Virginicas is the species name of the oysters that are native to our East Coast. They can be found from Prince Edward Island, Canada to the Florida Gulf Coast and have been consumed by humans for over 10,000 years but, the fanfare for their crisp texture and briny punch has never waned. East coasters are proud of their oysters and most will tell you that there aren't any equals. West Coasters surely disagree with these sentiments, though most of their oysters are implants from Japan.
Olympia oysters are the only native West Coast species of oyster, but kumamoto and gigas species from Japan dominate production due to their popularity and rapid growth. Gigas are the most farmed oyster in the world, they are also the largest and fastest growing. When describing oysters from our Pacific waters you will encounter descriptions such as melon, algae, creaminess, and sweetness. West Coast oysters grow plump meats with fluted shells and typically don't have the strong saltiness or clean, crisp meats that the East Coast oysters do. You would be hard pressed to find a West Coast resident who would exchange their tenant oyster's complex, often over the top, algal and melon flavor for an East Coast oyster variety. So what do you do?
Well the great people over at Hog Island Oyster Farm have solved the riddle of who's got the best oyster. The answer or, should I say divine result, is a virgincias (east coast) species grown on their Tomales Bay, California farm. Everyone, meet the ultimate oyster, the Hog Island Atlantic. This West Coast oyster has East Coast bones. It's a blissful experience in which East Coast minerality and spirit meet with the saccharine funkiness of the West Coast soul. Hog Island Atlantic's are a complex blend of both coasts, unique in the oyster world, and an oyster that any aficionado, from either coast, can't help but to relish as a one of a kind. These transplants elevate merroir from a simple concept to a battle of duality that confuses and surprises the taste buds. It's an exhilarating bite; theres brine, and algae, and melon, and minerality. There's East Coast and there's West Coast, together. Its one of those oysters where you can try one and immediately you want another. They can leave you a little dumbfounded, as in: What did I actually just taste? It's like hearing a great song for the first time, it sticks with you and you know, you got to play that track again.
These Atlantic oysters are not readily available. For some reason the East Coast oysters do not naturally reproduce in West Coast waters, so replanting them can be quite a chore, not to mention costly. Pearl Dive, Blacks Bar and Kitchen, and BlackSalt are some of the only restaurants on the East Coast that offer Hog Island Atlantic oysters. Hog Island is very selective of who can sell their oysters, so we consider ourselves very lucky, and you should too. Whether or not you buy into the East Coast/West Coast beef of who produces the better oyster, I suggest you try the best of both worlds on a half shell. Its an oyster that ends all arguments with a simple slurp.