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On the halfshell and waiting, waiting....


bobmac
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After the Oyster deaths here in town, I am now only eating pasteurized oysters. Very slight difference in taste, but huge difference in safety.

Also in my opinion the only truly safe oyster for a Diabetic like myself to eat. As a side effect of eating at places that are serving pasteurized oysters, they only have to cut the rubber band and poof they pop open normally fairly easily.

Never trust a skinny chef

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After the Oyster deaths here in town

Oysters are dying? :wink:

What town are you in?

No dying Oysters but rather people. Here in Dallas we had two separate deaths at a local seafood chain due to tainted Oysters. Several of the local chains now decided to server Pasteurized Oysters.

Never trust a skinny chef

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I guess I always eat oysters when I'm sitting at "bars" - and they're always opened in front of me.  Every place from Harrod's in London to Felix's in New Orleans.  I must have led a sheltered life  :wink: .  Robyn

I believe I may have once been "done in" as Eliza Dolittle might have said, by Harrod's oysters. They were somewhat less than chilled. As someone mentioned in another thread, it's really for tourists (which I was). Very sick. Hallucinations. Of course it could have been a street-vendor hot dog. The BBC later did an expose on them.

I was a tourist too. And I eye-balled the oysters. They looked good - and they were taken from cold water.

I'm a little picky about oysters these days. My biggest thumbs down is to local oysters from the gulf. The water is too hot - and too polluted in too many places for me to trust eating filter-feeding creatures taken from those waters. Robyn

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I won't even think of eating pre-made sushi, sashimi, cerviche, tartar, etc. I definitely do not order these items at a McDonalds or a place not specializing in the preparation of these products.

Oysters are in the same class. They need to be opened al a minute. PERIOD.

If a place refuses to do this they are not serious about the product and they are putting their customers at risk.

1. In Vancouver a dozen oysters averages $27 plus tax and gratuity…not a cheap appetizer, they deserve the attention of any $27 app.

2. The cost of a dozen oysters is $7.99 or a food cost of 29.6%. That produces a contribution margin of $19. What other menu item contributes $19…leaves a lot of room to justify the labour component.

3. The best part of the oyster is the water in the shell. Oysters that have been pre-shucked are often refreshed by running them under cold water, dipping them in salted ice water or sprinkled with soda water. 50% of the flavour is lost.

4. Oyster become highly toxic really quickly; bacteria and vibrio starts to multiply immediately and will double in quantity in less then 20 minute if not stored properly.

Oysters are my favourite food. Unfortunately I only know of five restaurants in Vancouver that I will eat them at and only two purveyors I will purchase them at for home consumption. Pre-shucking shows that a restaurant is not serious about quality and is careless when it comes to the consumer’s health and safety.

Oysters can be both enjoyable and safe.

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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I'm a little picky about oysters these days. My biggest thumbs down is to local oysters from the gulf. The water is too hot - and too polluted in too many places for me to trust eating filter-feeding creatures taken from those waters. Robyn

The Houston Press did I thought a really good article on Gulf Oysters here:

http://www.houston-press.com/issues/2004-03-25/feature.html

Interesting reading, just throwing it out there.

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I'm a little picky about oysters these days.  My biggest thumbs down is to local oysters from the gulf.  The water is too hot - and too polluted in too many places for me to trust eating filter-feeding creatures taken from those waters.  Robyn

The Houston Press did I thought a really good article on Gulf Oysters here:

http://www.houston-press.com/issues/2004-03-25/feature.html

Interesting reading, just throwing it out there.

Read it. Kind of a puff piece (we get the same kind of puff pieces in our local press too). If you want to see where the real action is - you have to read the "police reports" of the game comissions. They're published in our papers too - like XYZ got arrested for pulling oysters from beds closed on account of pollution. They don't make for fun reading. And since I know that most states (including Florida) are hurting for funds in these departments these days - I suspect they only catch a fraction of the culprits.

