Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Schiller's World of Seafood

Picture: A Plateau des Fruits de Mer in Bordeaux

I have written this posting more for myself than for the readers of schiller-wine. It first outlines the usual classification of seafood and thensheds some light on seafood that I like in particular.

A. Seafood - Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish

Seafood is any animal that lives in the sea and is regarded as food by humans. Seafood can be grouped into fish, crustaceans and shellfish.

1. Fish

Fish is the first main seafood group.

2. Crustaceans

The second main group is crustaceans: The aquatic analogs of insects, found in both fresh and salt water. This group includes crabs, lobster and shrimps.


Crabs are 10-legged crustaceans and there is a variety of them. There are freshwater and salt-water varieties. After shrimps, crabs are the second most popular crustacean.

Lobster and Langouste

Lobsters are salt water creatures and come in two general varieties:  the spiny lobster (common in France) and the smooth shelled lobster (Maine). The French (Germans) call the spiny lobster Langouste (Languste) and the smooth shelled lobster Hommard (Hummer). Even though the word Langouste is French, it is used in English as well because true Langouste do not exist in North America.

The spiny lobster and the smooth shelled lobster resemble each other, but the spiny lobster (Langouste) does not have claws (Scheren in German); instead it has long antennae.

Langoustes/spiny lobsters are warm water crustaceans that can be found in the south Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and off the coasts of South America, Australia and the West Indies.

(Crayfish - Even though they resemble spiny lobsters, crayfish (crawfish) does not belong to seafood, as they are fresh water creatures. Louisiana supplies 98% of the crayfish harvested in the United States. Crayfish in French are Ecrivesses and in German Flusskrebs. )


Shrimps are small crustaceans that have ten legs and long antennae. Shrimps have a thin-segmented shell covering a tapering body, and a large head about the size of the body. Caught in great numbers and the most popular seafoods.

Shrimp is the English/American name of this creature and Crevette the French; large shrimps are called Prawns in the UK and Langoustines in France. In Germany, shrimps are called Garnelen and the very small Garnelen from the North Sea are called Krabben. When they are larger, they are called Scampis in Germany. In Spain, shrimps are called Camerones and the large versions Gambas. The Italians call shrimps Gamberettis.

3. Shellfish

The third group includes clam, conch, mussels, oysters, scallops (Jakobsmuscheln), snails (escargot), octopus (pulpo, Krake) and squid (calamari, Tintenfisch).


I distinguish 4 types of oysters:

The Pacific

Originally from Japan, the Pacific or Japanese oyster is the most widely cultured oyster in the world. It accounts for 75% of world production. In France, it has crowded out the Belon and now accounts for 99% of oyster production there. Gone are the days of the Belon in Paris. The Pacific oysters are marketed under a variety of names, often denoting their growing area. The Kumamoto is one of the most famous Pacific oysters. I tend to think of a Pacific oyster as a creamy oyster, with a mineral note.

The Olympia

The Olympia is a very small oyster seldom exceeding 2 inches. For comparison, in Massachusetts, oysters must be a minimum of 3 inches to be sold. Olympia is a native American oyster, which once flourished on the West Coast, before the Pacific took over. Olympias are hard to find today as they grow very slowly and are difficult to transport. They hold very little liquid and dry out quickly. The Olympia has a very full flavor with a distinct aftertaste.

The Atlantic

Another American native, there are many varieties of Atlantic oysters, such as the Malpeque from Prince Edward Island in Canada and the Blue Point from Long Island in New York State. Bluepoints were originally named for Blue Point, Long Island but now the term is generally applied to any Atlantic oyster two four inches long. These two are now the most common restaurant oysters in the US. Also called Eastern oyster, the Atlantic has a thick, elongated shell that ranges from 2 to 5 inches across. It's found along the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico in the US.

The Belon

The Belon, or European Flat, is Europe’s native oyster. The Belons are round and shallow. That’s why they are called Flats. They are also not very liquid and dry out fast. They have a long history. They used to grow in Brittany, Normandy, England, Spain, Holland, Greece and the Black See. But a disease is wiping them out worldwide. The Flats from the Belon river in Brittany were at some point the connoisseur’s top choice and the name was soon adopted by all oyster growers, a bit like the Blue Points from Long Island. The Belon oyster grows in limited quantity in Maine on the rocks of the Damariscotta river bed.

B. Seafood I Like and Eat Regularly

1. Fish

I eat much more fish than meat but have nothing in particular to report.

2. Crustaceans

Maryland Crabs

The blue crab is a crustacean found in the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Coast of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. Male and female blue crabs can be distinguished by their "aprons", or their abdomens. Male crabs have a long, narrow apron, while mature female crabs have a wide, rounded one. The Chesapeake Bay, located mainly in Maryland, is famous for its blue crabs. There are four ways to eat Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs:

Picture: Map of Maryland

Steamed Hard Shell Crabs: Blue crabs are most often eaten in the hard shell. Steaming them in large pots with water, vinegar and seasoning is the norm on the East coast. The cooked crabs are cracked by hand, but most diners will use a small knife to pry the shell apart and cut the unwanted parts from the crab. The meat is pulled out and eaten directly.

