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Ina Pinkney Headshot

OY! It's an Oyster

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One of the best jobs I ever had was working for George Lang, the genius behind the Cafe des Artistes in New York City, and countless restaurant concepts around the world.

George asked if I would join him for a meeting at the Four Seasons restaurant to create a press luncheon for a Japanese company that was introducing a new whiskey.

The limo drove us to that remarkable place where a Picasso tapestry hung, a reflecting pool was center stage in the dining room, and the essence of power permeated the air.

We slid into a booth on the second level, and I gulped at the realization that I was sitting next to George and across from Paul Kovi (the owner) and Chef Seppi Renggli. These men were the royalty of the restaurant world in 1977.

We settled on a three-course lunch, each course accompanied by a different wine made by the Japanese company. Chef suggested Oysters Poached in Champagne and 30 Herbs for starters - a signature dish of the Four Seasons. They all nodded, and Chef ordered the dish from the server.

At that moment I stopped hearing anything else that was said. All I could think was, "I grew up in a Kosher home and I've never seen, touched, or eaten an oyster. What do I do when the dish arrives?"

No amount of wishing kept that dish from the table. It arrived in a cast-iron skillet filled with rock salt, with seaweed decoratively woven under all six oysters. They kept talking, I kept worrying.

Paul had one. George had one. Chef declined. To divert attention, I became engaged in the conversation, ignoring George's gesture to "have one." Finally, Chef Seppi held my gaze and said, "Please, I insist." Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. And so I picked up the shell (as I had seen the others do) and ate the oyster.

With that first bite, I was hooked. The feel of the oyster in my mouth, the taste of the champagne butter sauce, redolent of garlic and herbs, was surprising and sensual and I was overcome with only one thought: how could I eat the remaining three without anyone noticing?

Recipe for enjoying oysters:

Go to Shaw's Crab House, sit in the Lounge and enjoy!