My husband and I love oysters! Raw, barbequed, Rockefeller – they are all good. My favorite way to eat them is raw with a little squeeze of lemon and mignonette – accompanied with champagne and really good sourdough bread. A match made in heaven! I prefer Pacific coast oysters from very cold and clean waterways. I didn’t always love oysters – but on a trip to the San Juan Islands, where I tasted really high quality oysters that were grown in the local bay, made me a devotee ever since. It is like anything else in the food industry – the greater care and lengths that a farmers and chefs go through to create their product, produces suburb results.
I have known about oyster farms in Tamales Bay for some years now although I have never visited them. I have heard my friends rave about how fun it is to visit these farms, eat oysters there, and purchase large bags of oysters to bring back home to enjoy. This sounded like something I would like to experience.
My husband and I finally made a visit to Tamales Bay and selected Hog Island Oyster Company for our “Oysterfest.” We had packed a picnic at home, but stopped in Point Reyes Station to buy fresh cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and fresh bread from Brickmaiden Bakery. With wine chilling in the cooler, we were set to go.
The fog was just burning off as we left Point Reyes Station, headed north on highway 1 on the east side of Tomales Bay. It was going to be a beautiful day! Tomales Bay is a thin long strip of water that was created by the San Andres Fault, which runs right underneath the bay leading north and out into the Pacific Ocean through Bodega Bay. The mouth of the bay is at the far north end. The landscape around the bay is covered with native grasses and the occasional native oak trees that populate our state of California. On the opposite side of the bay, Point Reyes National Seashore is located, which is a fabulous destination in of itself.
Hog Island Oysters is located in Marshall and has a very beach-feel to its establishment. The location is quite the operation, with the growing of oysters in the bay, harvesting, processing, storage of the shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels) in the refrigerated holding tanks, shipping, as well as a retail kiosk for tourists and picnickers like me. They had four oysters for us to choose from that day. We selected a larger oyster for barbequing and a smaller oyster for eating raw. We purchased our oysters at the “Hog Shack” and with our iced oysters on a tray and cooler in hand, we headed to the picnic tables, which are located right down at the bay’s edge. The picnic area has about twelve large picnic tables with umbrellas, and each table has a barbeque pit. “The Boat” is located at the picnic area – this where you can buy mesquite charcoal and borrow a chimney starter, shucking knife and glove – if you didn’t bring your own. In addition, Hog Island provides complimentary lemons, hot sauce, and their Hog Wash – which is similar to mignonette. On Fridays through Mondays, The Boat sells prepared foods such local cheese, fresh bread, salads, charcuterie plates, wine and beer, as well as offers a full service oyster bar, where they shuck and prepare raw and barbecued oysters to order.
My husband and I had a lovely picnic table overlooking the bay. The young man working at The Boat gave my husband a complimentary shucking lesson. Although my husband had shucked oysters before, the tips this young man provided, proved to be the techniques that had eluded us for years!
Barbequing oysters is quite simple – shuck the oysters, place them on the grill directly over the hot coals, wait for them to bubble, remove, and they are done. Adding butter, garlic, and fresh chopped herbs is always delicious. This can be added at the beginning of the grilling process. I have been told that shucking the oysters is not necessary to barbeque them. You can place the whole oyster on the grill and it will pop open as it gets hot – just like steaming clams. But of course, to add other ingredients to the oyster, and have it cook together, you need to shuck them first.
My grilled corn and home grown heirloom tomato salad with basil
I love this salad!!!
We thoroughly enjoyed our picnic at Hog Island Oyster Company. It was such a wonderful setting to indulge in such a delicious delicacy! Of course I had to wonder around and visit the other tables to see what they had for lunch. I learned a few great tricks for next time – which we plan to go back soon!
Thank you Hog Island Oyster Company for such a wonderful afternoon!
Hog Island Oyster Company has two restaurant locations – one in San Francisco at the Ferry Building and the other in Napa at the Oxbow Public Market. They also can be hired for catered events.
HOG ISLAND OYSTER COMPANY
20215 Shoreline Highway
Marshall, CA 94940
The Hog Shack (retail kiosk selling oysters, clams, and mussels)
Open Daily 9am to 5pm
Open daily for picnicking – but their menu is only served Friday – Monday
Friday – Monday 11am to 4:30pm
Reservations are required for a picnic table and barbecue
There is a $5.00 per person picnic fee