I love oysters, and it just feels so civilized to commence a meal with them as hors d’oeuvres. We started with one Fines de Claire n˚2, then moved on to the Spéciales de Claire n˚2. Let me start with a bit of explanation: Fines de Claire are considered Europe’s highest quality oysters. They’re raised in the Marennes-Oléron region in France in what are called claires, converted salt marches with a higher mineral content than normal, which imparts the signature green tinge to these oysters’ shell. Spéciales are Fines that are only available during autumn and winter, because they are kept in the claires for twice as long as the Fines with a maximum of 10 oysters per square meter (whereas the Fines de Claires are raised with a maximum of 20 oysters per square meter) and are thus the more refined, top-of-the-market oysters. The number that follows the names denotes the size, ranging from 1 (largest) to 6 (smallest); the lower the number, the pricier the oyster.
Both oysters were extremely fresh, but the Spéciales was fleshier, richer and brinier, so by comparison you can tell why the Spéciales are considered the cat’s meow. Tasting and comparing is always fun. The Fines de Claire was elegant, with a very delicate flavor and definitely of high quality but when compared to the Spéciales was slightly meager in texture. A great starter, the oysters really whet my appetite.