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: Southern Puget Sound, Washington
Credit: Indian Creek
Taste: "Full, plump meat with light brine and a creamy, sweet finish," says Daffin.
Why they're special: From Washington's most hallowed oyster-growing ground, Tottens thrive in deeper water thick with algae, a good 200 miles from the ocean, meaning there's less salt in the water (and in the resulting rich meat). "It's actually an East Coast oyster that was moved to the West Coast," Daffin says. "It's bigger than most West Coast oysters."
Order from: Taylor Shellfish Farms [$9 per dozen; taylorshellfishfarms.com]