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: Fishers Island Sound, Mystic, Connecticut
Credit: Indian Creek
Taste: "Full, plump meat, medium brine," says Daffin, "with a sweet, clean finish."
Why they're special: Mystics are known for their distinctive white-and-green ridged shells and round meat. Like most Northeast oysters, Mystics are best September to winter, as they fatten up for the cold (by mid-winter, their meat gets leaner), and again from April to early June as they prepare for spawning.
Order from: Connecticut Cultured Oysters ships direct in winter; check site for retailers [$80 for 50, shipping included; ct-oysters.com]