"The Blue Pool oysters are from Hood Canal, grown in bags and tumbled clean. They're small, salty in the liquor, and briny in the meat. The Sweetwater are from Lopez Island, the Kusshi from Deep Bay, B.C., with long, deep shells and a delicate, clean flavor. With them, a bottle of white, a French petit Chablis, or a Pouilly Fume.
I am sitting one seat down from Ogg the Seattleite, watching him. He arrived a few minutes before I did and immediately entered into his oyster negotiations with the server. I watch him when his first tray arrives: eight rocks full of meat, displayed on a bed of ice and served with a little cup of champagne mignonette, a little cup of grated horseradish. He has chosen two each of Hama Hama, Blue Pool, Kusshi, and Kumamoto, and as the platter is set before him, he fusses--adjusting it into some kind of clock arrangement as the server gestures to each variety in turn.
When he eats, he closes his eyes. Sometimes he chews, sometimes only swallows. I pretend like I'm studying the menu, but really I'm watching Ogg--waiting to see which oyster affects him the most deeply, which seems to touch on whatever desperate hunger drove him into Ballard, to a restaurant named for a Lewis Carroll poem about the indiscriminate love of a Carpenter and a beachcombing Walrus for talking shellfish. But he seems to like them all, to have no particular preference. He eats his way through his platter in record time, slurping liquor and wiping his chin with a napkin, seeming none the worse for wear."
From this week's review of The Walrus and the Carpenter.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!" The Walrus did beseech. "A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, Along the briny beach: We cannot do with more than four, To give a hand to each."
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
That's just a little touch of the Lewis Carroll poem from which The Walrus and the Carpenter takes its name--a single stanza out of many, all having to do with a midnight dinner of gullible oysters, had along a moonlit beach.
And when it comes to the eating of oysters, there are few places in this city where it can be done better than among the Carpenters and the Walruses at this new-ish Ballard restaurant which exists just on the other side of the glass from Staple & Fancy. I have some issues with the rest of the menu--small plates all, and little snacks with which to chase the oysters--but the shellfish are lovely and fresh and given pride of place both on the menu and the curving bar behind which the cooks and shuckers work.
For all the details, you can check out the review when it hits the stands (and the internets) tomorrow. But in the meantime, if you are as serious about your oyster consumption as Carroll's mismatched pair, get thee down to the water right now--to Ballard and the bar at The Walrus and the Carpenter. Arrive early. Arrive hungry. And try not to cry when they're all gone.
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