Yesterday, I ate my first raw oysters since a dinner platter worth of them gave me food poisoning
around a year ago. I am happy to report that nothing physically untoward has happened to me in the close to 28 hours since I caved in to a strong craving for that shellfish and went to Casa Fina
for a luxuriously delicious meal of half a dozen raw oysters (two American Kumamoto
, two Irish gigas
(the tastiest of the lot!) and two Scottish rock oysters
), two large Canadian whelks and a bowl of lobster bisque.
At the same time, however, I reckon that it will be a while before I partake of this fare again because, frankly, the price of oysters in Hong Kong is on the high side -- especially in relation to frankly better oyster meals I've had elsewhere in the world (as well as meals featuring other kind of good food to be had here in the Big Lychee).
Funnily enough, the top three raw oyster meals that I've had to date have been on the budget side. One of these was even completely free of charge -- courtesy of a friend of my father's who, on a visit to Penang from his native Australia, gifted us with a crate of raw oysters that was so large that my parents felt obliged to give away dozens to other friends because it was felt that my family couldn't possibly eat even one quarter, never mind all, of the gifted bivalves before they spoiled! (And for the record, I had at least two dozen of those critters on my own for dinner that night!!)
The other two raw oyster meals I recall most fondly took place over two consecutive evenings of a road trip I took with a friend one spring that took us from Philadelphia down to Beaufort, South Carolina
(where The Big Chill
was shot!) along a meandering route that saw us making sightseeing stops at places including Annapolis
(the capital of Maryland and home to the United States Naval Academy), Wilmington, North Carolina
(the very livable looking hometown of basketball legend Michael Jordan), New Bern, North Carolina
(where Pepsi Cola was invented), and Charleston
(the architecturally impressive South Carolina town that's home to The Citadel made infamous by Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline
While in North Carolina's Outer Banks
, we chanced upon a sea-side restaurant that was offering one dozen oysters on the half shell for US$6.99 (just a little more than the price of a single oyster
at Casa Fina!). Granted that this was close to a decade and a half ago but I'm sure you'd believe that even then, the price -- for what I presume were local and consequently very fresh oysters
-- represented quite the bargain!
Although I can no longer recall the name of the eatery in question, I definitely can remember how my friend and I proceeded to have two dozen oysters each
- washed down with a couple of Bloody Marys each -- the first night. The second night, we moderated ourselves -- and ordered just" one dozen oysters each along with a serving of clams (also being offered at a bargain price) that we individually clothed with a decadently buttery dip before consuming. And, yes, we washed it all down with some more Bloody Marys -- having decided that they were the perfect drinks to go with the seafood we feasted on.
While quantity is not the same as quality, I have to admit that my memory of other oyster consumption featuring fewer oysters pale compared to those three oyster feasts. Thinking some more, it's also a factor that on most other occasions, including dinners at ritzy restaurants in London (including Scott's in Mayfair
), oysters only have featured as appetizers rather than as the entire or even main course.
Then there are the times when some other things about the eatery I ate at stay more strongly in my memory than the taste of the oysters I had there. Specifically, when I dined at the Oyster House in Philadelphia
, I couldn't help but be aware that I was the only non-Caucasian -- and almost the only non-male -- customer in there. (However, my love of oysters is that strong that this didn't entirely put me off going there more than once when I lived in the City of Brotherly Shove. And, to be fair, I never felt like I was treated badly as a customer at that establishment.)
A question to those of you who have read this far down this entry: do you eat raw oysters? And either way, what's behind your decision? I ask because I've discovered over the years that oysters are one of those things that many people won't countenance eating even while others like me consider them a great delicacy. (At the same time, I have to admit that, even if given a chance, I don't think I'd want to eat these bivalves every day. Rather, I think they're one of those foods best reserved for rare occasions -- this way, I do treasure the opportunities to eat them (all the more)... especially if they don't make me sick after doing so! ;b)