Two years ago, we were in Burgundy visiting our favorite wineries, spoiling ourselves with the wines and foods from this fabulous gourmet region. Before returning to Hong Kong, we continued southwards and spent several days in Lyon, the food capital of the world.
Finishing our hunt for the best chocolatiers in town, we passed by Les Halles de Lyon, the local food market. Wandering like a kid inside, I passed by Merle, a casual diner, and got really attracted by the bath of oysters lying on the ice outside the shop. While dinner only another hour, I could resist no more as an oyster fan. We sat down and followed the waiter’s recommendation for an oyster platter.
Among all, Speciales Gillardeau No. 3 stood out. Rich, creamy, savior, just divine! It truly reminds me of the nice white Burgundy I just had the day before. I went to do more research and found out that Gillardeau is actually the name of the family which founded this oyster farming business in 1890s (not a species or name of a bay or a farm). They were dedicated to produce the finest oysters in the world, just like those lovely domaines in Burgundy. Gillardeau family has indeed reached to the top and their oysters are generally referred as the “Rolls-Royce” of oysters; producing unparalleled quality oysters just like what Hermes achieves for mens neckties. Guess we shall also call it the DRC or Lafite of oysters!
What wine did we have? A simple Chardonnay. In fact, Chablis, Chardonnay from colder climate and Champagne would all fit well with oysters. Many say Chablis and oyster is the perfect couple. However, try the village level Chablis, the premier/grand cru Chablis are generally aged in new oak for longer period of time and the flavors might not complement oysters as well. Similarly, chardonnays from hotter climates could be too powerful. Light, simple Champagne would match well.
Conventional wisdom (or a myth some would think) has it that in the months with the “r” in their names are great time for oysters, i.e. September – April. This is generally true for oysters from Northern hemisphere. The scientific understanding is that when cold weather comes and water temperatures fall, the oyster firms up from its summer softness, thus would taste better. September could actually be too early (especially given global warming). By the same logic, oysters from Southern hemisphere can be quite nice in the summer time of Hong Kong.
By the way, sometimes for French oysters, you would find a No.X after the name (e.g. Gillardeau No. 3, Fine de Claire No.1, etc.) The number refers to the size/weight of the oyster - the smaller the number, the larger the size. Remember, size is not all that matters. Taste and texture actually differ a lot. Try a variety and see what really appeals to you.When you get a chance, enjoy the oysters while they are prime… and pair with our wines!