Oysters are sexy.How could Georgia O’Keefe miss the inspiration? Orchids and oysters. We get it. Amy Reily makes a living writing about sexy foods and oysters are at or near the top of her list [ed. Amy blows away the competition in the sexy food and wine grouping]. I found myself in splendid company thick and tasty as a miyagi oyster. The event was the 19th Annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition sponsored by Taylor Fish Farms in Washington. The gig is more than just promoting the consumption of oysters. It is also about pairing oysters with domestic white wines. Jon Rowley is the architect of this two decade long “competition.” Longevity is a strong marker for interest but not always for quality which is best evaluated with a hands-on evidence based participation observation. This tasting hit both marks.
We arrived at the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles at 3:00 sharp, chose a solitary table with 20 empty glasses, and waited for the glitterati to arrive. No disappointments there. Mary Sue Miliken – highly respected cute-as-a-button and sweeeter-than-honey LA food entrepreneur – sat down in an adjacent booth. LA food critic Jonathan Gold sat a few tables across. Apologies in advance for anyone not mentioned. The A-list food writers and job creators was fun. However, for tBoW the matching exercise was quite serious.
Jon officially opened the tasting with a quote from A Moveable Feast which is a collection of unpublished essays published posthumously. In one of the essays he describes chowing down on oysters, slowly, carefully, noting each nuance. For Hemingway the experience is, of course, transcendent. The urge to wonder what further stimulation awaits when pairing the slimy critters with wine seems obvious, no?
We are not strangers to oysters. In fact we love them. Acme Oyster in Nawlins is a must stop when in town. No trip to Seattle is complete without multi-raw dining. We once ate 5 dozen on a beach in Colombia… with another couple. So this was bound to be a treat.
A method was advanced. Chew the oyster first filling mouth with sea-borne flavors. Oysters are no more all alike than are acidic white wines that keep them company. Here come the platters. The first flight of glasses get three-finger fills. Generous. Sniffing before sipping is discouraged. No problem. tBoW powered through each flight directly, chewing and tasting his wine through all 20 wines. In fact, the kumamoto ersters were so delicious we polished off another half dozen for good measure. Forget about Honey Boo Boo. Oyster Boy below knows how to take down a slimy delight then pick thru the detritus for bits n’ pieces.
The kumamoto oyster is briny with a starchy texture and flavor. Each wine was bagged and tagged with a unique letter. Part of the deal is to see how well my oyster & wine palate matches with the other judges. The winning wines are announced but not in ranked order which is certainly the right decision given there is really no quantifiable argument. The only competition that truly matters is how many judges matched winning wines. A return invite could hinge on this outcome.
The tasting takes place in three cities – LA, SF and Seattle. Scores from all three tastings are combined. One LA judge and two San Fran judges matched 8 of the 10 winners. Jon Rowley points out no one has ever matched all 10. I gotta think 8 is pretty dang good. tBoW matched 3 of the top 10 wines which was the lowest matches among the judges. Gratefully, there were two others on the LA judging panel with similarly idiosyncratic palates. I found one pairing elicited a dry gin martini. Four of the top 10 wines were among my lowest ranked. Winning varietals included Sauvignon Blanc (6), Chenin Blanc (2), one Pinot Gris and one Riesling. Wineries represented California, Washington and Oregon.
All I know is this. After all the chewing and coating my mouth, then sipping on wines and spitting, and not taking one single sniff ever, I was left with a profound hunger for sourdough bread. Apparently this is something akin to how the Irish consume oysters. I will stand on Irish tradition any day except when it comes to religion. And Amy Reily walking away in heels should be available on video.
This was a wonderful affair which I hope to repeat. There are a couple oyster bars in LA that I plan to visit including L&E Oyster Bar in Sliverlake and Blue Plate in Santa Monica. The L&E GM was the 8-match dude in our group. It was all over much too soon.
Could be another match for oysters is Blue öyster Cult. Goes with slurpin’ n’ sex, no?