The Lobster Trap ushers in oyster season

By Mackensy Lunsford, mlunsford@citizen-times.com 3:48 p.m. EDT October 9, 2015

It’s October, which means oyster season is in full swing. But does that old adage that oysters should only be eaten during the cooler months actually hold water?

Only in a sense, according to Mike McCarty, executive chef and general manager of The Lobster Trap.

“With the summer months, oysters are spawning and it doesn’t help their flavor,” he said. Oysters aren’t necessarily dangerous to eat while spawning, but their flavor often leaves much to be desired; their meat can be somewhat milky and flabby, even chalky.

“It’s not the oyster’s fault, they’re just doing their thing,” McCarty said.

Though refrigeration is no longer concern for keeping oysters fresh during warmer weather, spawning oysters can be more susceptible to diseases, including the vibrio vulnificus, bacteria that thrives in warmer seawater.

That’s not a concern in the cool waters of Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, where Island Creek Oysters grows its in-demand bivalves. Those oysters have been served at Island Creek Oysters’ Zagat-rated bar, in Thomas Keller’s restaurants, and as a chief ingredient on Top Chef.

You can also find them at The Lobster Trap in downtown Asheville, where chef McCarty sings their praises.

“They have some of the best oysters I’ve ever had,” he said. “The oysters are always super clean, really flavorful — even in the warmer months, they’re still really good.”

McCarty has Island Creek Oysters Fed-Exed to the restaurant regularly. That means a restaurant stocked with boutique oysters that were in Duxbury Bay only hours before.

Here, McCarty offers a flavor guide to some of his favorite Island Creek oysters.

Island Creek: Island Creek Oysters’ flagship oyster is fruity, briny and has a lemony finish. “They’re mild and have a buttery, delicate flavor,” McCarty said.

Moon Shoals: These oysters have low salinity with an almost sweet “Ritz cracker-like flavor,” according to McCarty and his staff.

Nausets: Slightly sweet, but not overly so, with a mild minerality. “It just kind of has a clean, salt flavor to it,” McCarty said. “Very oceanic, like a wave just hit you in the face.”

Northern Cross: Easy to eat, with a slight celery flavor and savory finish.

Puffer’s Petite: A smaller oyster that’s briny up front, tapering to a mild salinity. “This one sort of reminds us of Wellfleets, and has a sweet finish,” McCarty said.

Rocky Nooks: Sweet, salty and perfect with a pinch of lemon juice. These are boutique oysters — not something you want to put on a cracker — but the acidity of mignonette or lemon juice can amp up the flavor of these bivalves.

Spring Creek: “I love a really salty oyster — the more salinity the better,” said McCarty. The meaty Spring Creeks, the flavor of which McCarty likens to swimming in the ocean, fit the bill. “And they have a little bit of a fruit finish that I would compare to watermelon,” he said.

Find Island Creek Oysters at The Lobster Trap, 35 Patton Ave.