Before I met my husband, who basically has a second stomach just for oysters, I’d eaten them once in my life. I might have tried them when I was younger, but I’m pretty sure I’d been overwhelmed by the smell, the texture, and the general all-or-nothing, down-in-one commitment that they took. You can’t nibble the corner of an oyster to see if you like it. The first time I remember eating oysters and enjoying them couldn’t have been more absurd, and perfect. It was at a friend’s extremely fancy Cape Cod wedding, where there was a raw bar and champagne after the ceremony, and what could I do but pretend like I belonged there? As a handsome waiter watched, I did my best impression of a WASP to the manor born, and learned the value of a squeeze of lemon on hand.
I’ve gone from cautious to obsessive at warp speed. Oysters make anything an occasion, and now, for us, it’s not really an occasion without them. Luckily New York is in the midst of a full-on bivalve infatuation, and there are dollar-oyster happy hours all over the city (and of course, a website devoted to them.) And Astoria, I’m happy to report, is getting a dedicated oyster bar. Mar’s isn’t fully open yet, but it has a raw bar and fabulous cocktails (my friend had a Martinez with Dorothy Parker gin, which she–no martini novice–pronounced perfectly dry and balanced, and I tried the Negrosecco, a dangerously delicious Negroni variation with Prosecco). It made for the most decadent of midweek happy hours, with deep, creamy little west coast oysters and flat, briny east coast ones, served with a house-made horseradish, a deconstructed mignonette (vinegar separate from spices) and lemon. They’re certainly among the best I’ve had.