After a hot summer almost entirely dominated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, signs of Autumn are in sight: The mornings are cool and dry (at least until 9am), and oyster season has begun. Oyster season is defined by the old wive’s tale that they shouldn’t be consumed in months without an “R” ”” May, June, July and August. The temperatures are too hot, making oysters breeding grounds for bacteria. Thanks to the wonders of refrigeration people do eat them year round, but Casamento’s, one of New Orleans’ premier oyster restaurants, closes for the summer and only just reopened today. The restaurant is located on Magazine near Napoleon and originally opened in 1919. It’s famous for its tiled exterior and interior and for consistently having some of the best oysters in the city.
Although the oil spill created anxiety about the quality of local seafood, Casamento’s actually stayed open one week longer this year due to the strong demand, closing for the summer in the third week of May. Judging from the quality of their raw plates, there’s no reason to worry about local oysters. The raw oysters were big and fleshy with a lot of flavor.
I ate at Cooter Brown’s two weeks ago on September 1st, and they were serving oysters from Maine. Served raw they were small, but when fried they shrunk even further and were almost indistinguishable from fried shrimp. In contrast, Casamento’s fried plate was substantial, and the oysters were only marginally smaller than their raw siblings.
Casamento’s says they only serve local oysters so that they can be certain that they are kept cool the entire trip. The oysters today came from Area 5, which the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reopened on August 16. Area 5 is east of the Mississippi River in St. Bernard Parish. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals lists the area openings and closings and has a PDF map of the harvest areas.
The New York Times included Casamento’s in its coverage of the run on seafood in early May. Prices will be changing daily based on the market price, but it looks like the state of the oyster union is strong.