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: Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island
Credit: Indian Creek
Taste: "Crisp and light, pretty briny, with very delicate meat," Daffin says. "A great beginner oyster."
Why they're special: Harvested in the cold waters of northwest PEI (even when the bay is covered in ice), Indian Creeks can take four to seven years to reach mature size. Thanks to local regulations, all wild Malpeques have to be harvested the traditional way: from a small boat called a dory, by hand with long tongs.
Order from: The exclusive seller is J.P.'s Shellfish [only sells direct to your local distributor; jpshellfish.com]