Bay Area Eats: Hog Island Oyster Farm
"We can attest to Hog Island's oysters being delectably plump, thoroughly slurpable, and downright delicious."
Oysters are dastardly creatures. You think they're innocent—sitting there on their bed of ice waiting to be shucked and devoured—and then your finger slips and before you know it, you've got a gash so deep it needs stitches. Only you just got to the farm and you're hungry, and if the oysters think you're giving up, they can think again! You slap a bandage on your mutilated finger and keep going, but by then you're bleeding so profusely that no one wants to eat your iron-laced oysters. So you pass the shucking knife and glove to someone else.
And so it came to be that on that cloudy day at Tomales Bay, the boyfriend retired to the sick bench to ponder his injuries while I stepped up to the task of shucking oysters. Armed with a YouTube tutorial, a girlfriend and I rapidly shucked our way through six dozen oysters. For us two neophytes, oyster-shucking turned out to be relatively easy. As long as you're not foolish enough to abandon your gear and try to pry the stubborn ones open with your bare hands, no harm will come to you (we're just saying).
We had driven two hours from the South Bay—much of it along the justifiably famous Highway 1, with its stunning coastline views—to the Hog Island Oyster Farm. Our sole purpose was feasting on oysters, and that day there were Hog Island Kumamotos and Sweetwaters on offer. The smaller (easier to shuck), intensely creamy Kumamotos quickly emerged as the clear favorite, though the briney Sweetwaters with their long, smokey-sweet aftertaste were no laggards.
The "state-of-the-art aquaculture farm" was started in 1983 by three marine biologists who believe that "to raise beautiful, healthy oysters, you must begin with beautiful, healthy waters." No marine biologists were among us that day, but we can attest to Hog Island's oysters being delectably plump, thoroughly slurpable, and downright delicious. Of course, it didn't hurt that we were looking on a tranquil bay with sparkling waters and birds flying idly overhead (wine glasses in hand).
The farm offers a no-frills picnic area scattered with picnic benches and fire pits. Our friends had swung by Whole Foods to pick up wine, salads, dessert, and bread. While the boyfriend and I had gone to Mi Pueblo in San Jose to pick up some excellent marinated meats to toss on the grill and spicy molcajete salsa to drizzle on the oysters.
All in, it was a fantastic picnic (though we turned fairly green with envy when we saw that the table next to ours had proper silverware, elegant quiches and pastries, and a linen tablecloth, and were grilling asparagus spears and portobello mushrooms drizzled with balsamic vinegar and with freshly cracked black pepper to boot).
The damage: $75 for six dozen oysters, including an $8 per person picnic-area fee (there were four of us). The fee includes a picnic table, fire pit (you can buy charcoal from them or bring your own), fresh lemons, and a shucking lesson.
Hog Island Oyster Farm
20215 Coast Hwy One, Marshall CA 94940
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.