While the eating of oysters might trigger some warm feelings, the best harvest times are anything but. The old months-that-contain the-letter-R-rule is something of a myth: "They're usually considered to be oyster season because it’s winter and oysters prefer cold water,” according to the executive sous chef at The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant.
When the water gets too warm, oysters get frisky and instead of eating all day and getting big — just like you in winter — they preserve their energy for spawning. While The GCOB serves over 32 kinds of oysters from around the world, the chef enthusiastically recommends the Totten Virginica oysters from Washington State. These little guys are native to the East Coast and are transported to the waters of Totten Inlet as “seeds” and were recently recognized by the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.
Even though Washington conditions might make for the tastiest crop, it might make no sense to you to eat an east coast shellfish from the northwest. For those of you watching your food miles, The Mermaid Inn in the East Village recommends the oysters from Nova Scotia where the water is fairly consistant (45-60 degrees) year-round and while oyster preference largely depends on personal taste, they say that oysters from the northeast are popular because they are medium-sized and translucent whereas the further south you go, the grayer and grainier the get, while west coast oysters have a tendency to be saltier and more “ocean tasting.”
Pearl Oyster Bar doesn’t care to get too technical though: “Oysters are like fine wine. Try them all; love them and love yourself.”