay calm and slurp on: Every time I hang out with a buddy of mine from LA (who’s not an oyster fan, but we get along anyway), he never fails to tell his story about that one time when he encountered a massive, horrendously large worm in his oyster, “like it was Dune or something.” It’s a disturbing visual and pretty unappetizing. Fortunately, it’s not abnormal or alien. That said, I don’t take photos of oyster worms so I’m sharing a photo from the Eastern Shore to help relax you instead.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s oyster farmer Matt Gregg of Forty North Oyster Farms, who has encountered his fair share of weirdness, on the subject: “Oysters can be the perfect host for many tiny marine invertebrates, none of which, to my knowledge are harmful to humans. Oysters that grow in muddy and lower salinity environments tend to harbor an organism called a bloodworm. If you’re squeamish (most oyster eaters are not) stick to oysters that are grown close to the ocean, bloodworms can’t survive those conditions.”


9. What happens to the shells?

The truth: In most cases around the country, the shells that we leave behind at the raw bar go straight into the garbage, which is truly a damn shame. Oyster shells can be recycled and repurposed for a number of things such as chicken feed booster, garden fertilizerwedding decor, and most notably, as the perfect substrate for baby oysters to grow on. Unfortunately, running a shell collection program is logistically challenging and pretty expensive. But what’s the opportunity cost? One seaside village in China has put a reclaimed value of approximately $3200 USD per ton of shell (for fertilizer and construction material.) That number would certainly be higher if you considered its restorative value back into our environment.

The exception to the rule: The symbiotic relationship between a traditional oyster planter and the oyster shucking house creates a closed loop system. Since all of the oysters are shucked in one spot, all of the shells are returned to the oyster farmer to be “replanted” for the next crop. But demand is starting to swing in favor of half shell consumption, which means we’re still running on a national shell deficit.

Copps Island IMG_4488

What I’m hoping there will be more of: Oyster shell collection and oyster restoration initiatives have been building momentum around the country, such as along the Chesapeake and the Gulf. I’m personally rooting for NYC’s own oyster restoration & education program. Pete Malinowski, Director of Billion Oyster Project explains:

“The vast majority of oyster shells generated in New York City’s restaurants are packed into plastic bags and driven to points South to be landfilled. At Billion Oyster Project, we need oyster shells for our restoration projects and work hard to recover as many as we can from restaurants. Right now, we are collecting shells from 45 restaurants four days per week. We average over one ton of shell per day and are on track to collect 210 tons this year. The shells spend one year curing at the NRG Arthur Kill Power Plant in Staten Island. (Check out some of my photos from BOP’s previous curing site on Governors Island.) Once cured, we place the shells in tanks with oyster larvae. The larvae set on the shells creating the clusters of oysters we use for reef building.”

And on that note, I want to quickly plug in Billion Oyster Project’s upcoming fundraiser oysterfest, the Billion Oyster Party on May 19th. 40 oyster farms + dozens of NYC’s top restaurants + music + shucking contest + great venue. It’s going to be off the hook. Hope to see you there! I’ll be hosting a couple of pretty fun contests for oyster farmers and attendees that you won’t want to miss. (Many thanks to my friend Chavelli Tsui for doing the kickass “Shuck Me Beautiful” hand lettering!)

Shuck Me Beautiful

Got another oyster-related question that you’re curious about? Leave a comment and I’ll see about getting it answered! 

Oyster KnowledgeMay 29, 2015

A Handy List of Oyster Shuckers, Caterers and Mobile Raw Bars

I’m a huge fan of shucking my own oysters, but when it’s about planning a celebration or business event, nobody’s got time for that! If you’re less, “do it yourself,” and more about “do it for me,” look no further. Here’s a quick compilation of shucking services, caterers and mobile raw bars from around the country that can help take your event to the next level.

IAHS Oyster Catering IMG_3092

Oyster Shuckers, Mobile Raw Bars & Catering Services

NEW YORK: Brooklyn Oyster Party, Oyster XO, Long Island Oyster Co, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster

BOSTON: Boston Raw Bar Catering, Island Creek Oysters

RHODE ISLAND: 401 Oyster CompanyOpen Oyster

PORTLAND, ME: Nonesuch Oysters

CHICAGO: Logan Oyster Socials

BALTIMORE: The Local Oyster

WASHINGTON DC: Sam Sam Shucking Services

VIRGINIA BEACH: Andersons Neck

LANCASTER, PA: Lancaster City Oyster Co

CHARLESTON: 167 Raw, Bulls Bay OyRo (lowcountry oyster roasts – yum!)

NEW ORLEANS: Two Girls One Shuck

LOS ANGELES: The Oyster Gourmet, Ceviche Project

SAN FRANCISCO / TOMALES BAY: HustleShuckHog Island Oyster CoThe Oyster Girls

SAN DIEGO: J&M Oysters

SEATTLE: Taylor Oyster Bars

FLORIDA: Nautical Nonsense

PORTLAND, OR: PDX Oyster SocialOlympia Oyster Bar

VANCOUVER: The Curious Oyster Catering Co

VANCOUVER ISLAND: The Wandering Mollusk

Shuck Trucks

MAINE: Cabin Cove Shuck Truck

CAPE COD: Cuttyhunk Harbor Raw Bar (it’s a boat!)

