Despite the widely known aphrodisiacal powers of oysters, this quality seemingly has been reduced to a marketing tactic for copy use in modern day society. With names like “Shooting Star”, “Naked Cowboy”, “Mystic” and “Moonstone”, to describe the various oysters across the United States, I can’t help but wonder if the old wives tales have any validity. It has been said that the world’s most famous lover, Casanova, lapped raw oysters from the breasts of legions of romantic interests to sustain his sex drive. Oysters have been crowned the King of Aphrodisiacs. I dare to test ancient wisdom and so the journey begins.
On my path in the City of Brotherly Love, I discovered that Di Brunos Brothers, a gourmet grocery store, was having an Oyster event for the holidays. Excited to learn of a place to purchase oysters for my test kitchen and to do more research on the mysterious sea creatures, I attended. Upon arrival, I hear the call, “Fresh oysters on the half shelf, $2 a piece”. I willingly follow the voice to arrive at a station complete with a fisherman, that shucked your oysters for you, a variety of topping sauces, oyster dressing and a sweet and smokey oyster chowder that blew my mind. I had a little bit of everything. Each oyster had it distinctive characteristics. The dressing was good, but it was the combination of the chocolate oyster topper and the shooting star that took me by surprise. Again, I wasn’t so much surprised that chocolate was offered as a topper. Naturally, if Oysters are the King of Aphrodisiacs, then Chocolate is the Queen. They belong together. But does that mean they are a natural match? This seems to be an acquired taste combination. I eventually convinced myself that if anyone had this acquired taste, it was I. I sucked the oyster from its half shell, and then backed it with a douse of chocolate sauce. Magical things happened. Number 1, it worked! It was a beautiful combination. And, number 2, it enhanced the psychological effects of these famed libido enhancers. When I asked the fisherman for his take on the aphrodisiacal qualities of oysters, his response was “it is what it is, if you believe it is…the sky is the limit”…I guess it would be when consuming a shooting star.
The Oyster House, a raw oyster bar on 15th and Sansom, was an entirely different experience. The oyster bar is prominently positioned in the center of the restaurant encased in ice behind glass with three “shuckers” masterfully handling the oysters. The vibe is sophisticated and hip. Lively music filled the room, unique oyster serving plates from all over the world covered the walls and the crowd primarily consisted of thirty to forty somethings that had just gotten off of work to meet friends for a little end of the week digression. I knew by the glimpses of conversation I overheard. And then there was me. Likewise in the demographic described, but without the friends. That particular Friday evening (12/9/2011), the oysters were my friends. I was there for the sole (soul) purpose of discovery. The menu rocked my world. So many oysters from which to choose. My intention was to try a few raw, a few prepared, and to pair them with a nice champagne. I started of with an oyster shooter, the New Englander, a horseradish infused vodka, tomato juice and oyster shot. That was an awesome beginning to digression. I then, initially requested the “Naked Cowboy”, but naturally that oyster was sold out. “Why?'”, I asked? “The name”. Is marketing truly that powerful? So I went with the “Mystic” from Fisher’s Island, CT, “Moonstone”, from Point Judith Point, RI and the “Little Shemogue” from New Brunswick. I deliberated stuck to the Atlantic ocean oysters to expand my horizon of oyster experience. The “Mystic” was my favorite, of couse. It is mild with a subtle oceanic taste. Combined with Chateau de la Dimerie Muscadet from Loire, France, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The bitter, limestone oceanic minerality of the oyster combined with the dry wine gave new meaning to suckin’ oysters. I also had the Roasted Oyster Sampler consisting of Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Bayou and Oyster Toscana. Each true to form for which it represents. The Toscana was especially herb-a-licious. I asked my waitress, Roxanne, the same question I asked the fisherman at Di Bruno’s, “What is your knowledge or experience with oysters as an aphrodisiac?”. She wasn’t shy in answering, although her response was more health focused. “They are raw, simple, a good source of protein, and good for you”. With that answer, I do know that a healthy diet is paramount to healthy loving and that anything raw, is sexy. This still leaves too much ambiguity. These little seducers are drawing me in deeper into their mysticism, and the fact that I didn’t leave home with a Casanova lapping oysters from my breast leads me down the road to even more discovery. But just as well, I walked out of the raw oyster bar satisfied with my “been there done that” T-shirt. “Eat Oysters, Love Longer”!