One of the southern most fingers of Washington State's Puget Sound, the 9 mile long Totten Inlet's algae rich waters produce bountiful sea-life and are one of Washington's most productive oyster waters. The inlet's waters - up to 90 feet deep in places - have a strong sea character but mudflat algae from the Little Skookum inlet slightly soften the sea character. Totten Inlets tides are small to medium but the narrow channels of the adjacent inlets produce swift currents. The bottom is sand and mud mixed with gravel. The salinity if full oceanic, ranging from 2.8% to 3.5%.
After their stint in a hatchery, Totten Inlet Oysters (Pacific Oysters - Carssostrea gigas) grow in mesh bags staked to the beach. The bags protect the oysters from predators and prevent the currents and rough waters from washing them down the beach. The algae-rich waters encourage the oysters to grow fat, producing lots of glycogen, giving the oyster a touch of sweetness. Before harvest the growers dump the bag on the beach to harden the shells.
My Totten Inlets are small 2 - 2.5" and look like rugged and rustic. They have an oval to tear drop shape and when dry, the caps have and ashen color and texture with green algae marking the lips. The cups are deep and have a rugged Jurassic look. The meat ranges from very pale greyish tan to a darker, greenish tan. The meat to shell ratio ranges from 30% to 95% with the liquor ranging from 5% to 15%. The aroma combines earthiness, woods and woodiness with seabreeze, light tidal pool and ocean spray with hints of floral. The liquor is briny and celery shows up initially gradually replaced by a meatier flavor. Initially the meat tastes like the brine but biting down releases a mild sweetness that evokes hints of fruit. The flesh is creamy, crunchy, meaty, salty, and brothy and as it moves through your mouth there is a seaweed flavor with notes vascilating between celery and lovage. There is some cucumber in the finish and a light dose of mineral and a hint of melon. The flesh is not at all membraneous or gristley.
I am eating these with a Waldmann Brewery Schockoladeweizen - a dark German weizen with chocolate. The chocolate accents more than it dominates allowing the caramel and wheat malt flavors to come through. The beer has some mild astringent notes on the finish that the oyster's mineralness highlights. The oyster's meaty brothy briney flesh brings out the caramel and chocolate notes in the beer and help you understand why salted caramels are so popular. The beer is all you need to pair with the oyster because its maltiness and sugar flavors give the oyster what it needs to shine. I rate the oyster and the pairing 90. I would like to try these oysters with meads of various sweetness, a Belgin IPA, malt forward beers, a Norman cider or a perry.