In France, no Christmas Eve feast or New Year’s Eve celebration is complete without oysters, slurped from their shells with a glass of crisp white wine! In fact, 40% of the year’s oysters are sold during this time, partly for the excitement factor and partly due to the colder waters. (Remember: we’re supposed to avoid oysters during the months with no “r”).
On Dec 31st in Place Garibaldi, you’ll see hundreds of people trotting out of Café de Turin with beautiful platters decorated with lemon wedges. Here’s how to pick up your own platter of frilly beasts…
Order in advance
From Dec 20th-Jan 1st, Café de Turin sells 12 tonnes of oysters. That’s a good reason to order your New Year’s tray in advance rather than standing in a queue on 31st deliberating over shrimp, clams and crab, or questioning oyster sizes with impatient shellfish enthusiasts standing behind you.
Click here to see the full take away menu.
Enjoy the queue!
Don’t like queues? Me neither. Except for this time of year when the sun is shining over Place Garibaldi and the fifteen écaillers (oyster pros) are running around the festive little fish market preparing platters. This place dates back to 1908 when an oyster seller, Jo l’ecailler, was selling them on the sly out of his basket. Now they sell 20,000 oysters a week! The history makes the queue more fun, no?
“Au moment des fêtes des Noël, je suis toujours autant impressionné par l’effervescence. La vente à emporter du 5 place Garibaldi est transférée sous les arcades sur plusieurs étals. Elle devient un grand marché de Noël couvert à l’ambiance chaleureuse où les vendeurs, affublés de bonnets de Noël, alpaguent les clients dans une atmosphère de marché de poisson. Ca crie, ça chante dans une effervescence où le monde est impressionnant. J’aime tout particulièrement me poser au loin et regarder tout ce beau petit monde travailler et les clients affluer. C’est magique ! A la fin de cette période nous sommes extenués,mais tellement heureux.”
~ Alexandre Chazal, directeur, Café du Turin
Discover the difference
Firstly, you’ll see fines de claires oysters. A claire is a shallow basin filled with seawater where the oysters mature. These oysters have spent around one month in the claires (Marenne-Oléron and Normandie) filtering the estuary water in and out of their fatty bodies. They’re briny and rich in sea minerals. However, if you like fleshier oysters, go for the plumper Spéciale Roumégous, that mature with more space. They’re named after the café’s owner, Jean Roumégous. He’s the handsome, well-dressed gentleman you’ll see hanging around – and he eats 10 oysters a day!
Know your six times table
Oysters are sold by the douzaine or demi-douzaine so calculate how many you’ll need and then decide which size to go for. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 correspond to the size and weight. For an apéro between friends, most people would go for the smaller #3s.
Learn how to shuck
If you choose to pry open the oysters yourself, be sure to have a dishtowel, a proper shucker and a skilful individual on hand and watch this tutorial.
And try not to shuck it up, or lose a digit.
Serve them simple
Serve with bread and butter and a slice of fresh lemon – or with the classic mignonette sauce of vinegar and shallots.