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“Six Delta del Ebro oysters equals two Viagra pills,” El Parrillo smiles as I let the salty, sweet mollusc charm my mouth with intense marine flavours. “How many have you eaten?” He asks, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
“… Err, nine,” I reply. My hand pauses momentarily on the way to reaching for a tenth. What the hell; what’s the worst thing that could happen if I eat one more? The hand completes its journey as I decide El Parrillo is messing with me… I hope.
Whilst the aphrodisiac side-effects of eating Delta del Ebro oysters are clearly usually considered a bonus, Andy, my wife, working tirelessly a few hundred miles south of my position may not view my overdosing on nature’s Viagra in quite the same light. But the oysters are so good that the temptation to shovel one after another into my mouth proves impossible to resist.
El Parrillo (aka Agustí Bertomeu, President of the Union of Producers of Molluscs) had promised that Ebro oysters packed a unique flavour thanks to being influenced by both the saltiness of the Mediterranean and the sweet freshness of the River Ebro. He insists no other oyster growing location can match this culinary championship pairing. After enthusiastically seeing off 10 of his exquisite delicacies I’ll happily go along with that claim. I’m not alone.
Up to 80% of the oysters produced in the Delta del Ebro are exported to France where they’re repackaged and distributed throughout the world; many buyers believing that they’ve originated in Gallic waters. Ironically some even make it back to Catalonia under a different guise.
How to Eat Delta del Ebro Oysters
As well as being an expert on Viagra/oyster conversion rates, El Parrillo also completely smashes a few oyster eating misconceptions.
“They taste better without,” he advises when I’m about to commit the crime of squeezing a slice of lemon over a couple of juicy looking specimens. “It keeps the flavour pure.”
Contrary to popular belief, the best way to savour oysters is not to let them slide down the throat with barely a hello to the tastebuds. Let them linger on the tongue awhile, giving their sublime flavours time to make an impact. Gastronomically you get the best of both worlds in taste terms – a dish that at once conjures up the crispness of fresh water streams combined with the salty zing of the briny. It’s an addictive marriage. Add a glass of sparkling cava and it’s immediately apparent where the aphrodisiac tag comes from. This is a culinary seduction that dances a joyously light and exuberant Hornpipe on the tongue.
An idyllic setting adds to what amounts to a sensual, sensory massage. Xiringuito de l’Avi, a wonderfully atmospheric bar on stilts, sits on a platform in the middle of Alfacs Bay surrounded by row upon row of wooden trellises jutting up from the bay’s shallow waters. There are 90 decks in total, supporting 1500 ropes bulging with glistening, black mussels. As well as providing the perfect environment for world beating oysters, Alfacs Bay is a paradise for mussels farming.
The battlefield of empty oyster shells is removed to be replaced by a mountain of mussels with plump, orange flesh. An aroma of country herbs mingles with the ozone and acts as a tractor beam for both nose and mouth. They look irresistible, but a thought niggles. Are mussels considered an aphrodisiac as well? If so, eating a few after 10 passion-packed oysters could seem to border on reckless behaviour.
I grab a handful – well it would be rude not to. I guess I’ll just have to deal with the consequences later.
Tours of Alfacs Bay with an oyster and mussel eating stop at Casa del Parrillo are surprisingly good value, costing around €25. Boats depart from Sant Carles de la Rápita each Saturday throughout the year and tickets can be purchased from the port. Check out www.enlarapita.com for more information.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+
Tagged with: Agustí Bertomeu • Alfacs Bay • boat tours • Casa del Parrillo • Delta del Ebro • Delta del Ebro oysters • El Parrillo • gastronomy • gastronomy in Catalonia • How to eat oysters • mussel farming • mussels • oyster farming • Parc Natural del Delta de l'Ebre • River Ebro • Sant Carles de la Rápita