Oyster Q&A with Creator and Founder Ted Furst

February brings out the love in all of us, including our adoration for oysters! Why is this time of year the prime oyster season?

Now is the perfect time in the oyster’s life cycle for the oyster lover. Our Pacific Northwest oysters spawned in the summer and started re-gathering nutrients from the sea in the fall. In other words, they spend the winter in nutrient-rich cold waters fattening up! So February is a great month to catch them in their prime.

And this is also the time of year when the waters the oysters grow in is coldest, giving a firm, crisp texture to the little guys.

Which varieties of oysters can we expect to experience at Le Grand?
It varies as we depend on our oystermen to guide us on the daily/weekly specifics. There are different events that can affect the flavor and character of the oysters in each growing area from week to week—has it rained a lot? Have we had some big tides? One could mention dependable PNW oysters, but in all honesty the ideal harvesting time for each variety changes as much as our weather. It’s why we take our daily blackboard and server education quite seriously.

In any event, you can expect a minimum of eight of the finest “of the moment” choices from Northern California (Kumamoto), the Oregon Coast, South Puget Sound (Taylor Shellfish Farms Shigoku and Virginicas), North through the Hood Canal (Reach Island and Sister’s Point), and further north through British Columbia (Malaspina, Kusshi, and Fanny Bay).

Tell us about Le Grand’s Baker’s Dozen.

During this oyster month, “Le quatorze” (14, in French) is an indicator of the esteem in which Le Grand holds its oyster patrons. For the price of a douze, or dozen, we will serve fourteen. For a demi-douze, half dozen, it will be our pleasure to offer seven oysters in the same spirit.

  • Baker’s 1/2 Dozen, we shuck 6 and add a 7th of your choice free.
  • Baker’s dozen, buy 12 and get the 13th and 14th oyster of your choice free.
  • Prices range from $12 – $18 for 1/2 dozen and $20 – $32 for a full dozen.

Why is Le Grand the ideal location to enjoy oysters?
Imagine yourself, a friend, a table by the water at sunset, a baker’s dozen perfectly shucked fresh Pacific Oysters on the 1/2 shell, and a chilled glass of white – a perfect oyster experience during the month of love at Le Grand!

We have taken on the responsibility of finding the best oysters in our large PNW backyard. We work closely with the two important guardians of Pacific Northwest and Washington state oysters: Taylor Shellfish and Penn Cove Shellfish. These companies have invested decades on the very positive side of the ledger. We keep up with the best info and rotate our beautiful fresh stock quickly and handle it with care and expertise.

What are the oyster venues at Le Grand?
We believe it’s all about the mood, starting with the zinc bar created in the pure Paris café/bistro tradition. Le Grand absolutely has notes of a brasserie as well; it is “grand” and large. Two years of hard work has warmed up and given personality to the various parts of our grand American bistro.

The Bar
Belly up to the zinc bar…and you’ll be in the oyster mood in an instant. Look right and see our iced oysters of the day. You’ll watch your oysters being shucked and excellent traditional and signature cocktails being mixed and poured.

Or proceed directly to the stand-up bar facing the beautiful west panoramic views of Lake Washington and its constantly changing activity. Just say “oysters” and it will be suggested that you turn around and look at the big blackboard listing our offerings of the day. You’ll be guided and we’ll get you on your oyster experience tout suite.

A third option is our bar banquettes. These congenial tables in the bar give half the people a view and the other half a look at Le Grand in action. Just say “oysters” as above and you will be roistering with oysters in the time it takes to shuck ‘em properly.

The Restaurant
In the main dining room, there are many seats with good views of the oyster bar to get you into the mood. As soon as you say we’re thinking about some oysters, you will be quickly and comfortably guided to suggestions to fit your pleasure.

So, set the record straight. Are oysters an aphrodisiac? Why are they so appropriate during this month of love?

In February, love is at its peak and so are the oysters (being prolific little breeders themselves). There is a lot of hype about this, but it’s true: ordering oysters is often about celebration or seduction. The pure nutrients, zinc and other amino acids are unquestionably super healthy and easily digestible. It’s got to be good for feeling groovy. Ordering oysters is a great way to begin an excellent evening anytime you are in good oyster hands like ours.

On that note, do you have any tips for first-time oyster virgins?
If you’re an oyster virgin, Le Grand recommends a nice firm smallish oyster with lot of nectar (ever swallow ocean water? It’s an effervescent fresh sensation). Raise the oyster to the lips and tilt at a 45 degree angle. With a gentle sucking / slurping motion, get that baby down!

If oysters look frightening and you’ve conjured up queasy thoughts, have an ice cold martini. Halfway through, order a half dozen oysters. Let it be known to your date/friend/husband/server/bartender that it’s your first time. Have all the cover-ups included in your order: cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon, tabasco. Eat the oysters. Finish the martini. Order another half dozen, and another martini. It’s easy!

At Le Grand, we always include fresh lemon and mignonette (black pepper infused wine vinegar and shallots…we add a dash of cognac) for when you are no longer a virgin and can appreciate things. You’ll relax and enjoy the purest gift from the sea. As you progress in your comfort and appreciation of oysters, you’ll probably lighten up on the accoutrements, but who cares?

And if you want the classic oyster experience, have a nice cold glass of white wine such as St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc or a nice French Muscadet with your oysters. The combination of ocean and wine is incredible!

Anything else to add on the subject of oysters?

Oysters have long been an inspiration to writers, and there’s a wealth of great quotes. Most of us are familiar with Hemingway’s famous oyster quote. Here are a few other of my favorites: “If you don’t love life you can’t enjoy an oyster; there is a shock of freshness to it and intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes. [They] shiver you for a split second.” —Eleanor Clark

“A loaf of bread, the Walrus said,
 Is what we chiefly need: Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters, dear,
We can begin to feed!” —Lewis Carroll

“An oyster, that marvel of delicacy, that concentration of sapid excellence, that mouthful before all other mouthfuls, who first had faith to believe it, and courage to execute? The exterior is not persuasive.” —Henry Ward Beecher

“A man begins to get his life into proper perspective when he quits expecting to find pearls in his oysters and is extremely gratified when he gets oysters.” —Bob Edwards

Written by Charles Koh

Founded EatSeattle, and has continued to use his expertise as editor-in-chief to guide the website’s growth over the last five years. Koh’s experience focuses on digital marketing and social media, and has been a part of several companies, some of which he created, specializing in both areas over the course of his career. Koh was previously with Google and Zagat where he helped expand and grow communities worldwide.

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