If you’re looking for a reason to shellebrate— NC Oyster Week has officially begun. That also signals the start of our state’s oyster season, which runs from mid-October through the end of March.
Though bivalves in northern spots like Maine and Massachusetts are usually awash in the spotlight, the Cacklacky coast has pearls of its own. In fact, NC even has its own oyster trail, where hundreds of varietals of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) are represented.
To learn more about the wide world of NC oysters, we spoke with Will Cisa, Executive Chef of Jettie Rae’s. Here are a few varietals he recommends:
- SageWave, Mera Brothers | “These green-gill oysters are fantastic, with a lot of cucumber and vegetal notes,” says Cisa. “They taste like that feeling when you’re at the beach and just put your head in the ocean.”
- Tarheel Tiderunners, Locals Seafood | These briny, buttery, and meaty oysters are grown in the Stump Sound and are available year-round.
- Carolina Dream, Locals Seafood | These medium-sized shells have a clean, grassy flavor with a sweet finish.
He also recommends any oysters from Crystal Coast.
Where to find oysters
Now you know what to look for when you’re at one of these five oyster hot spots.
- Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, 143 Charlotte St.
- Holeman & Finch, 77 Biltmore Ave.
- Oyster House Brewing Co., 625 Haywood St.
- The Lobster Trap, 35 Patton Ave.
- Mother Ocean Seafood Market, 640 Merrimon Ave.
How to eat them
If you’ve never had a raw oyster before, Cisa recommends starting with a mild varietal: “Get a nice, cleanly shucked oyster, take the whole shell, and tip it your mouth.” Chewing a few times (rather than slurping), is also recommended, so you can better appreciate the flavors.
Cisa’s favorite way to eat oysters is with “just a little bit of lemon.” But he supports other additions like horseradish, cocktail sauce, mignonette, hot sauce, and crackers, too.
“When you’re sitting with a platter of 18 oysters, it’s nice to have a little variation with the flavors,” he says.