Even more than wine and cheese, oysters draw their flavor from their environment. "The same oyster will taste completely different depending on where it grows, tidal flow, water salinity, and food source," says Robert Daffin, who shucked his first oyster at age eight and has won shucking championships in Alabama, Louisiana, and his native Florida. The 200 different North American appellations (all high in zinc, the source of oysters' legendary aphrodisiac power) are a testament to that varied environment. "I get people who say they only want West or East Coast oysters," Daffin says. "Personally, I like to try everything." Here are his top six.
Grown in: Apalachicola Bay in the Florida panhandle.
Credit: Indian Creek
Taste: "Cold-water oysters store more sugar and fat in their meat," says Daffin. "These have a clean finish: very briny, big, and meaty."
Why they're special: Some people are leery of warm-water oysters. "It comes from the myth that you should eat oysters only in months with an R, when the water temperature is so cold bacteria doesn't grow," Daffin says. "Nowadays they clean them carefully so they're safe year-round." And consistently meaty.
Order from: Sam Rust Seafood in Virginia [$30 for 100; samrust.com]