The Oyster Story
Over the past decade, oyster consumption has steadily increased around the world in both the retail and foodservice levels. In February of 2003, the Wave, an electronic news reporting system on seafood, reported that shellfish menus are up 33 per cent over the last four years. The oyster market on half-shells has considerably expanded, particularly in the USA, through the restaurant trade and more specifically with the oyster bar phenomenon.
This general craze for oysters is mainly due to a shift in consumer demographics. Traditionally, oysters were consumed in great majority by people over 45 years of age with higher incomes. Today, oysters have become a fun and healthy seafood product that the younger generation also enjoys. In fact, oyster bar operators report that there is no age, gender, race or religious belief that characterize today’s oyster consumer. The younger crowd of 15 years of age to 44 enjoys the fun and healthy aspect of eating raw oysters. The traditional older and more sophisticated individuals still enjoy their favorite oysters while adventuring with others.
While oysters become more and more popular all over the world their availability at retailers’ is still far from optimum. Traditionally, oysters in restaurants and fish shops have been a seasonal commodity. Their availability has been limited to the months with “r’s” in them – September to April, thus artificially restricting their consumption to the festive season. The notion that oysters should not be eaten in “r” less months probably started in the days when oysters were shipped without adequate refrigeration and could spoil during transport. But today, transport conditions have changed. Retailers can supply fresh oysters twelve months a year almost anywhere in the world.
So, why don’t more restaurants and fish shops propose oysters all year round while the demand is there? Simply because they know that selling live oysters is a delicate task, especially during the Summer. In addition to proper transport conditions, it requires a very meticulous supply and storage management to make sure that losses due to stock shortage or dead / past-sales stocks don’t exceed margins on sales. Only a few specialists have the experience and turnover required. The others had either to give up oyster sales or to restraint their offer to the Winter season.
We, at SEALIFE Equipment, anticipated the current craze for oysters and foresaw the retailers’ needs in view of this evolution. Already a few years ago, boosted by the success of our lobster tanks in the restaurant trade, we decided to develop a live oyster storage system able to come up to the new expectations of the restaurant and seafood trade. We then identified and worked on the following requirements:
• High preservation performance: we wanted to make sure that our oyster tank would keep oysters fresh and alive until consumption, whatever the date and season. We had to reduce dead losses to the irreducible rate (our aim wasn’t to make everlasting oysters!) without altering their taste.
• High visibility to customers: not only our system had to keep oysters fresh and alive but it also had to appeal to customers - for retailers to get the full benefits of the machine.
• Low maintenance: we knew that retailers have no spare time to spend on routine maintenance of their equipment. It was therefore obvious that maintenance had to be as simple and as short as possible.
• Optimized size: in all shops, space is precious and subject to change. We therefore had to develop a mobile and self-contained system that would take as less space as possible.
• That’s how, after years of research, trials and developments, we came up with the SEALIFE OysterBar, the ultimate device for attractive display and optimal storage of live fresh oysters all year round. This unique oyster tank allows professionals in the fish and restaurant trade to fully benefit from the huge oyster market potential.
MODELS AND SPECIFICATIONS
Sealife Equipment (Pty) Ltd. is frequently presented with unique and challenging projects. Whether your desired display unit is larger, smaller or completely customized, Sealife Equipment (Pty) Ltd. has a solution that meets your requirements.
After decades of designing and building live seafood displays we understand the importance of quality engineering in the manufacture of products and systems. All of our products are made in South Africa with environmentally stable materials.
What sets Sealife Equipment (Pty) Ltd. apart from the rest? Our ability to meet customers' specific needs. Knowledge of materials and process are the cornerstone of our state of the art manufacturing facility where all Sealife Equipment’s products are carefully designed and built.
Call or e-mail us today with your custom fabrication specifications and questions, and we will help you choose the right products for your application.
The SEALIFE OysterBar is a self-contained compact shellfish tank providing restaurant and shop owners with a truly unique range of benefits:
A hassle-free shellfish supply management: the storage capacity of the OysterBar makes possible the supply of 300 to 1000 medium size live oysters (about 650 to 1000 cocktail size oysters) by batch and leads to savings on transport costs and reduction in paper work.
A unique freshness and quality image projected through the restaurant or seafood retail shop. Oysters stored in SEALIFE OysterBars are constantly sea-sprayed and visible to customers in clear glass tanks. They remain fresh and alive, and it shows!
A show-stopping impulse seller: when well positioned at point of sales, SEALIFE OysterBars attract the attention of customers and patrons, creates an interest and a craving for oysters.
An exceptional exposure for shellfish: the live aspect of oysters is enhanced in the fresh and lively environment of the SEALIFE OysterBar.
An uninterrupted supply of fresh live and appealing oysters: no more fear of dead losses or product shortage, the SEALIFE OysterBar long term storage capabilities make possible a constant display of fresh oysters all year round, whatever the outside temperature.
