When an oyster makes you cry, you know it’s good, as was recently the case when yours truly sat down to a plate of Island Creek oysters at Ajax Tavern. One taste of their briny seawater followed by the plump, sweet shellfish, and this native New England-ah felt like a six-year-old girl beachcombing the Atlantic shore.

Raw oysters, whether from the East or West Coast, are clean, simple, divergent in shape and taste, and increasingly popular among Aspen diners. Found on menus at Montagna, Ajax Tavern, Piñons Restaurant and Pacifica Seafood & Raw Bar, one oyster in particular is tempting taste buds: the aforementioned Island Creek oyster from Massachusetts’ Duxbury Bay.

The National Shellfisheries Association named Island Creek oysters the best in America, and winter is the ideal time to eat them, says ICO founder, Skip Bennett. “Because of colder temperatures, our oysters hibernate during the end of fall and winter,” he says. “During that time they build up glycogen, which is like oyster fat and makes them look so plump and taste so wonderfully fresh and delicious.”

Though oysters fetch top dollar (some from $18 for a half dozen), according to the 2010 Dwell Strategy and Research study, people in the luxury market are spending on brands that represent quality, aesthetics and authenticity. That couldn’t be truer of the oyster. Paired with a glass of crisp white wine, they are the perfect light bite or starter to a full meal. Bon appetit!

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