If you are a shellfish enthusiast, chances are you have heard that you should only be ordering oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops (anything in the mollusk family) in months that contain the letter R. Fortunately for us, the R months are back.
Although not as important of a rule as it once was, there are substantial reasons why you still should focus your mollusk intake to the non-summer months. The most important being that these creatures reproduce in the warmer water temps brought on by the summer months. When shellfish spawn, their meat isn’t as firm and often has off flavors leading to a sub-par experience. Besides flavor issues, there were also health concerns with eating shellfish in the summer. Warmer temperatures led to a higher rate of spoilage and a higher probability of red tide (an algae that gets into shellfish and makes you sick), although both these issues have been well mitigated thanks to more stringent health codes. With cooler weather quickly approaching, let some tasty mollusks be the silver lining to the more persistent clouds.
Oysters: These shell clad creatures can be prepared any number of ways but are probably best enjoyed raw on the half-shell. Rendezvous Bistro has the best selection around, boasting a variety of breeds rotating nightly from the West and East coasts. Served on the half shelf with the appropriate accouterments, or in shooter fashion, stop in during their oyster happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. to enjoy their $2 varietal and 1/2 priced drinks. King Sushi also has a rotating cast of oysters from both coasts. Served artfully with asian flavors, they are a delightful accompaniment to sushi. Local aces their take on the traditional oysters Rockefeller, baked with shallots, spinach, Gruyere and Pernod. The Westbank Grill sources their oysters from the West Coast, served up with a Teton Vodka chili sauce and mignonette granita. Liquor Down South and Jackson Whole Grocer stock fresh oysters in season for the adventurous at home chef, check out this recipe for a champagne mignonette that is the idealt accompaniment.
Mussels. I am a big fan of mussels, or more accurately, a big fan of good mussels and the sauce they come in. They are the perfect carrier for anything from Italian to Asian flavors, and here are a few of my favorites. Nikai serves up theirs in a traditional broth of white wine, garlic and shallots with either half or full order options. The Kitchen offers a refreshing twist with their jalapeño-lemongrass flavored broth with grilled baguette. Trio serves up PEI mussels with cherry tomatoes, lemon, and garlic as a satisfying starter. Head out to the village to enjoy The Handle Bar’s take on the traditional preparation with white wine shallots and thyme.
Scallops: The steak of the sea has found its way onto a wide selection of different Jackson Hole menus. King Sushi goes the raw route offering a scallop shooter or summer scallop salad as part of their cold izakaya menu. Sudachi also leans toward the asian flavors with their seared scallops served with a yuzu beurre blanc. White Buffalo features a hearty plate of seared jumbo scallops with grit cakes, arugula, apples, and bacon that is absolutely delicious. If you are looking for a main course featuring scallops, check out Gather. They come pan roasted with a local corn nage, yams, zucchini chimmichuri, and smoked tomato. The Kitchen has two different type of scallops to try with their diver scallop crudo or bay scallop ceviche.
Clams: Pasta and clams go together like two peas in a pod. With colder days upon us, a warm plate of pasta hits the spot. Con Vognolle means “with clams,” and there are a few places in town that do it wonderfully. Il Villagio Osteria aces the classic dish served with Manila clams lemon and parsley or from Nanis, with either a white wine or red sauce. Artisan Pizza and Italian Kitchen has a great seafood pasta dish with their Linguine and Clam pasta served with either traditional marinara or garlic and butter sauce. There are few things better than clam chowder, and the Q Roadhouse has that taken care of. Check out their Roger’s Famous clam chowder if you are craving a hearty bite.