In this episode of Oysters of Ireland, I’m going to take you on a cross-coast tasting tour. At the BIM Oyster Conference, oyster growers from around the country were invited to put their palate to the test.
Several dozen oyster growers from near and far gathered in Galway for the BIM Oyster Conference at Hotel Meyrick last month. It was an opportunity to learn, network, and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor. Once the business-related presentations (including mine) were over and done with, we broke for lunch and also a fun little tasting experiment.
Five trays of “mystery” oysters labeled A through E were placed down a long table as shown above. Each tray contained freshly shucked oysters from a distinct region in Ireland. Without being given any other clues, other than the names of the five possible areas, everyone had to identify each oyster by taste alone.
At first, I sensed a lot of confidence from the crowd. They were pro’s. Pro’s who worked with oysters day in and day out. But to everyone’s surprise, not one person got all five right! While many growers were able to identify their own product, it was pretty clear that the rest were tougher to pin down than expected. Although I’d like to think that if I had tried all of them beforehand, I’d have a pretty good shot!
Here were my “blind” tasting notes matched up to their respective mystery oysters.
Moyasta from Poulnasherry Bay, River Shannon, Southwest Ireland
Flavor: 6 | Salinity: 5 | Sweetness: 6 | Texture: Dense, creamy
When I first tasted it, I immediately thought to myself — this has to be the Moyasta. It was the only oyster that I’ve tried before. The smooth, uncluttered shells were a dead giveaway. The signature grassy taste rang true — no other oyster in the bunch exhibited such a crisp, vegetal taste.
Galway from Galway Bay, Western Ireland
Flavor: 5 | Salinity: 6 | Sweetness: 5 | Texture: Buttery
These oysters had a nice bright and beachy essence to them. They were fairly briny, but not overwhelmingly so. There was definitely a noticeable minerality — most likely zinc — in the finish.
Carlingford from Carlingford Lough, Northeast Ireland (website)
Flavor: 7 | Salinity: 8 | Sweetness: 3 | Texture: Pillowy and tender, a little bit like egg custard
When I tried this oyster, my senses immediately took a marine plunge. It was like cannonballing into the ocean and swimming back ashore. Shockingly fresh, unapologetically briny. Upon further chewing, I also detected some really pleasant earthy, vegetal notes which evolved from a quiet undertone of moss and melon rind into a subtle mineral finish.
Dungarvan from Dungarvan Bay, Southern Ireland
Flavor: 9 | Salinity: 7 | Sweetness: 8 | Texture: Meaty, tender
The Dungarvans were definitely the “dessert” oyster of the bunch. A well-balanced salty and sweet truffle from the sea. Some of the oysters had a lovely citrusy note, while others had a more earthy umami-ness to them. The subtle and clean cucumber finish made these a delight to savor.
Majestic from Donegal Bay, Northwest Ireland (website)
Flavor: 5 | Salinity: 3 | Sweetness: 5 | Texture: Plump, jelly-like
Subtle and sophisticated, this oyster had the most refined flavors. These were also perhaps the “fattest” of the oysters, in that the entire bodies were consistently plush and opaque. The mild brininess was a refreshing change from the rest and I enjoyed its delicate texture. I’ve nicknamed the Kusshi as the “cheesecake oyster” but this one gives it a run for its money.
And in case you’re going on your own Ireland oyster tour, be sure to bring this cheat sheet with you! By the way, all the blue highlighted areas are counties that produce oysters. If you’ve had another variety of oyster from Ireland that’s totally out of this world, be sure to leave me a comment. I can’t wait to go back for more someday!
For the next and final Ireland post, I’ll sum up the rest of the trip — from Cliffs of Moher to Moran’s on the Weir to the Galway International Oyster Festival to a whirlwind tour of Dublin. Stay tuned!
Ireland is world-reknown known for its scenery, history, sports, and beer. But great oysters? You better believe it. There’s no doubt that oysters are the Emerald Isle’s best kept secret.
Ever since having my first Irish oyster (Kelly Galway natives in London, 2010), I was enamored by the idea of going to Ireland and enjoying them straight from the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival. Thanks to Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, not only was I finally able to do so, but I also had the rare opportunity to meet oyster growers from every region of Ireland. It was an amazing adventure to say the least, and I plan to share the highlights with you all in this three-part series. The first chapter will cover the oyster farms that I visited, the second will focus on the oyster tastings, and the third will be a comprehensive recap of the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival. Now, it’s time to shed some light on these delicious hidden gems of the Emerald Isle. Read More
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The oyster blogging community is a small one, but if you look hard enough, you can see that it brims with passion and personality. A couple years ago, I stumbled across a fellow oyster blogger, the SF Oyster Nerd, who also happens to work at Waterbar. I remember reading his very first, and very good post and felt giddy to discover someone who is just as meticulous and obsessed with oysters as I am. I became an instant fan. I have always been taken by how powerful oysters are in bringing people and communities together. You wouldn’t expect it, nor necessarily call it out, but this humble little bivalve has an incredible ability to connect people far and wide. In my case, it was to seek out a fellow ostreaphile on the opposite side of the country. Read More
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It’s one of my favorite days of the year! National Oyster Day will always have a place in my heart. To celebrate, I am going to share a recent oyster feasting experience with you all.
My friend Niyati is a fellow oyster lover. Like me, she’ll take any opportunity to enjoy them. For her birthday, a friend had offered to buy her a good sum of oysters from The Lobster Place. True to form, Niyati decided to turn this gift into an opportunity to host a fabulous affair — and so the 1st Annual Oyster Nosh was born. I was invited to attend this lovely Saturday afternoon gathering, partly because it’s been too long since I’ve seen her, partly because I also loved oysters, and partly because she needed an experienced shucker (not going to lie). Read More