“In this corner, defending the honor of East Coast oysters,” the ringmaster intoned, “are Beaver Tails from Rhode Island, and Fire Islands from Long Island.”
“And in that corner,” he continued, gesturing at the opposite corner, “are Meximotos from Mexico’s Baja peninsula, and Phantom Creeks from British Columbia.”
“Ha,” I snorted to my companions. “It figures that the West Coast oysters would both be from outside the United States.”
The “ring” was actually a square table with a red-checked cloth, and in the center sat a dozen shucked oysters on ice. The venue was the city’s most distinguished purveyor of raw oysters, Grand Central’s Oyster Bar. And my companions and I were indulging in a little eating game we like to call Oyster Smackdown. In this case, we’d pitted two types from each coast against each other to find out which coast would emerge the victor.
The oysters threw themselves into the middle of the ring, and the battle was joined.
In a split decision, the West Coast’s Phantom Islands won the contest, so the jeweled belt, at least temporarily, goes to Canada. In a postgame wrap-up, the shells still glistening empty before us, and our beers nearly finished, we examined our tasting notes.
The Beavertails — filthy jokes notwithstanding — were plump and pendulous, with a pronounced briny taste. They were our second favorite of the evening. The Fire Islands seemed more lumpy and rustic, and their misshapen shells even suggested a sort of unfinished quality. Meximotos were the odd men out, lying flat and black-edged against their shells, with a clean flavor but also a too-faint one. Phantom Islands burst with flavor, clear and cold and not very saline, with a texture firmer than the other varieties. Two of the three of us declared Phantom Islands the best, while one picked Beavertails.
Phantom Islands were thus certified to progress to the next level of competition.