West Coast

California

Hog Island Kumamoto from Tomales Bay, California
Enjoyed at the Hog Island Oyster Company on  9.25.09
Very small and round shell and meat, but packed with an amazing sweet flavor. The creamy, buttery texture sings with flavors of honeydew and subtle minerals. Completely not briny, probably my first recommendation for a beginner/oyster disbeliever.

Hog Island Sweetwater from Tomales Bay, California
Enjoyed at the Hog Island Oyster Company on  9.25.09
Deliciously chewy and very sweet. The meat was small and slightly crisp. Very little brininess in the finish.

Hog Island Sweetwater oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar

Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters

Enjoyed at The John Dory Oyster Bar on 1.15.11
At last, we meet again! They were just as delicious as I remembered them to be. Mildly salty with a clean, vegetal (celery/cucumber), and oh-so-creamy. I also turned the shells over this time and took a good look at their intricate colors. The deep brown/crimson streaks are due to the food source and minerals in the area. After speaking with John Finger from the Hog Island Oyster Company, I learned that their Pacific oysters tend to grow crazy fast. When oysters grow fast, it’s more difficult to refine the shape. Thus, in order to get these picture-perfect nuggets, they use different methods (tumbling, intertidal training) to actually slow down the growth. Next time you encounter a nicely cupped oyster, thank tumbling for that.

Marin Miyagi Oysters

Marin Miyagi Oyster

Marin Miyagi from Tomales Bay, California
Enjoyed from i love blue sea on 5.29.11
High salinity, sweet with complex fruity undertones, ultra creamy, and metallic finish. These have a really wonderful, solid punch of flavor. I love oysters from Tomales Bay, because of their savory, long-lasting taste. This one is no exception!

Oregon

Yaquina from Oregon
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
Also a terrific find: this oyster was soft, fat and had lots of sweet, sweet glycogen. It pretty much melted in my mouth. The liquid was fresh and salty.

Washington

Hood Canal

Dabob from Hood Canal, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
The shell was shaped like a cat’s paw and the meat contained an eye-opening dose of brine. The black mantle added an extra nutty, silty finish.

Deer Creek from South Hood Canal, Washington
Flavor: 8 | Salinity: 3 | Sweetness: 2 | Texture: Ultra creamy
Deep cupped; earthy, minerality in the finish; buttery

Gold Creek from Hood Canal, Washington
Flavor: 4 | Salinity: 2 | Sweetness: 3 | Texture: Soft, ultra creamy
Buttery and crisp; mineral aftertaste that lingers for a long time on back of the tongue

Eagle Creek from Hood Canal, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 2.2.10
For such a petite oyster, they pack a great amount of flavor. The meat is firm and filled with brininess, but finishes on a semi-sweet note.

Hama Hama from Hood Canal, Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.5.10
Found in a long slender shell, this oyster has a distinct taste of cucumber. There’s a sweet brininess to the meat.

Hama Hama oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar

Hama Hama Oysters

Enjoyed at The John Dory Oyster Bar on 1.15.11
The plush flesh is mild with little salinity. Upon a few chews, the meat starts to disintegrate– it’s quite soft, like gelatin. An earthy and vegetal taste arises in the back of my mouth, which signals the environment that it came form. Hama Hama’s are beach-cultured oysters so they have to stand the elements and various aquatic neighbors. Many times, you’ll notice that a few (or a few dozen) barnacles will settle on the shell; they are attracted to the limestone and opt to call it home.

Hood Canal from Hood Canal, Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at Hank’s Oyster Bar on 12.5.09
This small (1.5 inch) oyster was surprisingly mild but very plump. The meat filled the shell so that there was little liquid. The liquid that I did taste was not very salty at all. I think that this would be a decent beginner’s oyster.

Enjoyed at Recipe on 6.13.10
As the second trio of a dual East/West coast oyster sampler (Flower oysters being the first), I found these 1.5-2 inch oysters quite refreshing. Opposite the ironically masculine East Coast sampler buddy, the Flower oyster, the Hood Canal variety tasted fresh and mildly salty. The pair was a nice balance of heavy and light textures and tastes.

