Saturday, November 20, 2010

In a Golden State 2: Oysters

tboc 3 fig. a: simple pleasures

Quite simply the very best oysters either of us have ever had, and we had them in August, which, as you may have noticed, is one of those months that does not contain a letter "r." "They" said it couldn't be done. "They" obviously never visited Tomales Bay.

tboc 2 fig. b: TBOC HQ

When you find oysters labeled "Tomales Bay," there's a good chance they were harvested by the Tomales Bay Oyster Company in Marshall, CA, which, as you can see if you read the fine print, celebrated its centenary last year, in 2009.

drake's bay & tomales bay fig. c: Drake's Bay, Tomales Bay

Not sure where either Tomales Bay or Marshall, CA are? Well, they're about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and just a few miles north of Point Reyes Station, in an area for its proximity to Point Reyes National Seashore and its associations with Sir Francis Drake.

tomales bay fig. d: Tomales Bay

And if you visit the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, you'll see that it's still a very small operation perched directly on Tomales Bay, exactly as you'd expect it to be.

tboc 1 fig. e: TBOC picnic area

There are a couple of small buildings (huts, really), including the business office, but occupying center stage is a massive tank behind a counter where the catch of the day is kept in cool salt water. You sidle up to the counter, decide how many oysters you'd like to purchase, and strike up a deal. There's no restaurant, no table service. Just the counter, the tank, the oysters, a stretch of pebble beach, and a bunch of picnic tables and barbecues. You buy your oysters, ask for an oyster knife or some Tabasco sauce, if you need some, and make your way to the picnic table of your choice.  If you're a regular, you'll know that the smart thing to do is to make an honest table out of that picnic table by actually bringing along a picnic.  Some beers, a bottle of wine, a salad or two, a loaf of bread, perhaps, some charcoals and a charcoal chimney, and possibly some limes or lemons--that kind of thing.  Then you have the option of having your insanely delicious Tomales Bay oysters raw or grilled, and when you do, you'll have plenty of nice things to accompany them and/or wash them down with.  With or without a picnic, they're still going to be insanely delicious.  You probably won't have to limit yourself to six or twelve either, because the utter lack of a middleman means that these oysters are incredibly inexpensive. Hell, get 50.  It'll only set you back $35-$70, depending on the size you choose. Think about it: an oyster festival, every day of the year.*

Neither of us were regulars, which means it never occurred to us to bring a picnic.  It also means that we had our oysters pretty much straight-up, with just a dash of Tabasco sauce or a squeeze of lime every now and then to add a little something to oysters that were already the freshest, sweetest, most perfect oysters we'd ever had.  Easily one of the best meals of the last decade.

there he is with a sea lion fig. f: surf's up(-ish)

And the fact that I'd gotten to swim with a sea lion off Stinson Beach just a few hours earlier,

SF sunset fig. g: Golden Gate, golden light

and that we drove back toward San Francisco through a truly legendary sunset,

Vladimir's fig. h: Vladimir's

and that we had big steins of Pilsner Urquell in a "Czechoslovaki" pub across the bay from Marshall in Inverness, CA,

ms. marek finds her dream house fig. i: Ms. Marek finds her dream house

and that Michelle found that the dream house that she'd first spotted in 2005 was still very much available, well, they all added up to the kind of overall experience Lou Reed once labeled a Perfect Day.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company, 15479 Hwy. 1, Marshall, CA, (415) 663-1242

Vladimir's Czech Restaurant, 12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, CA, (415) 669-1021

Looking for "In a Golden State 1: Coffee"? You can find it here.


* This being California, with cool, cool waters and temperate weather pretty much all year round, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company is open 365 days a year. But if you're planning on going there for a Thanksgiving Day feast, keep in mind that their hours will be shortened: 9 am - 2 pm. Plenty enough time to pick up a few dozen for your oyster stuffing!


Anonymous said...

I had the exact same beatific experience there with thos eoysters last year...thanks for kindling the memories...


aj kinik said...

you're welcome, Melora!