By the way - the biggest source of pollution here is simply people dumping untreated sewage into local waters through ancient septic tank systems - and through ancient sewer systems that run dump pipes several hundred yards offshore. Do the people living in coastal Texas all have modern sewer systems? Robyn

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The best part of the oyster is the water in the shell.

Amen to that! It's what I unfortunately find lacking in fish market (as opposed to restaurant) oysters, unless I drive a long distance. Anybody know how long they can be out of the water without losing this?

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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The last 2 times I was at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, I placed my order for a dozen Blue Points and they were put in front of me within a minute and a half. That is a genuinely bad sign! It means that they have been sitting somewhere, open, waiting for you to order them and that is how they tasted.

So what did you do? Did you send them back? Did you eat them? How do restaurants usually respond to this sort of complaint?

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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Anybody know how long they can be out of the water without losing this?

It depends on...

A) ...their host environment, whether it was calm water flats or active tidal water, which determine the muscle's ability to keep the shell tight.

B) Post-harvest abuse. Wide temperature swings freak them out during transportation and they will spoil faster.

Oysters are very resilient however. I did some experimenting as a full-time oyster shucker. I wanted to see how long they really did last and how flavor deteriorates. Among my findings:

- If they are kept away from freshwater, and flat, they hold on to their liqour for over a week. After about eight or nine days the flavour falls off and they start to dry up.

- The less one moves them, the longer they last.

- Keep temperature constant. 35 to 40*F is fine

Sometimes business was slow and I couldn't sell out my weekly inventory so I put a mess of them in 3 net bags and dropped them in a cove out here in Casco Bay to see how long they would last. I was aware that the salt/fresh water ratio was very different than the rafts they grew on in the Damariscotta River, but I was curious anyway (BTW: I never offered these for sale and continued buying weekly from my certified supplier).

I checked on them every couple of days and the next weekend opened a few. They were pretty good but saltier. Might make a good stew I thought. The next week I returned to my stash and found all the oysters in the big bag had died because I didn't leave them enough room to open their shells and "breathe". $100 down the drain... I left quickly because I had customers back at the marina (this is a mobile oyster bar on a lobsterboat) and when I returned next day, all three bags were gone, freakin' stolen! In their place was a string of lobster traps so I put together the chain of events in a hurry and moved on. :unsure:

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Aaaaahhh, JohnnyD!

You are being way to lenient!!!!

Oysters = Money to a restaurant. MONEY! Big MONEY! As a consumer it is imperative that we all hold the restaurants to standard. This is a product that can be the nectar of life or death.

This is serious. If you are in the oyster game your need to get oyster that are extremely fresh and from safe, inspected beds.....PERIOD.

On the consumer’s side, you need to pay the 'right price' and have the comfort that you are eating a safe product.

This is a very simple transaction between vendor - consumer! I am pissed that so many restaurants are not capable of maintaining the minimum standard needed to guarantee safety to their clients! I perused the local Health Board Website tonight and was appalled by how many seafood restaurants had been closed because of unsafe health practises!

If you are going to sell oysters --- bring them in everyday! Run out at the end of the night and guarantee freshness. Otherwise sell frozen crap and go to where you belong....mediocrity!

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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I am pissed that so many restaurants are not capable of maintaining the minimum standard needed to guarantee safety to their clients!

Hear, Hear! I started this little operation because I was dismayed at the lack of local respect for some damn fine indigenous oysters, so something had to be done.

Believe me, I went to great lengths to keep my oysters as fresh as possible. My un-sullied reputation as a purveyor of quality shellfish depended on it.

I fitted special trays in my coolers to keep them flat on beds of rock-weed. As I mentioned earlier, oysters in some parts of the world are more fragile, but Gulf of Maine cold-water oysters are quite hardy. The Aquaculturists assured me they would last two weeks but I ordered twice a week and usually sold out (if I ordered right) before the next pick-up. If I didn't sell out I made oyster stew and froze it for personal use. My menu board always had the date of harvest from the ticket next to the price.

