Sex, Death & Oysters: Texas Oysters at $46 a Dozen

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Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto put Galveston Bay oysters on sale last weekend at a whopping $3.85 Canadian EACH! Texans think ten bucks a dozen is outrageous – how about $46.20 for twelve?

Oysterman Rodney Clark is originally from Prince Edward Island, home of Malpeque Bay and some of Canada’s best oysters. But Malpeque Bay and many other Canadian oyster locales are frozen over at this time of year, and other cold Northern waters are yielding skinny oysters due to the lack of plankton.

Meanwhile, it’s peak oyster season in Texas, so Clark and Houston seafood dealer Jim Gossen of Louisiana Foods decided to try an experiment. Gossen put 300 extra large select oysters harvested from East Galveston Bay by Jeri’s Seafood Company on a Continental flight to Toronto.

The seemingly outrageous price is a result of the elaborate packaging and airfreight charges. (Clark estimated the landed cost of the Texas oysters at $1.40 Canadian apiece.) And $3.85 is by no means the highest price Rodney’s Oyster House has ever charged. Canadian “Sand Dune” oysters of a similar size were recently going for $4.25 each.

In an e-mail exchange with the Houston Press, Clark described the creamy flavor and soft texture of the Galveston oysters as “sea butter” with “very mild salinity.” Canadian oyster lovers were reportedly impressed by the “big and creamy” Texas oyster meats. At least one Rodney’s Oyster House patron became especially fond of Galveston Bay oysters after finding a nice black pearl inside one.

Toronto oyster eaters are accustomed to firm and salty Northern oysters when they are in season, and even though the Texas oysters were the meatiest available at this time of year, many of Clark’s customers apparently were disappointed by the milder flavor and lower salinity of the Texas bivalves.

Jim Gossen says he’s planning more marketing experiments with appellation-designated Texas and Louisiana oysters. But he expects they might find greater acceptance in upscale Houston restaurants at a price much lower than $46 a dozen. – Robb Walsh

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