Hog Island Oyster Orgyfeatured

Photo Credit: Ali LaRaia, A Date With Flavor

Photo Credit: Ali LaRaia, A Date With Flavor

About 50 miles north of SF, nestled away in Marshall, CA, is a treasure trove full of riches from the sea. “X” marks the spot at the Hog Island Oyster Farm. The jewels you’ll find are the sweetest, most succulent oysters harvested from the pristine waters of Tomales Bay.

Hog Island Oyster Co., X-Small Sweetwaters

Hog Island Oyster Co., X-Small Sweetwaters

There is nothing like feasting on fresh, raw oysters. The satisfaction of prying them open. The sensuous delight of slurping the plump morsel straight off the shell, salty juices running down your arms. And that smooth, rich, burst of ocean that floods your mouth.

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The best part of indulging in all of this at the farm? Other than getting them straight from the source, and enjoying the picturesque bay views, with prices ranging from $32-$52 for 50 oysters, you can truly indulge. Seriously, go nuts. Shuck and slurp to your heart’s content.

The Goods at the Hog Shack

The Goods at the Hog Shack

So, when Ali suggested we take a trip out to Hog Island I pretty much giddy girly squealed with delight. Chowhounds in crime, Aika and Jess, completed our oyster-hungry hunting party.

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Hog Island Farm Picnic

Hog Island Farm Picnic

This trip up Route 1 has quickly topped my list of favorite day trips in the Bay Area. Tip for the motion-sick prone, bring your Dramamine – this topsy turvy highway can be a doozy. But it is all worth it.

Tomales Bay Foods, Pt. Reyes Station

Tomales Bay Foods, Pt. Reyes Station

If you’re driving up from SF, be sure to stop by the quaint town of Point Reyes Station. Stop for a cup of coffee, a stroll through town, and pick up the makings of a perfect picnic at Tomales Bay Foods, an old restored barn housing the original Cowgirl Creamery.

Cowgirls

Cowgirls

Today we are making amazingness

Today we are making amazingness

We picked up some of Cowgirl’s famous Red Hawk (a triple-cream cow’s milk cheese, aged six weeks and washed with a brine solution that creates its signature sunset red-orange tinted rind), a big loaf of olive bread from Brickmaiden Breads, and a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc to round out our stash of cherries, peaches, and spiced pecans in tow. And then it was back on the oyster trail.

There are two Hog Island Oyster Co. picnic spots along Route 1 where you can shuck your own oysters, and either enjoy them in their naked gloriousness or grill them on one of the barbeques they have on site. The one further south is a bit larger and has more seating area, but had a fewer selection of oysters available. We drove on about another 5 minutes to the next location.

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As soon as we entered the premises we were hit with the intoxicating scent of salty sea air. Turned the corner and lo and behold, bushels and bushels of Kumas, Atlantics, Sweetwaters … good God, I was in heaven.

Fifty Atlantic Oysters

Fifty Atlantic Oysters

We learned from our shuck master the difference in flavor of each variety. The Kumamoto oysters, originally from the Kumamoto area of Kyushu, Japan, are the sweetest of the three varieties available. They have a mild, almost fruity flavor. The Atlantic oysters are a native East Coast species called the Blue Point oyster. They are the saltiest of the bunch and have a slightly more mineral taste. And then there are my personal favorite, the popular Sweetwater oysters, a native West Coast oyster whose flavor falls somewhere in between the Kuma and the Atlantic. They are slightly salty, with a rich smoky-sweet flavor.

Oyster orgy time

Oyster orgy time

Shucking the oysters can be tricky at first. A shucking knife is long and pointed (like an envelope opener) with a dulled edge on both sides. The key to a successful shuck is in first getting the knife lodged into the point of the oyster where the two halves of the shell hinge, the apex if you will. As a beginner, I found it helpful to have a dish towel (remember to bring your own) under the oyster and my left hand (safely ensconced in a protective glove) holding it steady. With my right (dominant) hand, I went at the sweet spot at a slightly downward angle to get it in. You’ll feel a give in pressure. Once it’s in, rock your knife back and forth, making a motion with your wrist like you’re jiggling a doorknob. The shell should pop loose, allowing you to slide your knife around the edges to complete the process.

For a great visual demo from a pro, check out this video on how to shuck an oyster.

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In the beginning I was convinced I would never get to taste the sweet sweet oyster trapped inside that stubborn shell. Don’t fret. You’ll get the hang of it. And then those suckers don’t stand a chance.

62 oysters later: happy and sated

62 oysters later: happy and sated

We didn’t have time this trip, but next time I’ll take my oysters to go and picnic on the beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore, about 20 minutes south on Route 1.

If you can’t make it out to Point Reyes anytime soon, take heart, you can still oyster orgy on the cheap in the city. Here is a list worth holding on to: SF Weekly’s running list of $1 Oyster spots.

Happy oyster hunting!

Hog Island Happy

Hog Island Happy

Hog Island Oyster Company (farm)
20215, Highway 1
Marshall, CA 94940
(415) 663-9218, ext.255
Open 7 days a week, rain or shine! 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Tip: Picnic reservations tend to fill up on the weekends so call in advance ($8/person with reservation on weekend, or $10/person walk-in; $5 on weekdays). Fee includes picnic table, shucking tools, access to bbq, and fresh lemons
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Cowgirl Creamery
80 4th Street (at Tomales Bay Foods)
Point Reyes Station, California 94956
(415) 663-9335
Open Wednesday thru Sunday
Tip: Every Friday at 11:30 a.m. there is a tour consisting of a 25-minute presentation and tasting of Cowgirl Creamery cheeses ($5)

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Featured in Bay Area Bites, July 22, 2009.

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