Since our document is delayed and we are 3 weeks in La Rochelle, we thought it would be a good idea to make a post about oysters!
We chose a video that gives a good idea of a local oyster farmer in the region of Arcachon, 250km south of La Rochelle. The French seem to bring pleasure in everything they do, especially when dealing with food.
The first thing we did when we arrived in France was to sit in a restaurant and order oysters. And since then, we've started asking people and researching on how to choose them, where the best producers are and that sort of thing.
First thing we learned was about their size. There are 6 different sizes, the smaller the fatter. For example:
# 5 - is the thinnest, weighing approx. 40g
# 4, 3, 2 - are the most common in the markets, medium size but very juicy.
# 1 - large, already weighing approx. 90g
# 0 - the largest, weighing approx. 100g
# 3 has become our favorite, and apparently for most people.
This picture was taken in the restaurant Le Comptoir Saoufé, in the old center of La Rochelle. The first row of oysters (from left to right) was a Local production of size # 2. the second one was a Gillardeau of # 3. And the third was from local islands, too, of # 3.
Among the local ones we liked # 2 the most. Gillardeau, on the other hand, tasted more delicate, purer.
* Gillardeau is such a good oyster producer that they claim to be the "rolls royces" of them. They spend their first 2 years in the region of Normandy or County Cork (in Ireland) and then are transferred to Marenne-Oleron (near la rochelle) to feed on a specific plankton that will give life to its flavor.
Oysters change in taste, in addition to their size, also by the region they are created in. It takes about 4 years to reach its maturity for consumption. and are transported from one place to another depending on their stage of development.
Regions in France:
Normandy - located in the north of France, this region produces well-appreciated oysters. They are created in deeper waters because they believe that the purest sea water enhances their characteristic flavor.
Brittany - south of Normandy, still in the northwestern part of France, has a large reputation for producing flat oysters, known as "Belon". They are created in the shadows of Mont-Saint-Michel and experience one of the largest tide variations in the world.
Vendée - south of Brittany, just above where we are (La Rochelle), oysters are produced in the Bay of Bourgneuf for many generations, and are appreciated for their firm and "crispy" flesh.
Charente - Maritime - is where we are, at the time of this post, near the town of Bordeaux. Oysters here go through a ripening process that defines their qualities and a rich taste that stays in our mouths for longer. There are the "Fines Claires", and the "Pousses Claires". The oysters of the islands (Ile de Ré and Ile de Oléron) carry a fresh sea flavor.
Arcachon (Aquitaine) - The region that is most famous for its oyster production in France. Its flavor is delicate and of high quality due to the planktons that they consume. There are those of Cap-Ferret, with aromas of vegetables and citrus fruits, and those of Île aux Oiseaux, with mineral aromas and loaded with history.
Mediterraneo - Since the tide variation is lower in the Mediterranean, the oyster cubs are glued one by one on a rope and then taken to the water to grow, Its taste is a bit nutty and are pretty delicate.
We have found that the best sauce for oysters are Sicilian lemon, and that's it! A good bread with butter to go with its also a good choice.