The Battle of the Oysters

BPS17 is slowly coming to a close, and while the science has been great and exciting so far, the food scene has been even better! Before coming, I had a list of food I knew I had to try down here: beignets, char-grilled oysters, crawfish étouffée, hush puppies, jambalaya, muffalettas, hurricanes (not technically food, but still), etc. I’m happy to say, that I have tried all of them since Friday. I actually think by the end of the day Saturday I tried them all. Every day thus far, I’ve had some form of oysters (mostly some form of charred oysters). With only a day left of BPS, I wanted to inform all of you where I’ve had oysters, along with the experience of getting them. I’m a self-described food connoisseur (my friends and my mom agree), so my advice is pretty trustworthy.

Friday Night

After landing and finding my hotel, I went to the French Quarter and met up with Alfredo Caro and his friend, Mariano Dellarole, who were already at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. When I sat down, Alfredo said that they had already ordered a dozen char-grilled oysters. I replied with an ecstatic, “Awesome!” However, deep down inside, I was not excited. The first and only other time I had oysters was in Virginia Beach in high school. I remember picking out oysters Rockefeller, since I loved seafood and thought that I’d naturally enjoy them. I also remember tasting them, immediately regretting getting them, and remembered every other poor choice I made in life. Suffice to say, I was not looking forward to the oysters. However, my friends back home in Philly know that my stance on food is, “Yes!” So, in order to not seem rude and to not break my own code, I decided to just try one. When they came out, all 12 oysters were arranged around a large chunk of bread, swimming in a sea of butter (pictured above). I picked the oyster closest to me to try. And that oyster changed my life. I believe in oysters now. That oyster was delicious, juicy, and exquisite. I’d love to go into more descriptions of how it tasted, but I just can’t. No description could ever give that oyster justice. I never even knew I could love oysters that much. I had three more by the way, each one just as beautiful as the first. But that first oyster will always be special to me. I also ended up getting blackened redfish with crawfish étouffée as well. Also delicious, but that oyster will forever be king.

Saturday Lunch

Before my subgroup session started, I bumped into two other students from my department, Michael Woody and Betsy McIntosh. We waltzed over to Galliano Restaurant, a Cajun eatery not too far from the Convention Center. I was pretty hungry, since all I had to eat so far that day were beignets and a few sips of café au lait (from Café du Monde, and yes, they were delicious. I also am in love with beignets, but remember, this post is about oysters, so let’s stay focused!). After we got our menus, guess what the first thing I saw on the menu was (after the first four pages of drinks)? Oysters. Char-grilled oysters. Let’s be honest. I still had that oyster from Felix’s on my mind, so I wanted to get some more. Our waiter first brought out hush puppies which were devoured within a couple minutes by our table. Finally, my oysters came out, beautifully arranged on a bed of salt, with bread and lemon slices in the center. The oysters were topped with the Chef’s Special Sauce. I don’t have a clue what was in the sauce, but it is quite tasty. A few splashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce made it even better. Overall, these oysters were also delicious.

Sunday Dinner

After another full day of science, I went out to dinner with Betsy and my friend Mara Olenick (also from my department), who had been sick since she landed in New Orleans. She’d really eaten only crackers for the first few days, so she was looking forward to having real food. We went to Mulate’s for dinner, where every night at 7 PM, they have live zydeco music. I decided to order Cajun smoked oysters along with crawfish étouffée. The oysters were shucked and sautéed in cayenne garlic parmesan butter. It was good, but I actually preferred the crawfish étouffée over the oysters. I also got to try some of Betsy’s stuffed crab platter, which was also very delicious.

Monday Dinner

Monday night, before the National Lecture, Mara and I went to Drago’s Seafood Restaurant. Earlier this month, the co-founder, Drago Cvitanovich, passed away at the age of 94, who was beloved by the community. Drago’s is famous for its charbroiled oysters, known as the “Single Best Bite of Food in New Orleans.” I was contemplating between ordering a half dozen or a dozen oysters, but Mara told me to follow my heart, so I ordered the dozen. I also ordered a side of red beans and rice, which is apparently a local custom to eat on Mondays. When our waiter brought out the oysters, I instantly was reminded about my time at Felix’s. These oysters too were swimming in a sea of butter, with two huge chunks of bread on the side you could use for dipping into the butter once you were done. These oysters were almost as good as the ones at Felix’s. Overall, I was very delighted with the charbroiled oysters, and doubly thankful for ordering a dozen rather than just a half dozen.

So, four oyster feasts in, I can say I’ve had a great tasting of different oysters. However, if you only have time for one oyster feast, I would highly recommend Felix’s. It’s out in the French Quarter, but it is worth the hike. It isn’t too crowded, prices are great, and it’s where I learned to believe in oysters. Maybe I’m just biased, but we all know the saying, “You will always remember your first love.” I agree, just except in this case, your first love for an oyster.

Also, I just wanted to take the time to wish my mom a Happy Valentine’s Day, who has been reading my blog posts every day!

Take it easy in the Big Easy,

Martin

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