I experimented above cuz I was curious. Even though this particular cove was not ideal for this particular species, the Belon oyster grows wild in and around the rocks nearby. The area is flushed by a nine foot tide twice daily and lobsters and scallops are harvested in the exact same spot. I know this because I used to dive for scallops right there and I know the underwater landscape well.

I also invited the State health inspector down to the boat at the beginning of each season for a look. She was surprised that anyone would actually call her in to inspect their facility but I knew a certificate from the State would boost customer confidence. She also likes oysters, and brought the family down to the marina I was berthed to slurp a few cold ones. Is that testimony or what?!

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I appreciate your professionalism and your technique. In short, I did not mean to jump down your throat...

My only point was that oysters should only be consumed in restaurants that are serious about the product. The product needs to be fresh, daily (or at least every three days). Too many restaurants are using oysters as a cash grab without fulfilling their obligations to the customers safety.

After reading your posts I would eat your oysters...unfortunately that is hard for me to say about most restaurants on the west coast.

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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Too many restaurants are using oysters as a cash grab without fulfilling their obligations to the customers safety.

You know, after almost a year of shucking oysters as a college student the manager confessed to me while we enjoyed a beer after a particularly busy night that oysters were, by themselves, one of the biggest losers on the menu. By then I had an outsized passion for the damn things and was horrified. He explained that their primary purpose was to boost liquor sales, which they did, and that was why I still had a job.

Since then, I've heard the same strategy from bar owners mostly, but the quality of the shellfish suffers mightily. The seafood restaurants that offer oysters are a notch better, but I hate being handed a half-dozen mangled oysters on their side, swimming in bits of shell. If a place is going to offer oysters, don't hand the order to a dishwasher because the garde manger doesn't have time.

So as an app in a seafood place of reasonable repute, I can see a margin on the plus side. In a busy outdoor bar by a marina or downtown: you better watch out! :hmmm:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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About the only place I eat raw oysters is at Acme in New Orleans. At wierd off-peak hours, it's easy to find a seat at the bar. If you're lucky. I'm down there often enough to get my fix. After reading Robb Walsh's article, I'm going to be interested in trying to note a difference in taste between Summer and Winter. Not sure my "taste memory" will last that long, unfortunately.

I have friends who almost always order oysters-on-the-half-shell at steakhouses here in Nashville, which seems like a sketchy proposition at best.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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The very redoubtable johnnyd has guided me providentially to this forum where I can confess to operating a very mediocre oyster bar in Los Angeles some years ago. We sold oysters (and other things) in the food court of a shopping mall; mostly flabby so-called apalachicolas and other fair-weather gulf varieties that were the seafood equivalent of pillow stuffing. I don't think we endangered anyone's health, but neither did we challenge their palates.

I found, like johnnyd, that the oysters were OK for 5 or 6 days. We never pre-opened them, but that was because we were afraid they wouldn't sell at all. We threw out a lot oysters before we closed down that part of the operation.

As johnnyd's boss maintained, we never made money on that part anyhow, though it was my favorite part of the operation while it lasted. And before you ask, we tried some east coast and other varietals, including neat little steely Olympias from Puget Sound I think, but just couldn't build up the market. It broke my heart to throw out oysters that good.

These days, I mostly buy oysters to rockefellerize them in some way (I like spinach and oysters) but if they have that nice crystalline aspect when I open them, straight ahead on the half shell, over the sink if possible, is still the very best way to imbibe IMHO. But I don't get my hopes up till I see the goods.

I almost never order oysters on the half shell in a restaurant unless I get some kind of wicked karmic seafood zing from the general setting. I was in the Haven restaurant on Vinalhaven Island in Penobscot Bay, ME, a few weeks ago when the buzz did settle on me, and so I ordered a half dozen fished out of North Haven Island, a reclusive millionaire's summer paradise just a long swim away.

I'd say these were Belon style if I remember right, smallish and rounded with deeply grooved shells, and it was like eating my very best memory of ice-cold ocean on a hot day. Darn! Those were good oysters.

