Friday, January 24, 2014

Marshall, CA: Hog Island Oyster Company

This past Sunday, Andrew and I picked up two friends and drove north from Palo Alto toward Point Reyes.  We stopped briefly in Point Reyes Station to buy cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, where the Mt. Tam cheese is irresistible; the Red Hawk is their other top seller but is more pungent than I like.  I can get Cowgirl Creamery cheeses at Whole Foods in LA, but it's so much more expensive here!

Cheese procured, we continued on Highway 1 along Tomales Bay until reaching Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, CA.  I had reserved a picnic table, which comes with a grill and some condiments (lemons, hot sauce, etc), and both bulk and pre-shucked or barbecued oysters are available for sale.  Our group bought one bag of 50 Hog Island Sweetwaters and a dozen Kumamotos, and received a quick lesson in how to shuck oysters; gloves and shucking knives are provided.

In case you're wondering how one should properly shuck an oyster, here is what I learned:
1) Hold the oyster in your gloved, non-dominant hand, with the flatter shell facing up.
2) Place the point of the shucking knife at the spot where the top and bottom shells join.  Push and twist back and forth a little bit, which may cause a little piece of shell to chip off.
3) Continue to push and twist, forcing the knife point into the joint area.  Once the tip of the knife has slipped between the two shells, move the knife back and forth laterally to gradually pry the two shells open.  Keep the oyster level if possible so you don't lose the oyster liquor (the salty liquid inside).
4) Once the shells are nearly separate, use the knife edge to free the flesh from both shells.

In addition to the oysters, we had a picnic of the aforementioned cheese, pita, sausages, oranges from Stanford history corner trees, salad (endive, cabbage, and cucumber), chocolate orange cardamom cake, and drinks.  A delicious feast!  Of course we started by shucking and eating the oysters fresh, but we also put some of them on the grill, where they cooked in their own liquor.  The weather was clear and warm, and with the picnic area being right next to a little inlet, we had idyllic surroundings to pair with our unbelievably fresh seafood.  Personally, I didn't taste too much of a difference between the Sweetwaters and the Kumamotos, apart from the latter being a little more delicate in flavor.

Oyster picnicking and shucking was a very unique and fun gastronomical experience!  If I were to return, though, I might try one of the non-reserved tables, still bring my own picnic, and order some of the barbecued oysters with chipotle bourbon butter; I actually did lose some interest (gasp!) in raw oysters after six or eight.  Anyhow, after our lavish lunch, we went for a 3.6 mile hike at Point Reyes (the Muddy Hollow trail from off Limatour Road to pretty Limatour Beach).  Tomales Bay is about as far as we would want to go for a day trip from Palo Alto, but on this Sunday it worked out wonderfully.