French Kiss Oyster
French Kiss Oysters are an Atlantic Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) farmed in floating trays in New Brunswick's Miramichi Bay. They are farmed by the same people who farm Beausoleil oysters using the same methods but French Kiss Oysters are allowed to grow for a year or two longer. During the warmer months, the oysters are suspended floating bags just below the surface tossed about by the waves and tides and soaking up any warmth that the Canadian coastal waters have to offer. During the colder months they are dropped down nearer the bottom. The growers cut holes through the ice - which may get more than 5 feet thick - using chain saws to harvest the French Kiss Oysters during the winter. Periodically turning the bags over during the summer exposes the oysters to the air and sun helping to develop strong abductor muscles.
Miramichi Bay is a shallow, drowned river system, flooded by sea rise since the end of the last glaciation. It has an inner bay protected by a thin chain of barrier islands and an unprotected outer bay. The inner bay experiences high freshwater flows during the spring melt and low outflow and higher, warmer, saltier waters in the summer. Twice daily tides average 3 feet. The inner bay is a highly rich ecosystem. The oysters grown in the area between the inner and outer bay, benefiting from the nutrient rich waters, while the colder waters encourage them to grow fat and sweet.
French Kiss oysters are oval and average 3,5". Both the caps and cups have a clean polished look from being tossed about in floating bags. The caps are light brown to bone near the hinge and get progressively greener and greenish brown with some purple stripes radiating out it nears the edge. The are more polished bone in color and range from medium shallow to deep. The meat fills about 85% of the shell and the rest is liquor which fills the shell thanks due to the well developed abductor muscles keeping the shell tightly shut.
The aroma is earthy, salty and a little sweaty and does not have a distinct tidal basin smell. The liquor is salty - near sea water levels - but not extreme and it has some light brothy notes. The texture is exactly what you want - full-bodied, meaty, with a little crunch from the abductor, and no gristle or membranous quality. The texture reminds me of a medium rare grilled lamb chop. I am drinking a bottle of Apimed Trnava Mead using honey made from flowers. Its a Slovak mead packed with honey sweetness but balanced by added spices. The pairing is brilliant. The mead's sweetness and spiciness goes very well with the oyster's saltiness and helps bring out some pork and bacon notes and a hint of washed rind cheese. There is a hint of mint in there somewhere and I think it is coming from the oysters. The oysters are not as sea-weedy or tidal pool tasting as some oysters can get and this may be the impact of feeding off the nutrients of the Miramichi Bay rather than spending their lives filtering straight sea water. The oyster starts meaty and then it gets sweeter in the middle and dries a little in the finish and shows of some mineral notes and some salty broth and an astringent note. this pairing rates an A+ because neither the oyster nor the mead overwhelms the other. They both work nicely together and help bring out the other's flavors. Even alone the oysters would rate 95.