I need to admit something. I am not a seafood lover at heart. In fact, it is my wife who likes seafood the most. So it was somewhat unfair that I was chosen to judge the 2012 PEI Oyster Grower of the Year competition and not her. But such is the life of a media personality like me. We are often called to a higher purpose and on this day I find myself sitting in a back room, being schooled in the finer things of oyster tasting with renowned Food Network star, Chef Michael Smith. Needless to say, like it or not necessarily, (the oysters I mean- Michael is a national treasure) we are having a blast!
Chef Michael Smith teaches me the finer points about PEI oysters
As it turns out, after consuming a dozen plus oysters over the course of an hour, I am learning a great deal about what defines good quality versus the best! In a random taste test, or in this case slurp fest, Chef Michael instructs me on exactly what to look for. Soon we are joined by oyster expert Chef Alain Bosse and the competition is underway.
The first oyster is somewhat brackish; my tongue explodes with the unmistakeable taste of saltwater. A few bites in and I am sensing the flavour of metal, something Chef Michael says is less desirable. The next oyster is completely different. The liquid is similar, but the oyster itself is sweet with no lingering aftertaste. Each of us tastes 8 oysters in total with 2 additional do-overs and the top three consumed at least one more time to find the winner.
Oysters on ice- yummy!
In the process of the competition, I am reminded about the many things PEI is famous for; potatoes, farm fresh food stands, tuna, mussels, lobster and, of course, oysters. It was here, on this small sandbar in the sea, that Prince William and Kate Middleton first visited after their wedding to enjoy the best the island has to offer. One of the local foods they relished were the fresh oysters from Raspberry Point Oysters, a place we will visit later in the week. If it is good enough for a Prince and his lady, how could it not be perfect for me?
Growing potatoes is a form of art on PEI
As a judge, I am required to be impartial. Putting my own preconceived ideas aside about eating oysters, I learned on this day I actually really do like the taste. If that isn’t enough of a revelation, later in the week I learn how good mussels are as well. And, at Lot 30 Restaurant, my wife and I dine on fresh tuna; some raw, some cooked. It too is amazing! What’s going on here? Am I being converted? Hmmm…?
I need to admit something here. I like seafood and for the most part shellfish.
Now, pass the PEI potatoes, pour me a little potato vodka brewed by my new friends at Prince Edward Island Distillery and let’s shuck some oysters. It’s a good day here on the island, even if I am “from away”.
The Visser family shows their pride and joy
How to farm Raspberry Point Oysters 1
How to farm Raspberry Point Oysters 2
Friends enjoying the oyster farm tour