Little Creek  from Hood Canal, Washington *
Enjoyed at Aquagrill on 5.2.10
Salty smoked ham: that’s what I tasted in the jelly-like, slightly creamy bodies. This oyster was very languid and narrow.

Sister Point from Hood Canal, Washington * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.27.10
Where was the salt??? Sister Points are typically salty. The two that I ate had next to zero saltiness to their firm, meaty bodies. Were these particular ones harvested where the fresh water was dominant? The finish was clean and it had a hint of seaweed/cucumber.

Puget Sound

Barron Point from South Puget Sound, Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at the LUCKYRICE Grand Feast on 5.1.10
These plump and lengthy oysters (3 inches) live in beautiful, sturdy shells. When raw, they didn’t taste very briny or salty. The meat was very supple and had a sweet taste to it. They were actually meant to be lightly fried (by Chef Brad Farmerie of Public) for the LUCKYRICE Grand Feast tasting event. The fried version was absolutely amazing… I had to get seconds, actually third helpings.

Hunter Point from South Puget Sound, Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at Aquagrill on 5.2.10
The first thing that I noticed about this oyster was that the meat was surprisingly muscly and chewy. Going along with its masculine name, this med-large sized oyster (4 inch) hits the tongue with a splash of cool saltiness. After chewing a bit, I found a delicious savory flavor that vaguely reminded me of sweet soy sauce. The flavors finished cleanly with a hint of sunflower seed.

Gold Creek from Puget Sound, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at Aquagrill on 5.2.10
This classic looking 3.5 inch oyster tasted like a quintessential West Coast oyster. It was mildly salty and subtle in brininess. The body is long and somewhat firm. There was a crisp metallic flavor that would pair very well with a dry white wine. If you’re curious to try other West Coast oysters besides the Kumo, I’d suggest this one.

Maple Point from Puget Sound, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at Hank’s Oyster Bar on 12.5.09
The sizes varied (1 inch – 2.5 inch) and the taste was quite briny. The shells were darker in appearance with a dark greenish tint.

Nisqually from Hogum Bay, South Puget Sound, Washington
Enjoyed at Hank’s Oyster Bar on 12.5.09
The shell was perfect and light. The meat had a creamy consistency and was slightly buttery. The liquid was pretty salty, which was a great compliment to the actual oyster flavor.

Olympia from Puget Sound, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at Essex Restaurant on 6.16.10
Unlike other east coast and west coast oysters, this one was of its own species: Ostreola conchaphila. The flesh, no bigger than an inch, was packed with a complex flavor profile that was difficult to describe. It was pleasantly briny and tasted almost vegetable-like. However, the moment was so fleeting, that I found myself feeling cheated—caught in a bait and switch situation. Therefore, my current impression of these little Oly’s is flat. I need to make it a point to try them again soon.

Skookum from Puget Sound, Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at The Mermaid Inn UWS on 2.26.10
This oyster reminds me of the rugged outdoors. It has a smoky, earthy and metallic taste that echoes with notes of seaweed and moss. The meat is thick and chewy, perfect for those who like to explore new textures.

Steamboat Island Oysters

Steamboat Island Oysters

Steamboat Island from Puget Sound, Washington * * *
Enjoyed from i love blue sea on 5.29.11
These large-sized oysters were very mild with little to no saltiness to them. Clean, vegetal flavors surfaced through the creamy, soft flesh.

Willapa Bay

Elkhorn from Willapa Bay, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at Maison Premiere on 2.9.11
The gritty and bumpy exterior gave way to smooth, plush, and briny meat. Upon some chewy, I discovered a complex mix of vegetal and mineral flavors. A faint bitterness gave this oyster a new kind of edginess that I haven’t come across in many West Coast varieties.

Hawk’s Point from Willapa Bay, Washington * * *
Enjoyed at Essex Restaurant on 6.16.10
As you can tell from this photo, this oyster is of a substantial size. The meat sprawls across the entire length of the shell and tastes surprisingly fresh. The texture of the white meat at the center is the similar to that of jello or custard.

