We had a great night at Terrapin's Merroir Terroir event hosted at the bar. The restaurant has been hosting these exploratory dinners that allow guests to sample the affect “merroir” has the flavor of the clam. Climate, water, the beds the oysters mature in, all effect the flavor the bivalve. Brian Williams of Terrapin paired our oysters with a select wine that complimented the three different oysters we were served.
Merroir Terroir starts a little early before the dinner crowd shows up. At the bar, our places were set and the resident mixologist—Erika Caylor—helped Brian and staff get us ready. Our oysters were provided by Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters. Chris is a local oyster farmer and firefighter; he’s been seeding and harvesting oysters since 2009. Before farming his own oysters he was a crabber, fisherman, and he sold other peoples oysters from stands around Virginia Beach.
After the seats became occupied, Chris began to give us some info about oysters and harvesting them. I learned that oyster harvesting starts around October here and ends April 30th. He talked about the different spots he liked to start his oysters and talked about the waterways in the area. He also told us a neat tidbit about oyster shells—oysters from the West Coast tend to have a scalloped shell while those on the East Coast do not. Before we started to eat the oysters he suggested we sniff, drink the liquor, then eat the oyster. Easy enough, let’s go!
While this was happening Brian poured our first wine, Domaine Jolly Petit Chablis 2011. He explained to us how the Chablis he served was from Portlandian soil, young and steely. The wine itself was unoaked to prevent it from overpowering the oysters. That brings us to the oysters: Kusshi oysters imported from the West Coast. They are small with thick shells, ours were tumbled and lost most of the frill outside of the shell. The thick, deep shells of the oysters held clean, sweet meat and a tasty liquor. West Coast oysters, at least the ones we ate, tended to be smaller than what we’re used to in the East.
The next wine we drank was a Louis Jadot Steel Chardonnay 2012, again this was unoaked and had fruitier notes. The sweetness of this wine was perfect for the salty Pleasure House Oysters, Chris’ own brand he breds in the Lynnhaven. In addition to the pronounced saltiness of the oyster, they were crisp, juicy, and had a little citrus. I like how that paired with the Chardonnay too. I loved the liquor in the huge shells on the plate. I think I heard the term “choker” used in reference of the size of these things.
Our last wine was a Lincourt Steel Chardonnay 2012. From the Sta Rita Hills in California, fermented in steel, fruit forward and low mineral. The oyster paired with this was the Kumamoto or “Kumis”. They were harvested from cold waters of the Puget Sound in Washington State. These were delicious—buttery, crisp, and nutty. I could have eaten a couple dozen of these myself. The shell on these were very scalloped, unlike the Kusshi we tried earlier and the color variation went from off-white to black.
After finishing our oysters Chris and Brian mingled with the patrons of the dinner and answered any questions we might have had. While Shelby and I got our things together I was already thinking about next month’s Merroir Terroir, hoping I’ll be able to make the event again.
Click here to more photos from the dinner.