1. BELON
Plump, incredibly briny, and unmistakably metallic, this wild oyster from Maine separates the men from the boys.

2. MALPEQUE
Slippery and sea-salty at first, this Prince Edward Island variety turns sweet and clean in a lingering finish.

3. HAMA HAMA
The meaty, briny pride of Washington State shows doubters that, yeah, some bivalves taste a little like lettuce.

4. WELLFLEET
It's no wonder that the namesake Massachusetts town has become synonymous with this superbly salty, hearty shellfish.

5. KUMAMOTO
Veteran slurpers love the aromatic, melonlike flavor and creamy texture of these West Coast jewels.

6. BOSTON-STYLE OYSTER KNIFE
by Victorinox Swiss Army, $16; swissarmy.com

HOW TO SHUCK OYSTERS LIKE A PRO

1. Put the oyster rounded-side down on a cutting board and steady it with a towel-wrapped hand. (A metal-mesh glove is even better.)

2. Firmly but carefully insert the blade of an oyster knife into the space on the narrow hinge end, then jiggle and twist until the shell pops open. Whatever you do, don't lose a drop of those briny juices.

3. Use the knife to slice along the top shell, then along the bottom shell to release the oyster.

4. Store oysters on the half shell on crushed ice.

THE RECIPES: A BETTER TOPPING

The classic pepper-and-vinegar oyster sauce, known as a mignonette, now features ingredients of the moment.

SPARKLING WINE AND DILL-PICKLE MIGNONETTE
from chef-partner Hugh Acheson of Empire State South, Atlanta; empirestatesouth.com

¼ cup minced dill pickle
¼ cup white-wine vinegar
¼ cup cava or prosecco
1 tbsp minced scallion

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl and serve.

CHAMPAGNE-LIME MIGNONETTE
from chef Michael Hanaghan of Ten 01, Portland, Oregon; ten-01.com

½ lime, peeled and halved
¼ cup champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, ½ sliced and ½ minced
3 tbsp champagne
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Squeeze juice from the lime halves and reserve the fruit. In a small pot, combine juice and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Put reserved fruit, peel, and sliced shallots in a heat-proof bowl and add the hot mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 2 hours. Strain liquid into another bowl, discarding the solids. Stir in champagne, pepper, and minced shallots. Serve.

RADISH MIGNONETTE
from chef Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat, Chicago; girlandthegoat.com

1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 tbsp finely chopped daikon radish
1 tbsp finely chopped cucumber
½ tsp finely chopped tarragon
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1½ tsp rice-wine vinegar
¼ tsp cracked coarsely ground black pepper

Whisk ingredients together in a medium bowl and serve.

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