With spring well on it’s way we have a lot to look forward to as the weather warms. One of our favorites is finding a great outdoor spot to set up shop with a cold beer (or a nice glass of wine) and tucking into some oysters. Best of all, if you live in New England (or have a good oyster bar nearby) you have great access to some of the best bivalves anywhere.
What makes New England oysters special? Basically it’s a matter of geography, with the region located in a glorious oysterological sweetspot - south enough to have a reasonably long growing season, yet north enough to take advantage of the rich brininess of the atlantic. Oysters, like wine, are famous for taking on the attributes of their surrounding climate (or terroir as most foodies like to call it). New England oysters draw upon delightfully cold, fertile waters which gives them an especially pleasant, umami-filled flavor.
There is also little doubt that oysters on the half-shell are experiencing a renaissance. After decades of being relegated to a pre-shucked, processed, back-of-the-shelf cans, eating fresh oysters on the halfshell is on the rise. And believe it or not, it’s not the first time New Englanders have enjoyed the pearled goodness of their own waters. Look no further than the Union Oyster House in downtown Boston -- the oldest continuously run restaurant in America -- for a peek into some glorious oyster history.
This renaissance also means that you have more options to choose from as small producers have sprung up in variety of coastal towns. And better yet, in many cases, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home, as many producers will now ship a few dozen directly to your front door.
Here are three of our top picks:
We love Glidden Points, the product of Barb Scully and family, who still harvest these beauties by diving into the chilly damariscotta estuary. They’re briny, delicate, and have beautiful deep cups. Barb sells them in a variety of sizes, but if you’re feeling really adventurous (and lucky) you should ask if she has any Belon’s . Only a small number are available each year but these French imports are big, complex, and incredibly rare. They’re not for beginners but you’ll enjoy one of the most unusual treats any oyster hound can get.
Island Creeks, grown in Duxbury bay on the coast south of Boston, are quintessential New England oysters. They have beautiful textured shells, incredible brine, and are fabulously consistent oyster to oyster. Best of all the Island Creek team does a great job getting oysters to you in a hurry so they’re perfect for ordering and having at home (pro tip: sign up for their email list which has occasional deals).
These great oysters, grown under the umbrella of the Noank Oyster Cooperative are some our favorites in Southern New England. If you’ve had long island sound oysters and been underwhelmed by their fragile shells (we’re looking at you, Blue Points), give these a try. They tend to grow large and have a nice mix of brine and sweetness. Great oysters for any occasion.