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Tastemakers:Siren Hall Oysters/Michigan Mojito

Rick Coates - July 25th, 2011
Siren Hall Oysters
Selecting oysters is a lot like selecting a great bottle of wine. As with wine, point of origin is equally important for oysters as the marine plants they feed on determine appearance, texture and flavor. For the oyster novice, tasting oysters from some of the best harvesting areas of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts is best accomplished at Siren Hall in Elk Rapids. Even the connoisseur will be impressed with selection of fresh oysters on the menu.
Freshness is probably the most important quality to an exceptional oyster. Seawater is the magic ingredient so the longer an oyster has been out of the ocean (usually after two weeks) the less flavorful. Good thing that Siren Hall proprietors Michael and Rebecca Peterson have East and West Coast connections and get fresh oysters flown in regularly.
Oysters pair best with beer or chilled vodka. In college I used to enter oyster eating competitions and coating the palate with a Guinness Stout was the secret to my success. You can also try a good local IPA or stout.
Now I learned my appreciation for oysters first in eating competitions, which brings up the most debated question: Chew or Slurp and Swallow? Of course in competition the latter is recommended, but the bottom line is really a matter of personal preference. Now that my competition days are over I prefer chewing as I find I get more flavor.
Typically Siren Hall has six or more oyster selections on their menu and it changes sometimes daily. The Salutation Cove from Prince Edward Island (in picture) were excellent. They are delicate with a salty first taste and a sweet finish (if you chew them the sweetness comes out). They are served with a cocktail sauce and the traditional Mignonette sauce (champagne vinegar). For more information on Siren Hall check out sirenhall.com.
--Rick Coates

Michigan Mojito
While the Traverse City Film Festival is all about the movies, a big part of the week includes the various parties where festival-goers catch up with filmmakers, celebrities and like-minded film buffs. The parties have always focused on local products and this year is no exception.
Look for the “Michigan Mojito” to be featured at the Filmmaker Party on Friday, July 29 and at the Closing Night Party on Sunday, July 31 (party info at www.traversecityfilmfest.org). Anchored with New Holland Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum, this mojito (mo-hee-toe) has a different twist from the traditional straight-up mint-based mix; the Michigan Mojito will use a basil syrup instead.
To make this cocktail use: 1.25 oz New Holland Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum, 2 basil leaves, 1 oz. basil syrup, 0.5 oz lime juice and 2 oz soda. Place basil leaves in bottom of glass. Add crushed ice, Rum, basil syrup and lime juice, and muddle. Add soda water and garnish with basil leaves.
What the subtleness of basil does with its sweet peppery notes is draw out the oak barrel aged flavor profiles of the rum that would otherwise would be masked by the overpowering mint. This cocktail is sure to be a big hit not only this week at the Film Festival but at cocktail parties and clubs.
The quality of this rum is such that it may be enjoyed as is by simply dropping a couple of ice cubes in the glass and sipping. No surprise here as New Holland Artisan Spirits (part of New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI) continues to make exceptional small batch spirits. In addition to their amber rum they also produce a white rum, dark rum, a vodka, citrus vodka, a gin, hopquilla and a malt whiskey called Zeppelin Bend.
Look for the New Holland Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum and their other line of spirits at specialty shops and restaurants throughout Northern Michigan. Go to www.newhollandbrew.com for more details.---Rick Coates
 
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