Gulf Coast vs. West Coast Oysters
I grew up on the Gulf Coast and now live in New Orleans, where the oysters are generally plentiful and cheap (especially in "R" months). Right now oysters are plump, salty, and typical cost for a dozen on the half shell is around $7-8 and half that on certain week nights.. However, it's not unusual to still find happy hour specials where they're a dime to 25cents each.
Right now I'm planning a trip to San Francisco and notice that the typical price for oysters in the Bay Area is $2-$3/EACH.
My question is to those of you who enjoy these tasty bivalves and have bicoastal experience as well is: Why the big price difference? Are West Coast oysters that large? Better Tasting? Guaranteed to contain 20mm pearls?? What're the differences and/or similarities?
The biggest difference is going to be texture. Warm water oysters are much softer than cold water oysters. Cold oysters can be plumply 'crisp'.
Flavours vary depending on the nutrients of the water they were raised in - briney, cucumber-y, delicate and fruity (tough to describe). Try kumomoto (my favourite), hama hama, fanny bay, and hog island (2nd fav). I love them plain, or with a drop or two of lemon.
As for price, it could be that pacific northwest oysterbeds yield fewer oysters than southern ones, possibly because of longer maturation (which would also raise the price) or less sf of beds, or they might be more difficult to harvest, tough to say.
If you want great raw seafood in SF, I highly recommend Bar Crudo. They'll have a selection of a few oysters, and their arctic char crudo is spectacular.