Willapa Bay (regular and XXL) from Willapa Bay, Washington * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 12.24.09
Curious about the XXL size, we asked our waiter if it would be worth having. The waiter was hesitant to recommend it, but suggested to try a regular size and an XXL for comparison. When the platter came, I immediately understood why the XXL was unnecessary. The shell was at least six inches in length and the meat full and fat of glycogen. I could only finish a third of mine. It was just too much to handle, even for a die-hard oyster lover. As for the regular sized Willapa Bay, it was meaty (but manageable) and had more of a metallic taste than its bigger brother.

OTHERS
Kumamoto (CA) Oysters

Kumamoto Oysters

Kumamoto from Washington * * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.27.10
These Kumo’s were quite different in appearance and taste from the Hog Island variety. They were still petite and creamy, but not nearly as sweet. However, the peak oyster season is quickly passing by.

Otter Cove from Washington
Enjoyed at Hank’s Oyster Bar on 12.5.09
This substantially sized (2.5 inches) oyster was very meaty and tasted slightly sweet. The liquid was also fairly salty.

Oyster Bay from Totten Inlet, Washington * *
Enjoyed at Akariba on 2.4.11
This plump knuckle of white meat that nearly fills the entire deeply-cupped shell, which leaves little room for liquor. Maybe it was just the freshness of the oyster at Akariba, but I had slight difficulty “slurping” the sucker down as it was suctioned to the shell. It took some sly tongue maneuvering to detach it.The taste is mild, semi-bitter and slightly rocky. A bit of chewing is needed to coax the sweetness out of the creamy center. 

Penn Cove from Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
Known as the “sexy oyster,” this specimen was also quite tasty. The chewy meat echoed fantastic flavors of seaweed, miso soup, and salted cucumber.

Quilcene (pronounced like “Quill-seen”) from Washington
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 12.24.09
Our first West coast oyster came in a small, deep cupped shell. It had a firm texture and tasted fairly clean. There was no sweetness in the meat, but it had a good amount of brininess.

Enjoyed at Maison Premiere on 2.9.11
This large oyster starts off salty, but then bursts into sweet, watermelon rind-tinted flavors. The solid adductor made this piece quite fun to chew.

Shibumi from Washington
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.5.10
This petite oyster is found in a deeply cupped shell and has a wonderfully sweet and smoky finish. It’s plump and creamy. There’s a good balance of salt and brine. Perfect for those who like Kumo’s (like me)!

Shigoku from Washington * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
So nice, I had to taste it twice. This small, round-ish, deep-cupped oyster was reminiscent of the Kusshi. Its pillowy flesh was initially salty, but finished on a crisp cucumber/melon note. I could eat these for-ev-er.

Totten Virginica from Washington * * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 12.24.09
An Eastern oyster raised in the Puget Sound makes a very tasty creature that bursts with flavor. I really liked the medium-firm texture of this type. It wasn’t too salty nor briny. If you come across this kind of oyster, be sure to try some! It’s a unique East meets West variation.

British Columbia

Buckley Bay Oysters

Buckley Bay Oysters

Buckley Bay from Baynes Sound, British Columbia * * *
Enjoyed from i love blue sea on 5.29.11
Large, meaty, melon and grassy flavors, medium salinity, with a metallic finish. These were also a breeze to open. The shells were among the most colorful that I’ve ever seen.

Chef’s Creek from British Columbia * * * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Inn UWS on 3.7.10
The stark contrast between the off-white meat and charcoal mantle color made this oyster stand out among a platter of beige Blue Points. It was salty (but not as salty as the Blue Point) and finished with a sweet seaweed/melon flavor.

Deep Bay from British Columbia * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
This oyster is quite a petite and plump bite. It was satisfyingly salty, but I couldn’t distinguish any other notable flavors.

Evening Cove from Vancouver Island, British Columbia * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 1.10.11
These oysters are beach cultured in the intertidal zone, which gives them an earthy and vegetal flavor. They have a medium level of salinity, tender texture, and a mineral finish.

Fanny Bay from British Columbia * * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 12.24.09
A slender, yet deeply cupped oyster with a crisp taste. The flesh was salty, but not overwhelming. I liked the manageable size, the dark flesh that surrounded the creamy middle, and the slightest tinge of green apple.

