Some of our regulars are still unaware that we have some of the most amazing FRESH oysters available on Thursday nights. And shucking each and every one of them is Dave Miss, who talks about oysters as though they were precious gems. Oysters as art? Maybe so. Read what he has to say about Widow’s Hole oysters and you can delight in the beauty of the outside and the delectable inside, as well.
What differentiates a good oyster from an amazing one?
The difference between a good oyster and an amazing one is taste. I mean taste as a balance between the salinity and the protein or “oysteryness.” Some oysters have a great protein taste but lack the complexity of minerality and a depth of salinity. Some Gulf Coast oysters are like this because the salinity of the Gulf is chemically different than that of the north Atlantic or even the Long Island Sound /Peconic Bay.
When did you first discover oysters and what was your impression of them as a food?
I started shucking oysters as a teen (16!) at the Chart House in Dobbs Ferry, NY, as my first job. I had seen them before and never tried them. Subsequently I’ve opened a lot of them—and clams, too—but didn’t really learn a lot about them. I’ve learned how to produce a lot of appetizers in a short amount of time and try to charm people with technique sitting two feet away from me at an open oyster bar.
As a food, I was amazed of the visceral reaction that people had to oysters. It was fascinating to watch people’s faces as they consumed them. People that love oysters, really love oysters. I had never seen anyone react to food in this way, so the mystery of what oysters are developed in my mind in 1986.
You’ve noted that Widow’s Hole oysters are unique, especially in that their shells are remarkable. How so? Can you explain what makes Widow’s Hole oysters so great?
Widow’s Hole oysters have an amazing balance between salinity, protein (meatiness) and “oysterness.” The minerality and salt are bright and tangy. This is, from what I’ve read, coming from the uniqueness of where the oysters are grown in the Peconic Bay in Greenport Harbor. The oysters, which can pump up to 48 gallons of water in 24 hours, pick up on the bottleneck of Greenport Harbor
nutrients that wash over them.
Secondly, the freshness of the oysters is amazing. When you spend a lot of time with oysters, as I have and do now, you see other wildlife with them. When I open a bag of Widow’s Hole, the residual life that’s with the oysters is phenomenal. I have never seen in all my years, live (live!) shrimp with a bushel of oysters, but yet with the Widow’s Hole they are there, as well as crabs and the other mollusks that cling to the shells. I believe the shiny circular shells on the oysters are a jingle clam; iridescent thin and beautiful. When they are on an oysters shell, you know that the oyster is super fresh because those little hangers on don’t stay attached after the oyster has been either in air for too long (or in a holding tank), and yet they are abundant on the Widow’s Hole oysters.
Why are oysters the perfect pub food?
Oysters are great as pub food for the same reason Greek women fed them to their men after they returned from a day of work. They are filling, delicious and good for you. They fill you up but don’t knock you out for the evening. And being mainly water, they don’t leave you stuffed and not able to delve into the finer appreciations of the evening (a.k.a. knocking boots).
As for beer recommendations with oysters, there are subtle beers to compliment with oysters. Widow’s Hole oysters are great alone, that is without even lemon or an acidic accessory like a mignonette to bring out the minerality. I would suggest any beer that has a clean finish and is not too hoppy, so kolsch, rye or even a lager. Some stouts are great too because of the clean finish and opposed minerality in taste. It’s a matter of preference and, really, quantity: a lot of oysters = a light dry beer that’s not too filling; a few oysters = a rich, diametrically opposite taste to the oyster as contrast.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about oysters and oyster shuckers?
Misconceptions about oystermen? Probably that we’re not hustling you. HA! At the end of the day the oysters should be eaten and enjoyed, and if you can share that with someone and see and encourage their conversion to the “Oh my goodness” moment that reflects what genius and luck have developed in those shells, you’ve done your job. Also, a few extra oysters as we say in Louisiana, a little lagniappe, or a little something extra, doesn’t hurt either.