France: Cancale Oysters
Cancale is gotta be the oyster capital of the world, from medieval times to today. The oyster beds are located just in front of the town’s promenade and high tidal swings assure perfect conditions for oyster cultivation, 25,000 tons of oysters per year! In fact, Henri IV, Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette and Napoleon all insisted on oysters exclusively from Cancale. The Russian tsars, obsessed with anything French, went even a step further and had a specific type of oyster bred in Cancale for them and sent to Russia (these are since know as “Tsarskiye oysters”. Oysters are rated by size from 5 to 0, 0 being humongous 15-year old and older ones. Tsarskiye are special long oysters, there are also local Cancale round and flat oysters that are extinct pretty much anywhere else but here. The cultivated oysters are actually Pacific oysters. Dozen and dozen of seafood restaurants line up the promenade and let you sample any sizes/types you want, plus welks, muscles, crab, langoustine, lobster – you name it! But the best is the oyster stalls right in front of the oyster beds – tractors bring fresh oysters here, you can buy a dozen for 5 euro, get them shacked right in front of you and eat them while sitting on the town wall in view of the oyster beds and the distant Mont St Michel! The giant 0 oysters was rather chewy, the flat and round local oysters were a bit too sweet, but the long Tsarskiye were just perfect!