Komo Guay from Baynes Sound, British Columbia * * *
Enjoyed at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on 4.14.10
Some people don’t like oysters that taste like veggies, but I think it’s fantastic! This oyster was clean and crisp, with notes of lettuce and cucumber.

Enjoyed at Aquagrill on 8.5.11
Flavor: 7 | Salinity: 9 | Sweetness: 3 | Texture: Semi creamy, chewy
Lemon notes, little liquor; hard to get past the saltiness

Kusshi Oysters

Kusshi Oysters

Kusshi from British Columbia * * * *
Enjoyed at The Mermaid Inn UWS on 2.26.10
Petite (1-1.5 inch) and deeply cupped (they’re as long as they are deep), these small gems are an absolute dream to eat. The meat possesses a chewy and crisp texture that makes every bite satisfying. They remind me of Kumamotos, but aren’t as creamy. The flavor is mild and ends with a pointed cucumber aftertaste. Their ultra-clean flavor makes them quite popular on the West Coast, and I’m glad that the best venues are now offering them up on the East. Upon eating my first Kusshi, I decided that it would be a favorite.

Enjoyed at Essex Restaurant on 6.16.10
It’s so cute and plump, the beautiful eggshell body is simply decorated with a sweep of black eyeliner. This photo doesn’t show you its depth, but this oyster is known to be ultra deep-cupped, due to how it’s grown (tumbled silly). The pillowy meat tasted of crisp cucumber and copper. There was a slightly lemon aftertaste, which I didn’t pick up from my previous encounter. But then again, anything in the environment (time, water salinity, rainfall, food source, etc.) will affect the flavor.

Malaspina from British Columbia * * * *
Enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.5.10
At first glance, I knew that this was a special oyster. The body had an alien twist to it, which a beginner might be nervous about. There were more textures in the meat, which was a refreshing change from the usual squishy and creamy types. At one part, it almost felt like I was chewing on a blood vessel. I know that sounds weird, but it was fun to eat! The flavor was bold, buttery, and mildly sweet.

Mitaki from British Columbia * * * *
Enjoyed at Riverpark on 1.28.11
Next a typical East Coast oyster, say like the Big Rock from Massachusetts, the Mitaki looks miniscule. However, it’s petite dark brown/black shell with two tan stripes (like road lanes) gives it a pretty bad-ass attitude. The flavors then follow suite with a wave of metallic steeliness that really shine over the otherwise mildly salty body.

Royal Miyagi from British Columbia * * *
Shucked and enjoyed at the Mermaid Oyster Bar on 1.14.10
While learning how to shuck oysters with Exec Chef Laurence Edelman at the Mermaid Oyster Bar, I also got to taste the fruits of my labor. The only new oyster that I tried was the Royal Miyagi. It was a bit challenging to shuck, but the mild, briny and crisp meat was worth it.

Stellar Bay from British Columbia * * *
Enjoyed at The John Dory Oyster Bar (Happy Hour special) on 1.27.10
From the same makers that brought you the ever-popular Kusshi, the Stellar Bay is similar but slightly bigger. They come from Deep Bay by Vancouver Island. The deep cup, perfected by aggressive tumbling, carries an ample-sized oyster that has medium-salty liquor, a mild flavor, and melon finish. Just take care with the shells as they tend to be brittle. Pieces of it may fall into the flesh, which can cause an unpleasant slurping experience!

Alaska

Kachemak Bay from Kenai Peninsula, Alaska * * * *
Enjoyed at The Mermaid Oyster Bar on 8.15.11
Flavor: 8 | Salinity: 3 | Sweetness: 2 | Savory: 7 | Texture: Firm, creamy
This Pacific oyster has the appearance of your typical BC oyster, but tastes refreshingly bolder and “wilder” (if there’s such an adjective) than its Canadian neighbors. The primary flavors are definitely earthy–notes of seaweed and roast nuts. There’s also a bit of brassiness to it, that cuts through the salinity.

Check out the East Coast roster!