According to Seafood Watch, farmed oysters, which constitute 95 percent of the world's harvest, are considered a "Best Choice" in terms of sustainability. Nutritionally, a trio of these bivalves has only 30 calories and provides more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of zinc and B-12 and a third of the iron requirement. Purists can guiltlessly slurp away on these open-faced mollusks raw or heated over coals until bubbles just begin to appear in their natural juices.
As a child, I first encountered an oyster hidden in a combination basket of Gilda's deep-fried Fisherman's Catch ($12.75). Its soft center contrasted favorably to the flaky cod and crisp calamari tentacles.
There are numerous places to enjoy oysters on the Santa Cruz Wharf. Riva's Fish House tops them with either salsa verde or guacamole ($9.95) and spicy pepper Jack cheese, and then broils them to molten perfection.
À la Florentine refers to spinach and Mornay sauce, but at Gilbert's Firefish Grill three Oysters Florentine ($8.95) were nestled in a bed of rock salt, topped with spinach plus chopped artichoke hearts and bits of chewy, smoky bacon. Drizzled with Hollandaise, the oysters were warm and tender.
Why all this talk about oysters? Well, a friend was raving about the Oyster Stew ($7.95) at the Dolphin Restaurant. Although not listed on the take-out window's menu, the cook happily accepted my request. I had no idea of what to expect as I waited patiently with the seagulls for the cooked-to-order soup.
Warning: the following may pose unsuitable risk to dieters. From a cup and a half of cream and butter wafted the deliriously tantalizing aroma of seafood. I tasted just a hint of hot spice in the silky thick broth. At the bottom of the carton lay four plump oysters, hot but still succulently soft.
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