A significant increase in merchandise turnover: all restaurant and seafood retail shop owners who have invested in SEALIFE OysterBars experience large increases in their oyster sales that rapidly pay back the initial investment.
Millions of people around the world love oysters and know them by their taste and appearance at the dinner table, or by the beautiful pearls they sometimes produce for the pleasure of women. But too few people know that:
Oysters are one of the most nutritionally well balanced of foods, containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. They are also an excellent source of vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C (ascorbic acid) and D (calciferol). Four or five medium size oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, manganese and phosphorus.
Oysters may live up to 20 years. They grow from 1 to 2 inches every year, depending on water temperature and food supply.
Oysters often change their sex during their lives, usually starting as males and ending as females. A female oyster can produce over a 100 million eggs during one breeding season but only a few of them will live to see adulthood.
Oysters are classified in the phylum Mollusca, class Pelecypoda or Bivalvia, order Filibranchia, family Ostreidae. There are over 400 species of oysters known to men. But the most common and consumed ones are the Crassostrea gigas in Europe, the Crassostrea Virginica in North America, the Crassostrea margaritacea in Southern Africa and the Ostrea sinuata or luteria in New Zealand.
The taste of an oyster does not depend on the specie it belongs to. It is rather a reflection of the waters it comes from. How an oyster tastes can be described in many ways: briny, sweet, salty, buttery, nutty…
There is proof that oysters have been around for about 15 million years. Records dating back to ancient Roman times prove that Romans already ate oysters.
The myth about oysters saying that one should never eat them in months that do not have an "r" in their name is simply not true. Oysters can be eaten any time except during their breeding season which varies from place to place. The myth began many years ago when transport wasn’t fast and refrigeration not constant. Summer months (month without "r's") would then be a risky time to eat oysters that hadn't been kept chilled or had been out of water for too long. But nowadays the combination of fast transport services with SEALIFE OysterBars makes it possible to enjoy fresh live oysters from all over the world all year long.
Oysters are soft-bodied animals that have two hard, protective shells (a bivalve). These two hard, rough-textured shells are attached by a muscular hinge (the adductor muscles) at the narrow end. The shell is generated by the mantle, a thin layer of tissue separating the shell from the soft body. When an oyster is threatened, it closes its shells, using the very strong adductor muscle. Oysters draw in water through their gills, and extract oxygen and filter out floating algae (which they use for food). They can filter over 200 liters (50 US gallons) of water per day! They breathe like a fish, using their gills and have a heart with three chambers and colorless blood.
When a minuscule piece of foreign material gets trapped inside the oyster's shell, the oyster responds to the irritation by producing nacre, a combination of calcium and protein. After a while the layers of nacre become what is known as a pearl. Although the white pearl is the most common, pearls have also been found in colors from yellow to pink to black.
HOW TO OPEN OYSTERS
When opening oysters, use a knife especially designed for this purpose. The handle is solid and the blade is thick and made of stainless steel so that it will not give a metallic taste to the oyster.
1. Hold the oyster in your left hand with the cup-shaped part downwards, the pointed hinge end nearest to you (If you are left-handed hold the oyster in your right hand with the pointed hinge further from you). Put your thumb on top of the blade, 1cm from the pike.
2. Slip your knife into the joint between the lid and the cup at about 2/3rds of the oyster length from the pointed hinge. You may have to twist it a little to get access.
3. Once your knife blade is in, slide it down towards the hinge to cut the muscle keeping the 2 parts of the shell closed.Twist the blade, lift the top shell and cut the muscle.
4. Lift the lid by turning the knife and hold it open with your thumb.
5. Gently remove the meat from the lid with your knife
6. Remove the lid
WINES AND OYSTERS
Dry wines, for their mineral aroma and edge, are recommended with oysters.
With fresh oysters served plain the best wine is a dry, brisk wine (Muscadet, pic-poul-de-pinet, Riesling or Chablis) which offer a nice bite, replacing the over-used lemon.
Fresh oysters served plain or in canapés also bring out the fruitiness of young brut champagnes. For special occasions, a Champagne Brut Blanc de blancs is an excellent choice.
If oysters are served hot, in butter, they require a wine that is both tart and mellow: great Graves, Spanish Rìas Baixas or young Californian Sauvignons.
A Sancerre or Chablis is the perfect accompaniment for grilled oysters.
Oysters served in cream sauce can be accompanied by a dry, smooth, more assertive wine with low acidity (an Alsatian Grey Pinot or Italian Chardonnay).
A dry Muscat brings out the flavour of Oysters Rockefeller.
BEERS AND OYSTERS
Lagers in general are an excellent choice. They are refreshing with a marked bitterness and good acidity. They are perfect as an aperitif, with plain oysters.
Ales and amber ales are also an excellent choice because they have a mineral taste and a bitterness that goes well with oysters. Amber ales are more strongly flavoured and full-bodied than lagers and go better best with more highly flavoured oyster dishes.