RHODE ISLAND: Salt Pond Shuckin Truck

LOS ANGELES: Jolly Oyster Shuck Shack

Oyster Education & Curated Tastings

I am taking on a limited number of private clients this summer & fall on the East and West Coast.
Reach out if you’re interested!


How to Shuck

I made a shucking video and page just for that. Also, you might like my “How to Enjoy Oysters at Home” post.

Oyster KnowledgeJanuary 27, 2015

Bivalve Curious: What Do Oysters Eat?

In my new mini-series, “Bivalve Curious,” I’ll be asking and answering some questions about oysters that you’ve always (or maybe never) wanted to know.


What do oysters eat?

Oysters eat phytoplankton or small bits of algae suspended in the water. They are filter feeders, which means that they obtain their food by filtering water in and over their gills. Sometimes they’re referred to as bottom feeders, but don’t mistake them as detritivores. Whatever they can’t eat or digest, they expel as feces and pseudofeces. Not unlike myself, oysters are voracious eaters. Adult Virginica oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. To demonstrate their filtering power, here is a fascinating time-lapse of some oysters in a tank doing their thing.

You know that saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s just as true with oysters as it is with anything or anyone else. While I am highly suspect that algae and water composition impacts the taste of the oyster, it is quite difficult to quantify. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to prove the link.

Have you ever come across a green-gilled oyster?


No, they’re not sea sick. The greenish-bluish color is caused by a special type of phytoplankton known as Navicula ostrearia. The effect has been studied by scientists as early as 1820, and I found this research paper from 1885 most intriguing. The green tint is temporary and doesn’t change the taste. If the presence of this diatom subsides, then the oyster would also turn back to its original color in a few weeks. Green oysters enjoy a positive and desirable reputation in France, where they are specially cultured in Marennes, but they can just as easily occur in nature without any human interference. The photos above are of oysters from the Rhode Island and Long Island Sound, respectively. Green oysters have also shown up as south as Lynnhaven, Virginia.

You’re also probably wondering about the darker side of this equation: are oysters also eating things that can be harmful to us? It is possible, but it all depends on the location. Trace metals, chemicals, and bacteria can find their way into oysters if they are present where the oysters live, which is why you don’t see any oysters being consumed from New York Harbor anymore. (Btw: I found this blog post by Chris Len for Deep Sea News that is worth a read.) In general though, this shouldn’t be a concern. The oysters that you find in today’s restaurants and seafood markets are perfectly safe to consume. They are properly harvested from highly regulated waters that contain minimal levels of contaminants. I tend to think that people are more dangerous to your health than the oysters themselves, and this is why you should always buy your oysters from trusted sources.

Got a burning oyster question you want answered? Post a comment below or tweet me at @inahalfshell.

Oyster KnowledgeJune 15, 2014

Could Water Salinity Classification Help Advance Oyster Appreciation?

For years, I've tried to develop a system -- a rating scale -- to help track and catalog the oysters that I taste. I'm still trying to perfect a way of classifying basic oyster attributes. Although I think it's good and useful to leverage adjectives and romantic lingo to tell an oyster's story, a part of me has always yearned for more rigorous and objective metrics. 

At the moment, my Oyster Concierge employs a custom rating scale (with 1 being least briny and 6 being most) that does a decent job of providing a snapshot of what you might expect in a particular oyster. At the same time, it does a terrible job because there is no frame of reference for the rating. Whether it’s a number or a word like “mild”, “medium”, or “high,” at the end of the day, we’re all still pretty much comparing apples to oranges. Depending on exposure and experience, I would suspect that definition of “briny” isn’t the same as your “briny.” My idea of “brackish” is probably your idea of “medium saltiness.” Maybe I’m a bit crazy, but the lack of a common yardstick drives me nuts!

Recently, I noticed that some oyster farmers use water salinity levels to help quantify how briny their oysters are. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking. This brief, yet intriguing article from The Washington Post written back in 2011 proves just that. Knowing the water salinity is pretty important in oyster farming because it influences growth rate, disease resistance, and general viability in that area (source). Some oyster bars and growers are already sharing this info (either articulated as a percentage or ppt or “parts per thousand”), and oyster purveyors like Pangea Shellfish have made it into product spec. For me, I’d like to see it popularized across the board.

But who really gives a shuck? Obviously anyone can enjoy an oyster without knowing the water salinity, and not everyone is going to care. But for those who are either crazy oyster geeky like me, it’s interesting to dissect the nuances. Or for those who are completely unfamiliar with the salinity of the different regions, having that information can be helpful when making purchasing decisions. Furthermore, if we ever want to truly advance the appreciation and understanding around our country’s unique oyster offerings — to the same degree as that seen in the wine industry — then a basic level of benchmarking should be instituted.

The trick to all of this, of course, is to construct a way for such technical information to be clear, approachable, and relatable. Here is a nifty diagram created by Peter Summerlin that summarizes, and provides context for, water salinity. I like how clear and straightforward it is. I think it would be interesting if we overlayed some oysters along this spectrum…

Would instituting such a standard be helpful to differentiate and characterize oysters? While there would be a notable deal of variance in salinity at any given time of harvest, I think that providing a range of water salinity would still help manage expectations. And to build on that, are there other variables within salinity to look at? Do different compositions result in different types of brininess? (Perhaps that’s what makes one oyster taste salty and bright, while the other salty and bitterish?)

I’d like to hear what you think.