Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Notes From The City - Eating Oysters in Marin

During my recent trip back to San Francisco I found myself on a road trip.  Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin County towns I hadn't been through in many years, by a State Park I grew up picnicking in, along the bare summer-scorched golden hills of cow grazing land, and lusher forest like areas, I was reminded of the diversity and richness of this region. The drive took us in and out of sunshine and blue skies, through fog caressed hilltops, and throughout was a pleasantly warm and beautiful day.

Our destination was Tomales Bay Oyster Company and our first stop was Point Reyes Station, a popular little town about 39 miles and nearly an hour drive north of San Francisco on a little stretch of Highway 1. We stopped to round up some picnic extras - artisan bread, local cheeses (the much lauded Cowgirl Creamery is located there - but they were closed!), and some desserts at the Bovine Bakery. Plus a stroll through the town. You can find a sampling of the best of Marin County there - from fresh fruit to California Wines to locally raised meat, eggs, and dairy, and handcrafted gifts.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company is the longest running oyster farm in California. Tomales Bay is one of four estuaries in Marin County, where sea water meets and mingles with fresh, thus creating the more mild brackish waters perfect for growing healthy oysters. And grow them they do. On the bottom of the bay in Oyster beds. Carefully monitored and grown, and served impeccably fresh on site to be carried out or enjoyed at their picnic area. We went on a Monday, and I would not want to try to drop in on a busy weekend. You rent a picnic table, buy a big netted bag of oysters, which they pour ice over in order to keep them at the proper temperature, break out your wine, bread, and cheeses, and, in my humble opinion, hot sauce or other topping for the oysters (unless you absolutely love the taste and texture of raw oysters swimming in sea water  - which I will admit I do not). Then you sit back and enjoy your feast while looking out over the little beach, bay, and beyond and listening to their eclectic, engaging music. Oh. And bring your shucking skills or have some skilled oyster shucking companions. I had the companions who then gave me a few lessons. It takes an oyster knife, a towel, a sturdy table, and a bit of strength, precision and focus. I know I've never eaten as many oysters as I had that day, which isn't saying much. I may have had  5 or 6.  Oysters have never been my thing, however, in this beautiful, pristine setting, at the source, I think I gained a new appreciation for them (especially with the mignonette sauce my brother prepared to drizzle over them). By the way, Tomales Bay lies directly on the San Andreas fault - as in the 1906 earthquake fault - which makes for fascinating history and topography - and a humble awareness of your surroundings.

This is a road trip totally worth taking, especially on a mild day. I enjoyed the drive, the sights, towns along the way, and being with some of my favorite guys, (my favorite guy wouldn't get anywhere near an oyster ;) ), and then there is coming back into the city. Here are a few views of the Golden Gate from the Marin side headed home. It makes me think I am long overdue for a trip back over the bridge - destination Napa and Sonoma wine country.

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