Some good news today from France: James C. is on the Atlantic coast, and today he tried the very best oysters in all of France, the Marennes-d’Olérons, which are harvested locally. He writes:
Praise be to Him who works miracles in shells.
What can I say? Breathtakingly intense briny magnificence. So cold and clean on the palate! Flesh so delicate I had the sensation of it melting on my tongue.
The best! Yes, you were right.
La Rochelle, France. The Ile d’Oléron is just off the coast. I’m sitting outside right by the water of the old port, still guarded after 700 years by three great stone towers and lighthouses. Great little chef-owned bistro, everything terroir (or shall I say ‘mer-oir’ with the marvellous local seafood on offer?) and so reasonable (carafe of wine €3.90, two course menu €13.40, six fine de claire huîtres €9, €15 for twelve)—provincial France, oh how I love thee.
With the oysters I had a seafood soup as a starter and something called suprême de pintade. Guinea fowl in a wonderful sauce made with wine and cagouilles (the local name for escargots, I discovered later). The rice had a delightful creaminess and was perfect for soaking up every last bit of the sauce.
If you are in Paris, you may eat Marennes-d’Olérons to your heart’s content at Huitrerie Régis, on the rue de Montfaucon. They are, shall we say, rather more expensive in the capital than at the source. But truly one of the great gustatory experiences available in the world. If I had the money, I would take the next plane to Paris, go pray for that great city and its people at the tomb of Ste-Genevieve, then make my way up the Bd St-Germain toward Régis, and eat three dozen, downing them with a bottle of cold, crisp Muscadet.