The Freshest, Most Delicious Oysters

What do oysters, eels, and brackish water have in common? Eel Lake, in the Municipality of Argyle, Nova Scotia, is the site of an aquaculture operation that produces the most delicious oysters I have ever eaten. The lake is home to the D’Eon family’s Eel Lake Oyster Farm featuring the “Ruisseau” Oyster.

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We spent an hour visiting the farming operation with two of the D’Eons, Clark and Colton. They took us out on a small boat to see the oysters in the beds on the lake.

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Eel Lake has brackish water as it is fed from one end with fresh water and the other end with salt. Depending on the tides and rainfall, the water salinity changes and gives the oysters a distinct taste. In fact, Colton told us that oysters are kind of like wine. The taste of an oyster varies from region to region because of these variables. After about 14 days in a body of water, they will take on the particular taste or flavor of that water.

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Our tour took place two weeks after spawning season and Colton showed us the oyster collectors used to collect baby oysters.

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He then showed us the floating system used to house the growing oysters.

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The system has gotten much better and easier to manage as the D’Eons have moved from labor intensive oyster bags to a system attached to floats.

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The end result of the hard work is delicious briny oysters. We had them served raw as well as broiled with butter, garlic, and parsley. I prefer mine raw. If they were any fresher you’d have to be an oyster.

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A True Seafood Shack On Cape Sable Island

Westhead Takeout is the quintessential seafood shack complete with picnic tables and views of fishing vessels and the ocean.

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The menu covers all things fried and we were there to experience the various seafood offerings.

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Once you order you can take a few minutes to wander around the wharf where you can check out whatever Canadian Coast Guard vessel is in port and watch seaweed harvesters unload their haul. Or you can sit on the porch of the shack enjoying the smells coming from the kitchen.

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When our food was ready we dove right in. The fried clams were the best I’ve had this summer and possibly ever. They were whole clams and very fresh. We loved the scallops, haddock sandwich, shrimp, and onion rings. It was a great meal!

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The Golden Arches

Our hosts today asked our group what they wanted for lunch. Actually, the asked the sixteen teenagers what they wanted for lunch. The answer was?

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Yes, the Golden Arches translate into many languages and leave people very happy.

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Look at that happy Griffin.

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It also translates across cultures.

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In China you can order home delivery.

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and ice cream as well.

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Lu and Wang Dinner

Last nights dinner afforded us the opportunity to try some new taste sensations. Our hosts were the parents of Phillip who will be joining us at Episcopal next year. The dad is a physician who now heads a pharma company in China and the mom teaches traditional Chinese medicine. The dinner featured a number of different dishes we had not seen before.

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This was a beef dish with beef and other ingredients pressed into a mold and then sliced. It had a nice beefy flavor to it.

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This was described as meat jelly. Definitely jelly like with a slight meaty flavor.

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Head on shrimp that were very fresh and delicious.

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This was one of the most fun items to date. Basically mashed potatoes with jelly and sprinkles on top. Melissa noted that this might be a good Thanksgiving side dish!

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This was a fried Twinkie with condensed milk dip. It was delicious!

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Here we have meatballs in a broth with noodles. It was briny goodness.

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The last dish was a lovely whole fish (flounder?) that had a slightly spicy sauce. Another delicious meal with terrific hosts who were very kind and generous.

Dumplings Everywhere

This afternoon was all about dumplings. We first learned about the traditional rice “dumplings” prepared for the annual Dragon Boat Festival. This is rice wrapped in bamboo leaves in a specific triangular shape.

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We then learned how to assemble traditional steamed dumplings with both a vegetable and meat filling.

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The finished product.

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Paradise Star was a Star of a Meal

Tonight we were taken to a lovely and casual dinner at a restaurant named Paradise Star in the City Center district. It is one of the few remaining residential districts in Shenyang with low buildings and small lanes. The dinner was another example of beautiful presentation and delicious dishes. A fruit plate lead off the meal along with two salad dishes.

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One of new dishes we had was three cup shrimp. It is called three cup shrimp because it is made up of three different ingredients.

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This was our first curry dish and it was similar to massaman curry and was delicious.

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A stuffed clam arrived next and this preparation had small noodles and string cabbage that tasted like mild sauerkraut.

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This chicken dish had a deep flavor infused with tea. It was crispy, moist, and had some very hot peppers with it.

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Our hosts knew we were from the US and what do you serve Americans…steak! Deliciously spiced and cooked perfectly too.

Spectacular New Times Sea Hotel Dinner

Spectacular is really the only word that can describe our dinner last night. We were hosted by the Mrs. Zong, one of our host parents, at the New Times Sea Hotel, a seafood restaurant in the Hunaan District of Shenyang. As you enter the restaurant, live seafood of all types greet you in their underwater environment. In addition to fish, there were aquariums filled with sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and any number of other live creatures I couldn’t identify.

We were whisked away to a private room where our host welcomed us and asked us to feel comfortable and at home. Then our host and Wei Yang ordered the items from the menu.

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First to arrive at the table was a delicious and beautifully presented fruit tray. Since we have had a bit of a fresh fruit deficit over the past nine days we were very happy.

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Then a whole series of dishes from seafood, to meat, the vegetables arrived.

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This vegetable dish had a light vinaigrette dressing with mushroom, bamboo shoots, and peas.

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This dish was West Lake Dragon Tea Shrimp. The delicious shrimp was cooked in a sauce made with this special green tea. The sweet shrimp flavors combined well with the slightly bitter green tea. Notice the plate with the attached tea kettle. The look of the dish is a fundamental part of the presentation.

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This vegetable dish combined various hearty greens with tomato, dried pork bits, and a tangy sauce.

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Sashimi was next to arrive. This beautiful and incredibly fresh assortment included a mackerel that was to die for, a lovely tuna, and salmon as well. Somehow the chef managed to combine a fluke with roe that appeared as one piece. The combination of flavors was perfect.

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This was a lamb dish that required some assembly similar to Moo Sho dishes. The very thin pancake was the base, followed by a leaf similar to mint, green onions, spicy chili sauce, and then the dried spiced lamb. Once wrapped you were required to eat it in one bite. The spice, fresh crispy veggies, and crunch made for a delicious taste sensation.

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This was a braised beef dish with a deep meaty flavored brown sauce. It provided a nice contrast to some of the other lighter dishes.

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These steamed buns are a traditional treat dating back to dynastic times. There are two kinds of buns, those made with corn (yellow ones) and those made with wheat. They are eaten with bit of green onion and a spicy paste.

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This was a lightly breaded cod dish that was incredibly tender with lemon notes.

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To complete the meal we enjoyed fried yams with a sticky honey glaze. When eating this dish you pull each piece off the pile very slowly to create “silk” threads. It is considered very lucky to have the threads.

All I can say is a sincere thank you to our host for such a delicious meal.