With the weather around here being so lovely lately, there's no better time to go shucking oysters at the source than now, so this past weekend, several of my friends and I went to shuck some of California's best oysters at the source -- Tomales Bay.
We woke up at 6 AM, prepped, and packed a ton of food and supplies, then drove an hour and half northward from Berkeley to Marshall (the city, not the discount store!). I had packed fresh fruit, salad making ingredients, mimosa ingredients, as well as made my own watermelon mignonette. On top of that, my friends also had marinated meats, veggie kabobs, plus a ton of other beverages and snack items. Since the oyster farm's website said that picnic tables filled up fast on the weekends, by around 11 AM, we aimed to get there at 10:30 AM.
Lovely view on the way there
We ended up getting there on time and parking was aplenty, as were the tables. Only about half the tables and half of the private parking spots were taken at the point. Score! We secured a table at what we felt was a prime location for us, right by the water and hauled all of our stuff there. We had a huge cooler full of ice and grub, utensils, coals, garden gloves and oyster knives. Then it was off to purchase oysters...
A variety of oysters can be purchased by the dozen or by fifty. They also had mussels and clams. On this day, they had both Tomales Bay and Washington State oysters, as well as Tomales Bay mussels and Manila clams. We figured you could get Manila clams anywhere, so we stuck with a variety of the four three -- 50 small Tomales Bay oysters, a dozen medium Washington State ones, and two pounds of Tomales Bay mussels among the five of us, which came out to $65.
We immediately put our goods on ice and spent the next several hours slowly shucking, BBQing and exploring...
We ate most of the oysters raw
But also BBQ'ed a few
The bulk of our leftover shells
There's a small beach area that's gorgeous
We ended up leaving at around 2:30-3'ish, with all the salad and fruit untouched, but all of our seafood and bubbly gone. Every single one of us was in a food coma. I can't wait to go oyster shucking on an oyster farm again. Perhaps next time we'll drive a little further up north to Hog Island Oyster for some variety.
Here are some tips for your weekend visit to Tomales Bay:
Plan on arriving early to secure a table. Around 10:30-11 AM.
If anyone in your car gets motion sickness easily, don't drive up Highway 1, it's really windy. Pick another route. I just so happen to love windy roads though and felt like I got a pretty good oblique workout from all the turns!
Bring a huge cooler filled with ice, plus large trays and platters. You're going to want to put ice out on the trays and lay your oysters out of them after they're shucked.
Bring all your own utensils and other supplies. They do sell some supplies there, like oyster knives, limes, hot sauce, but I suggest bringing your own.
Food-wise, bring things to BBQ, plus snacks and plenty of beverages. Bring some wine pairings for the oysters!
Condiment-wise, bring hot sauces, mignonettes, limes, lemons, and whatever else you'd like on your oysters.
Wear sunblock, sunglasses, and layers of clothing as the you never know how the weather may adjust by the water. Bring an umbrella tent if you can.
Keep the boom box and your own personal BBQ at home; they don't allow either. Plus, they already play music and each table has its own BBQ.
They also have a bunch of other weird guidelines that I'm sure are there for a good reason, so keep those in mind.
One last random thing that I wanted to add -- an overheard quote. One of the most hilarious things that I overheard that day was from a guy debating with his girlfriend over what kind of shellfish to purchase. His argument was, "Clams, they just open up. Oysters, you have to shuck".
You have to admit -- there's no cooler way to eat oysters than from right out of the water at the source, especially on such a gorgeous day with such wonderful company.
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