I have got to get me to Portland, ME to buy some of those Damariscottas johnnyd says are the best. If anyone else knows of an extra-good source between there and, say, Boston, I'd be a grateful wretch. Or - hey, can you get them in Damariscotta? That's a little under two hours from where I live.

Thanks for listening,

L. Rap

Blog and recipes at: Eating Away

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

--Wallace Stevens

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So, I do not get it. Are you guys/girls...who are obviously industry people saying it is not safe to eat oysters in restaurant? Does this include cooked oysters?

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art La Rochefoucauld

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So, I do not get it. Are you guys/girls...who are obviously industry people saying it is not safe to eat oysters in restaurant? Does this include cooked oysters?

I'm not in the industry. My opinion is it's not safe to eat raw oysters from certain places - and certain people (people who are old, ill, immunocompomised, etc.) shouldn't eat raw oysters at all. At least here in Florida - all stores and restaurants which sell raw oysters have printed warnings about eating them. Robyn

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So, I do not get it. Are you guys/girls...who are obviously industry people saying it is not safe to eat oysters in restaurant? Does this include cooked oysters?

i'm of the opinion that the warnings in general are overrated. egullet fav (and mine) bourdain claims that you shouldn't order fish on monday. while i wouldn't necessarily order fish at an irish pub on a monday, i don't find this guideline very applicable at most places i eat (and i'd imagine most places that most semi-discerning diners frequent). same with oysters and shellfish. although i should add that i had a dozen oysters at a reasonably well-respected seafood restaurant in NYC tonight and the 11th one was clearly fucked. i had to run to the restroom to get it out of my mouth. and hey, it was tuesday. :shock: i'll post back to this thread if anything, um, transpires.

and i'd certainly not eat raw shellfish if i had a compromised immune system. but that's pretty basic knowledge.

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As I type this I am patting myself on the back for my "devil may care" lifestyle.

I enjoyed a dozen on the half shell and backed it up with a delicious oyster poboy tonight at the World Famous Acme Oyster House.

Hopefully I will wake up in the morning, but if I don't I will have eaten a last meal that left me feeling completely satisfied.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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although i should add that i had a dozen oysters at a reasonably well-respected seafood restaurant in NYC tonight and the 11th one was clearly fucked.

Tommy, this is totally unacceptable. That oyster should not have made it past the shuckers knife/nose and on to your plate. If I had served a "mudder" among a good dozen and the order left the kitchen with my blessing I would have been fired on the spot. Let this "reasonably well-respected" place know that they are on notice, big time, cuz Chef Fowke and JohnnyD are coming down to kick some numbskulled new yorkah shuckers sorry ass. :angry::wacko::huh: Oh, and the manager too...

But seriously, trust restaurants with oysters? It's a crapshoot. Mayhew Man and I live in oyster country and would think nothing of a half-rack with a beer any day of the week.

I offer this advice: When ordering oysters, make absolutely clear to the server that if the oysters arrive in any way other than your personal standard, they will be refused.

If they arrive mangled, and the liquor is clear, the shucker is inexperienced and that liquid is water. Oyster liquor should be slightly opaque. Send it back. While the server is there, lift one oyster to your nose and sniff, only the faint scent of the briny deep should be present, not fish-fry odor. If so, send it back. Color and plumpness of the meats are important too, but vary by region and season so it's not a sure guage. Some early summer oysters are a gray-shade and translucent, which I don't care for but others prefer or even call the best they've had. Go figure. The farther away you are from the coast, the more one should be careful.

Maybe it's not too much of a stretch to deem the American Oyster our version of Fugu?!?! :laugh:

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnny d, i think i'll take your advice and give oysters a little sniff from here on in. i'm not sure that the bad one was throwing off enough odor to tip off a shucker. but i might have been able to tell before i put in my hopper had i given it a sniff.

there's nothing quite as magical as an oyster. and there's nothing more disgusting than a bad oyster. the disparity is enormous.

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