Oysters in France
whenever i go to Paris I am mesmerized by the variety of oysters (both size and provenance) and wondered if anybody could recommend a guide (in English) that might clarify things (where they're from, what differentiates them in taste, etc).
Also, in Ireland we often say that one should not eat shellfish in months whose names do not contain an R (ie the summer months); are there any concerns regarding the quality of seafood in France during these months or are they such a staple of the cuisine that quality is always high?
The R thing a survival from the times when thre was no fridge and high heats were detrimentals to seafood travel. They also are an indication, in the case of oysters, of their reproductive cycle -- some oysters get milky in the summer, and some people don't like that. You can safely eat seafood all year long -- like all products, the taste changes throughout the year.
The numbers in the oysters indicate the size -- the bigger the number, the smaller the oyster. Then you have different provenance indeed and also different ways to finish them give them different tastes (pleine mer means they're grown off the shore and have a more iodized, salty, sea-y taste, while Oléron for instance are finished in clear river water). Gillardeau is a particularly renowned brand, but all oysters can be delicious.
Then there are different sort of clams/mussels that are not oysters -- clams, palourdes, venus, coques. And the shellfish -- langoustines, crevettes, homards, lanoustes, cigales de mer, gamabs, etc.