Earlier this month I was lucky enough to travel through some new & beautiful places in Europe. While my Euro-trip really began in Belgium, one day we decided to drive to the Netherlands, as it is just next door. And with a fish nerd like me in the car, our destination just had to be a oyster and mussel farm on the coast.... It's called Oesterij, and can be found in Yerseke, Netherlands.
This Oesterij has been active in the cultivation of happy little shellfish since 1906. Their main breeding grounds are located in the Oosterschelde, the Greveligden lake, and the Wadden Sea, And then, the Oesterij crew bring them inland to this historic site (No. 12 Havendijk) for us to feast upon!
While the Oesterij still in its early stages of becoming a true "destination" for tourists, they definitely have their tasting room/ restaurant down pat so far. In a raised, fully-windowed area, overlooking the rows of oysters and mussels happily growing away, the dining area felt fresh and breezy.
And it's here that we were ready to taste the treats of the North Sea!
My First (European) Oysters
We had to get oysters. But truth be told, the only oysters available to eat right now at the Oesterij are actually brought in from France. This is because the oysters that they were growing there are not quite big enough yet for us to enjoy. However, we tried all 3 varieties on offer! The oysters were all quite large, briny & good. They were served simply with a lemon wedge on a lovely pile of seaweed.
But that's not REALLY why we were here....
In the time building up to actually visiting the Netherlands & Belgium, I couldn't have been more excited to try mussels (mosselen). In my rather naive brain, THIS is where mussels truly come from, and should be eaten from garlicky, vegetable-filled broth, and paired with crusty bread and fries (frietjes)... And luckily, my hopes were fulfilled, and the mussels were incredible. The overflowing bowl of steaming mussels arrived, and the smell itself was mesmerizing.
nd the taste- they were unbelievably fresh-- I mean, we were literally sitting above their beds! It all tasted deliciously of the aromatic vegetables, which paired perfectly with the gently ocean taste in their bite. Yum.
HOW TO EAT A MUSSEL
I learned a VERY important lesson here: how to eat a mussel, with a mussel ! Apparently, it's very good proper Belgian form to take an empty mussel shell, and use it as a sort of chopstick to eat the next mussel. It was great fun, and I highly suggest the technique!
Later in my trip, when passing through Brussels, my mussel obsession went to the next level, when I was introduced to the concept of "mussels gratineé." These little bites of heaven deserve their own moment, so TO be continued...
Now it's your turn!
It's mussel season RIGHT NOW, so go make your own! It's really really easy.
Take a bag of mussels, a place them in a large stock pot with chopped shallots, garlic, celery, a tablespoon of butter, and a half cup of white wine of your choosing. Cover, and steam until all the mussels are open (about 5 minutes). Serve with buttered bread and a glass of wine.