Bloomberg Businessweek

THE BEST OYSTER OF MY LIFE

It’s not in New York. Or New Orleans. Or even Paris. The shellfish that could really capture your heart is in Ireland.
Diarmuid Kelly shucks a native flat at Kelly Oysters in Galway Bay.

A few thousand soused revelers are gathered under a massive tent that faces the water as the sun sets across the ocean. Outside, trucks hawk fried seafood. Inside, a cover band draws a crowd to the dance floor with Brown Eyed Girl.

It’s a scene that could unfold any weekend in my adopted home of New Orleans—though there the music would be better. But I’m in Galway, Ireland, at the World Oyster Opening Championship. It’s part of the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, founded in 1954 and held every September, making it the longest-running festival of its kind in the world. Today, this spot is ground zero for the most zealous of oyster lovers, who carry tray after tray of the freshly shucked mollusks to the cocktail tables surrounding the dance floor. They eat, they drink, and they wait for a rousing competition to unfold among the world’s best shuckers.

Even among the Irish, Galway has a reputation as a good time—“better than Dublin,” my friends told me before I went—where medieval roots meet a boozy Bohemia that commands you to crawl between pubs along winding cobblestone lanes as dead-sexy Irish-folk street musicians provide the score.

Like hundreds of other visitors this weekend, I’ve come for the oysters. The Crassostrea gigas from the Pacific Ocean is popular around here—it’s on offer any time of year. But the more exclusive, and more expensive, native “flat” oyster is available only in months that have an “r” in them. This wild Atlantic version is harvested after spawning in the summer, and the supply can

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