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Fried Oysters at the Four Seasons

History on a half-shell at an archetypal NYC restaurant

“Before there were bagels, New York had the oyster,” one-time New York Times food critic and author of Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York, William Grimes once pointed out. And before there was 11 Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Daniel and even Le Cirque, there was The Four Seasons. Combine both the classic bivalve and the enduring restaurant, and the palate is in for a treat.

Crispy oysters Four Seasons

Four Seasons executive chef, Pecko Zantilaveevan, fries the oysters to crisp perfection, lays them each on a bed of yellow pepper puree within the shell, then tops each with slivers of powerful pickled shishito peppers ($29). Note that you can only order the delicacies off the appetizer menu in the famous Pool Room.

The story could simply end with the dish’s deliciousness, but it turns out that the  meaty bivales used in the recipe and sourced from Long Island Sound have an interesting, very New York story to go with them. It goes something like this: Blue Island Oyster Company diver Chris Quartuccio was searching for a name emblematic of his bold, briny oysters with  New York origin. The city’s iconic Naked Cowboy somehow came to mind, so Quartuccio licensed the name from the guitar-playing, underwear-wearing Times Square fixture … and that is exactly how these­­­­­­ oysters are known, as genuine Naked Cowboys.

As for the restaurant, The Four Seasons opened in 1959 and has since played host to countless power-players, from U.S. Presidents to Hollywood icons to captains of industry. Credited as the U.S.’s first farm-to-table restaurant celebrating seasonal bounty, The Four Seasons is also recognized as being the first restaurant to promote and serve American wines. Its landmarked interior, designed by architects Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, feels as timeless as that treat on a half-shell. And like the Naked Cowboy, oh so very New York.

The Four Seasons
99 East 52nd St.

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