Tofino’s Clayoquot Oyster Festival begins its 20th anniversary on Thursday, November 17th. Hopefully you have already purchased your tickets as the event is already sold out.

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Tofino’s Clayoquot Oyster Festival begins its 20th anniversary on Thursday, November 17th. Hopefully you have already purchased your tickets as the event is already sold out.

You don’t, however, have to travel cross-island to Tofino to source a good selection of our world- famous oysters. If the oyster craving is upon you, let me recommend some fine local oyster shops, three of my favourite oyster recipes and wines that pair well with these classic oyster preparations.

Stop at Evening Cove Oysters on Stewart Avenue in Nanaimo. Their beach-cultured oysters grownon Salt Spring Island have excellent texture.
A beach-cultured oyster fights with the tides and learns how to clamp up tight and lock in its delicious nectar – a vital part of the oyster slurping experience.    

Try these oysters with a simple vinegar-based sauce known as a mignonette. Hint: Always try and keep as much precious nectar as possible in the shell when you shuck this tender oyster.

Bubbly wine pairs well with this simple dish. A good pick is Hungarian Grande Cuvee. Well priced at $11.99, this dry sparkling wine delivers fresh acidity anda bright-green apple flavour.

Parksville’s  French Creek Seafood almost always has Zen oysters. These delights from Denman Islandare raised in floating trays that are tumbled around and around in metal cages.

The tumbling encourages the oyster to grow a deep bottom shell. Thisbriny bivalve is a good contender for a simple oyster Rockefeller recipe, with room in the deep shell for spinach and sauce. The perfect wine to serve with oysters Rockefeller is a Chardonnay. Ravenswood produces a fine California Chardonnay for just $13.99. This wine offers a buttery texture that compliments the same slipperiness as you find in this oyster.

French Creek Seafood also stocks Satori oysters from Denman Island, a tiny but complicated oyster that is tray-grown, tumbled then finally transferred to the beach to develop its distinct flavour.  Satoris are excellent choice for Angels on Horseback(a paprika, parsley and chopped bacon oyster recipe), due to its small size.

Pair this dish with a juicy, fresh Pinot Noir like Hob Nob from France, another value pick at $14.99. The smoke from the bacon, the essence of ocean in the oyster and the ripe, red berry accents of the wine are a party on the tongue.

There is a specific reason I chose value-priced wines for the oysters. If we spend less on wine we can eat more oysters! At Lucky’s Liquor Store in Country Club Center a large selection of handpicked, good value wines help you free up that limited (sigh) oyster budget.
The colder winter months are premium times for eating oysters. In the summer months when oysters are reproducing they can get a mushy texture. Our island has a strong oyster industry and is world renowned for its oyster production. It boggles the mind how many varieties there are around Vancouver Island.

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