LAS VEGAS (TheStreet
) -- The allure of oysters is well documented not only as an aphrodisiac, but as food fit for a president and a staple in New York restaurants during the brokering of multimillion-dollar deals.
has taken a look back to the old favorites and top chefs' new preparations for power brokers present and future.
Perhaps the most notable recent occasion of a power figure serving oysters to his guests is President Barack Obama's inauguration. Obama channeled former President Abraham Lincoln's taste buds, serving a take on his favorite dish of stewed and scalloped oysters -- a full-fledged nod to the 16th president's love of the bivalve mollusk.
As far back in history as George Washington, oysters have been part of political circles' most important dinners. Upon his return home Christmas eve in 1783, Washington feasted on baked oysters; Thomas Jefferson downed 50 oysters in Amsterdam the following night. At James Buchanan's inauguration in 1857, he directed French caterer and chocolatier Charles Gautier to serve 400 gallons of the tasty mollusk, while James A. Garfield served only 100 gallons of pickled oysters almost a quarter-century later. Benjamin Harrison's 1889 menu included oysters a la poulette. Dwight Eisenhower loved oysters so much he even created a meal of oysters on the half-shell, oyster stew and fried oysters for a visit by an old army buddy who, unfortunately, was allergic to the delicacy.
The popular Oysters Rockefeller was created in 1899 at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans. Subsequently, several presidents have enjoyed the delicacy, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt while dining with the mayor of New Orleans and President George W. Bush while dining with Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster.
Antoine's Oysters Rockefeller have a twist on tradition -- they are served with minced greens instead of spinach -- but today's chefs are becoming even more bold and creative.
We asked several top chefs about their modern-day affinity for the food.
"Oysters are naturally delicious out of the shell without manipulation. Straight out of the sea, chilled and garnished is what makes them such a regal delicacy," said Shaun Hergatt, executive chef and proprietor at
SHO Shaun Hergatt
in New York's financial district. "Coming up to spring we are looking at new ways to prepare oysters at SHO. I like to prepare oysters with fresh ingredients like creme fraiche, cilantro, avocado and lemon."
A night of
"Deep Sea Delights and Saucy Sea Bites"
is planned, he said, when he will complement the raw oyster with lime juice, ginger and junsai, a deep maroon flower considered a Japanese delicacy with medicinal qualities.
J.L. Carrera, executive chef at
Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro
at the Palazzo
in Las Vegas, also goes for simplicity.
"We serve oysters with a red wine vinegar mignonette, as well as tabasco, horseradish and lemon. Our service is a display of the oyster, rather than a manipulation," Carrera said. "We serve East and West Coast oysters, therefore they all have very particular flavor and taste profiles. The mignonette, along with the fresh-squeezed lemon and tabasco, brings out their unique flavors and complements them. We don't serve cocktail sauce with our oysters because it masks the flavors of the oysters. We also serve oysters with horseradish, a traditional accompaniment. "
Unusual preparations include Kushi oysters, which are prepared with liquid nitrogen, margarita sorbet and orange puree by Hubert Keller, a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef Masters
and leader of Fleur by Hubert Keller at the Mandalay Bay MGM
; and the playful oyster six shooters with traditional cocktail sauce, lemon juice and gin at
hi rm Seafood
by Top Chef Master
finalist Rick Moonen.
Shawn McClain, executive chef of
at Aria, stepped up the heat with market oysters served with piquillo pepper, tabasco sorbet and an aged tequila mignonette. To cool things off the recently opened
in New York, which serves oysters with the rare
Minus 8 wine vinegar
mignonette, named from the freezing conditions in which the grapes are hand-picked and pressed.
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