The Grand Bivalvia

Sometimes you need to write things down so you can remember them. Not like a grocery list, or a note reminding you to send grandma a Christmas card (after all, she sends you that check for $15 every year), but something to look back on – a memory of something so good you just want to revisit it again and again.

I have an obsession with seafood. Perhaps it’s where I grew up, or maybe living so far away from the ocean, but I crave the shit. Every year around the holidays, a crate of blue crabs gets FedEx’d to my doorstep, the baccalà starts soaking in its 4-day bath, and I go on a hunt for smoked eel – complete insanity, the Italian way. As crazy as it is, the spaghetti with crab-infused marinara, dusted with Peccorino Romano and copious amounts of Chianti makes it worth all the effort.

Despite this coveted annual tradition, I have trained my taste buds to explore the world during the remaining 51 weeks we have each year.  As of recent, with the heavy Vietnamese influence on soup in Denver, I have discovered the wonder that is fish sauce. The art of ike jime, although I will probably never get fish in this city that has not been beaten on the head with a club, intrigues me. Applying this Japanese technique to lobster is something that I’d like to give a go, as I’ve read that it makes the meat super delicious, but it involves tearing out the heart through the butthole of the crustacean with needle-nose pliers and then tossing it into an icy brine. I mentioned that I have an obsession, and this is the level it has somehow escalated to.

French cuisine is one, but enormously important, notch that has been missing from my culinary experience belt. Certainly some of the most accomplished chefs and preparations of seafood come from this region, so in an attempt to get my feet wet, I decided to pay a visit to Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar which is conveniently located close to my day job in downtown Denver.

In an attempt to avoid over-complicating things straight away, I nestled up to the bar and proceeded to order a half-dozen Fire River beauties, and a bottle of Muscadet. I learned a bit about this wine and its affinity to shellfish on the ‘Drinking Tour’ de France back in July, but I had never had the pleasure of drinking it. Italian whites are my favorite. French wines can be confusing if you give half a shit, so I always gravitated away from them. In this case, it was from the Loire Valley, it was super dry, so why the hell not? As soon as the nectar from the first oyster slid past my lips, it was fucking game over. The acidity from the Muscadet cut through the briny, buttery remnants in my mouth like a knife from Sakai City. So simple and so absolutely perfect. I slurped down the rest of the oysters and happily finished the bottle, thinking: wow.

It was so memorable that I had to share my experience in words. Not only for you readers, but also for me to remember how great it was. Pairings are like that. The taste, the mouth feel, the aromatics – all coming together to make a perfect moment. I understand that as a raw food item, it really can’t be classified as “French,” but the wine can, and if this is “everyday French” as the fine folks at Le Grand tout, that is good enough for me; good enough to make me come back and try the bouillabaisse.

About Jim Halligan


Jim is a modern day conquistador. When not teaching his three parrots to speak Italian, he spends time poking flags in things and calling them his own.