Picture: Steamed Hard Shell Crabs

Soft Shell Crabs: Robert J. Parker recently tweeted: “Maryland’s greatest culinary delicacy – blue channel soft-shelled crabs are starting to arrive … lightly floured and sautéed in butter.” As crabs grow larger, their shells cannot expand, so they molt the exteriors and have a soft covering for a matter of days when they are vulnerable and considered usable. Crabs caught just after molting are prepared as soft shell crabs: first cutting out the gills, face, and guts; the crab is then battered in flour, egg, and seasoning, then fried in oil until crispy. The entire crab is consumed, legs and all.

Picture: Soft Shell Crab

Maryland Crab Soup: This is a kind of an Italian Minestrone with crab meat.

Picture: Maryland Crab Soup

Crab Cake: A crab cake is an American dish that looks like a Hamburger but is composed of crab meat and various other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. Crab cakes are traditionally associated with the area surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, in particular the State of Maryland. I participated in the sixth annual “I Love Crab Cakes!” competition in Washington DC.

Picture: Chef Shannon Overmiller, The Majestic, Alexandria, Virginia

See more on Crab Cakes: Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA

See more on Maryland Blue Crabs: Maryland Crabs and Wine, USA

Main Lobster

Interestingly, in North America, lobster did not achieve popularity until the 19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostons developed a taste for it. Prior to this time, lobster was considered a mark of poverty or as a food for servants. The lobster industry became global, once the transportation industry could deliver live lobsters to urban centers. Fresh Maine lobster became a delicacy exported all over the world, in particular to Europe and to Japan. See: New Hampshire, USA: Cheese ….and Lobsters and Oysters … and Wine!

Nordseekrabben (Small Shrimps)

In Germany – tiny and very tasteful shrimps I like to eat with dark bread and German beer.

Camerons de Canal de Mozambique

Camerons are giant shrimps. Just the opposite of what I love to eat, when I am in northern Germany: “Nordseekrabben”. The latter are tiny and I like to eat them cooked with dark bread and a glass of “Warsteiner” beer; the former are large and I like to eat them grilled with a baguette and a glass of white wine (see above).

Camerons are readily available at the east coast of Madagascar (Canal de Mozambique) and inland in the larger towns.

Camerons Grillees in Mahajanga (Coast)

Pictures: Camerons Grillees de Canal de Mozambique in Mahajanga at the Canal de Mozambique

Camerons Grillees in Antananarivo

Pictures: Camerons Grillees de Canal de Mozambique at Tsiky in Antananarivo, Madagascar: Tsiky – Charming Restaurant in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Serving Good Food and Malagasy Wines

3. Shellfish


Oysters are found all over the world. They are readily available in Washington DC in many oster bars, mainly east coast oysters. I recently had delicious oysters in South Africa and Madagascar, which are typically not on the radar of the mainstream oyster eater, and in Seattle.

Oysters in South Africa

Pictures: In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

Oysters in Madagascar

Pictures: Oysters in Madagascar with Patrick Rajaonary: Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

Oysters in Seattle

Picture: In Seattle with Oyster Guru Jon Rowley: West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

Jon Rowley orchestrates every year the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition - an event that attmepts to find the perfect oyster wines. The 10 winners of the 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition were announced recently: The 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition - 10 Oyster Wines

Scallops/Coquilles Saint Jacques

Scallops - or Coquilles St. Jacques - are a kind of a daily staple and very reasonably priced at the East Coast in the US. By contrast, they are a rarity and very high prized in Europe. I have never understood why. We regularly have Scallop dishes at home, when we are at our home in the US. 

Pictures: A simple salad with Coquilles Saint Jacques, prepared by Annette Schiller and wine from Weingut Kuenstler.

C. Plateau des Fruits de Mer in Bordeaux

A dish that I like very much and that brings togather many of the different kinds of seafood is the famous Plateau des Fruits de Mer that you get in France. My most recent  experience in this regard was in the City of Bordeaux in France.

Picture: Plateau des Fruits de Mer in Bordeaux

See: A Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Pessac-Leognan Wine in Bordeaux City, France

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

New Hampshire, US: Cheese ... Lobster and Oysters ... and Wine!

A Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Pessac-Leognan Wine in Bordeaux City, France

Oysters and Wine

The Best Wines for US West Coast and Other Oysters

West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

Maryland Crabs and Wine, USA

Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

A Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Pessac-Leognan Wine in Bordeaux City, France


  1. Your readers may enjoy following our Oyster Century Club© tasting adventure - better yet, why not join us?

    We're tasting our way to 100 varieties. They're delicious, they're sustainable and they taste of the sea and of possibility.

    Great run down!

  2. - very interesting article about oysters

  3. It is not very appetizing to think of lobsters as the insect of the seas but is so true. Maryland crabs are my favorite type of seafood but I have to get them online now that I no longer live there.