Though often thought of as a cool, relaxing summer food, oysters store up sugars in the frigid winter waters and are actually sweeter, plumper and tastier now than in August. Oyster harvesting was a major industry in New Jersey from Colonial times until the 1950s, when overfishing, environmental hazards and boat activity nearly eliminated all oyster beds on the coast. Recently, thanks to a few fishermen and scientists, and with help from the Slow Food USA organization, the Cape May salt oyster has begun to make a comeback. These smaller, rounder oysters, usually served on raw menus, are a perfect first course; try them with a mignonette or a squeeze of lemon. Pick up this pleasant, tame variety at Heller’s Seafood in Warrington and area FoodSource locations. Or sample it on the seasonal menus at Striped Bass, Pasión, and Princeton’s Tre Piani, whose owner, Jim Weaver, was instrumental in resurrecting the Cape May salt oyster.
Originally published in Philadelphia Magazine, February 2006