As far as I know, I ate my first oyster at an oyster roast on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. At the time, I was a novice. I showed up, dressed up, ready to party. I didn’t realize we would be surrounded by oyster-scented mist and flying shells. I didn’t know I had to “shuck” anything. I certainly didn’t know I had to eat slimy creatures that closely resembled massive piles of snot. Most surprising, though? I loved the slimy creatures.
I soon discovered, via Pearlz on East Bay in Charleston, that I prefer oysters raw rather than roasted. (I prefer them in Oyster Shooters, too, which entails a single oyster in a shot glass of cocktail sauce and Absolute Peppar). Over the course of my two years in Charleston, I consumed more oysters than the entire land mass of the United Kingdom—where oysters are actually protected by an Act of Parliament during the spawning season.
Rumor has it oysters are aphrodisiacs. I recently read a biography of the so-called “great lover,” Casanova, by journalist Ian Kelly. (An interesting read. Made me want to go back to Venice. Check it out here.) Casanova used to eat piles of raw oysters pre-coitus, plus bottles of champagne. I don’t know much about the aphrodisiac claim. I do know that I had a craving last week that felt like pot munchies, minus the pot … and I did not hanker for Doritos; I hankered for raw oysters.
Where—in the land-locked state of Arizona—was a girl to find raw oysters? Jake took me to the grocery store, where I swore I saw some oysters, but they only had mussels. We asked the guy if we could order oysters. He priced us at over a dollar an oyster. I wasn’t that desperate. Not yet. Luckily, I did an online search, where I discovered Casey Moore’s Oyster House in Tempe.
I love Tempe, not just because it has raw oysters. I like the college town feel. I like the ASU campus. I like all the restaurants and bars spread along the two block radius of Mill Street. It feels like home to me; it feels like Athens, Ohio, in the middle of the desert. Casey Moore’s is an Irish pub—one of the most famous in Arizona, according to the website. It’s a nice little place with a dingy, dark inside bar area and a big outdoor patio covered in palm trees and umbrellas. Not classy but cute.
All I cared about were the oysters … and the Bloody Mary’s, which were excellent. I ordered a dozen oysters; nothing else. In case you’re wondering, even in a beach town like Charleston, the oysters were rarely from Charleston. The best oysters are arguably from New England, so I was okay ordering oysters in Arizona; they travel, no matter where you are.
I made my order, and then I waited. I watched the door to the kitchen, and when the little college dude brought my slimy monsters surrounded by ice chunks to our table, I wiped the drool from my chin and dug in.
How do you properly eat a raw oyster? First, you pick up the oyster on the half shell. Using the tiny fork they give you, wiggle the oyster around to make sure it is dislodged from the shell. I like to add fresh lemon juice to mine and a dash of fresh horseradish. (You only need a dash of fresh horseradish. Even when dabbling, you still get that intense burn in your nose that makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the face.) Then, open your mouth, lean the shell on your bottom lip, and pour the whole thing—oyster juice and all—down your throat. At this point, you smile, because you just consumed one of the best known delicacies on earth.
I ate my dozen oysters at Casey Moore’s. I could have had a dozen more, but I stopped myself. See, I didn’t have to panic about the lack of raw oysters in Arizona, because I have now discovered my personal oasis in the desert. I can always go back for more. You should, too, especially if you’ve never tried a raw oyster. I know they look like slimy little monsters, but they taste divine.