"Hold the shells up first and look at them and you can usually tell which is the 'up' side, because you want to keep the juices to cook them in." (Place them "cupped" side down.)
What kind of recipe might he suggest? "Garlic, butter and a fork," Gibbs said with a smile.
I paid for the oysters and a $20 bottle of Willabay Oyster Blanc white wine, developed by Oysterville Sea Farms and produced for them by Mount Baker Vineyards. A watercolor image of the oyster shed decorates the label.
Back at our beach rental at the north end of Long Beach's Discovery Trail, I watched in suspense as the first batch smoked and sizzled on the rental's Smoky Joe grill. Would they open?
At first, all they did was spew water like one of those Italian fountains with peeing cherubs. I worried that my coals would be extinguished. (This might have been for the good; if coals are too hot the shells can explode, warned a website I consulted later. Perhaps safety glasses are in order?)
Gradually, one by one, they began to gap open, and I went to work prying the shells. I daubed the oysters with minced garlic, substituted a few drops of olive oil for the suggested butter and let them bubble a bit longer before serving with a choice of red cocktail sauce from the Goose Point Oystery or my wife's homemade tartar sauce (mayonnaise, dill pickle relish, finely minced onion, and paprika).
Or we just ate them off the shell and savored the taste of sea, salt and smoke, washed down with a sip of Oyster Blanc.
To finish off? A quiet walk through grassy dunes to dip toes in the surf among scampering sandpipers.
I rarely say no to Dodgem cars, but this was a really good day at the beach.
If you go