Festive Foods

Cuisine

December 5, 2023

Words by: Twyla Campbell

Photography by: Erin Walker

Impress your guests with treasures from the sea

Eight years ago, Rob Tryon landed in Edmonton with a bushel of oysters and a boatload of energy. Cheeky social media posts—many of them with jokes about shucking and photos of him posing with various fish ready to receive his kiss—garnered him a quick following of folks eager to get their hands on quality ocean goods.

Many might think his social media handle (@EffingRob) and his company name, Effing Seafoods, are just part and parcel of his playful personality but the name comes from Effingham Inlet where he spent years working as an oyster farmer. 

After moving from Vancouver Island to Edmonton and hawking oysters at pop-ups and restaurant events, Tryon set up his tent at farmers’ markets where he offered an expanded inventory of fish and other seafood. For years, he was the face of the business, and while he’s in the shop most days, he now has staff on hand to confidently answer customers’ questions and concerns. Plus, the product he sources pretty much speaks for itself. 

Tanks teeming with lobster, oysters of all shapes and sizes, and glass-fronted cases filled with fresh fish from around the world are what customers see first when they walk through the door. It’s hard not to be smitten.

If you’re planning a holiday seafood extravaganza, a word of warning: December is Effing Seafoods’ busiest month. 

“The only time I’ve ever run out of oysters was New Year’s Eve 2021 at noon,” Tryon says, reflecting that it was probably people’s post-isolation need to feel pampered that caused the frenzy. He’s made sure to never let that happen, since.

With an inventory of 12 to 20 different species that amount to nearly 5,000 oysters in stock, Effing Seafoods is a good place to start if you’re planning a raw-oyster-on-the-half-shell experience. The staff will provide everything you need to prepare a feast at home. All you need to do is shuck.

“You should always try an oyster without any sauce or condiment first,” Tryon advises, saying that chewing releases the flavour which is created from what’s in the oyster’s environment—in other words, terroir—something that also affects the size and shape of both meat and shell.

“At first, you might get a hit of saltiness from some oysters, followed by a sweet finish. That’s because of the plankton,” he explains, adding that seasonality also affects the flavour. For a full-on oyster experience, he recommends trying a variety of oysters in one sitting. With what he stocks, variety isn’t a problem.

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Fish, too, is plentiful and is sourced from around the world. The salmon selection alone can feature up to six species (wild and farmed) and is available both fresh and frozen. The sustainable Blue Atlantic salmon from Nova Scotia is a beautiful fish served at some of Edmonton’s top restaurants as well as the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Ora King, a farmed salmon from New Zealand is another top-tier fish served in local establishments, including Japanese restaurants that offer sushi. The flesh of this fish is velvety-rich and flavourful. Wild BC salmon is a wonderful choice for pan-roasting or barbecuing on a cedar plank. 

Lobsters are popular this time of year, as well, with Tryon bringing in a few hundred pounds per week to keep up with customer demand. Crab, clams, scallops, prawns, and mussels round out the selection. Want to impress the guests? A seafood tower would do the trick.

Northern Divine, a Canadian caviar from Sechelt, BC, is a hot ticket, too, in December. The briny little beads pair perfectly with bubbly (or vodka!). If high-calibre sturgeon roe is part of your festive menus or New Year’s Eve plan, then plan your purchase well in advance. 

In December, customers can pick up orders at two Edmonton locations—Meuwley’s Artisan Food Market on 124 Street and Woodshed Burgers on Ellwood Drive. Otherwise, peruse the full inventory at Effing Seafoods’ retail outlet located at 44 Riel Drive in St. Albert.

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