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Travel Tuesday

When my parents, brother and sister-in-law were in town over the holidays it was like getting to be a tourist in my own town & local area.  (not that I’ve even been living in the Comox Valley very long anyways, only having moved here a few months ago)  A few days before Christmas we drove along the coastal 19A Oceanside Route aka Old Island Highway to the Fanny Bay Government Wharf to look at the California Sea Lions and get oysters! Long before we got to the end of the wharf we could hear the colony of sea lions barking madly from atop the floating pontoon breakwaters just a few metres out in the water.

As my family were watching sea lions and I was somehow distracted by a school of pale jellyfish, a boat pulled in from Baynes Sound to unload bag after bag of fresh oysters onto the wharf.  I didn’t even know this but my Toronto foodie siblings inform me that Fanny Bay Oysters are some of the best there are, on the menu by name at some of Toronto’s top oyster restaurants.  According to The Oyster Guide,

Like wine, oysters draw their unique flavors from their environment. Oysters taste like the sea, but the sea tastes different in every bay. Today, there are at least 300 unique oyster appellations in North America, each producing distinct and often dazzling oysters.  Fanny Bays were one of the first BC oysters to become widely available, and they’re still considered the archetypal BC oyster—smooth, but with a pronounced cucumber finish. The town of Fanny Bay sits on Baynes Sound, but faced with a choice on an oyster list between a Baynes Sound and a Fanny Bay, which would you go for? The shells are beautifully fluted, as we expect for a tray-raised oyster. You never get a bad Fanny Bay. Somebody is practicing rigorous quality control in the Fanny Bay culling house.

Driving through the  coastal shore-hugging community on a quest for our own oysters we passed the commercial operator – 4th generation family owned Mac’s Oysters, operated by descendants of aquaculture pioneer Joseph McLellen since 1947 – to stop at Fanny Bay Oysters‘s retail store.  We brought our oysters home (see the recipe below) but if we were getting oysters for lunch – not far from the government wharf is the Fanny Bay Inn, which everyone around here calls the FBI.

oysters on salt

|| image by Paula Borowska || recipe by Eric Akis via Vancouver Sun ||

Iced oysters with dill and red pepper vinaigrette

2 tablespoons (30 mL) white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard

1/3 cup (80 mL) olive oil

2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped red bell pepper

1 teaspoon (5 mL) chopped fresh dill

½ teaspoon (2 mL) hot pepper sauce

Pinch sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

24 small, fresh oysters, scrubbed well

Place the vinegar and mustard in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the oil. Mix in the red pepper, dill, hot sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

Place an oyster on a slightly damp kitchen towel, cupped side down with the hinged end facing you. Hold it in place with another kitchen towel. Insert the point of your oyster knife into the hinge of the shells. Work the knife in ¼ inch (6 mm), then twist it to pry the shell open. Slide the knife across the top shell and remove the shell. Slide the knife under the oyster to detach it from the bottom shell. Remove any shell fragments. Place the oyster on a serving tray filled with crushed ice. Repeat with the remaining oysters. Spoon some vinaigrette on each oyster and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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