Oysters in Tomales Bay

Ahh, Memorial Day weekend — the pressure to go someplace that’s hopefully not crowded (but in reality always is) to escape the daily grind. My fiancé and I made plans to visit Twain Harte, a small town 2-hours east of San Francisco, CA, but the bleak weather and inevitable rain changed our plans.

We decided to stay close to home for the weekend and opted-in for a day trip instead. A few nights prior I suggested Tomales Bay. At this point, you’re probably thinking oysters. It’s become a cliché to have oysters near the Marin Headlands, but probably the best cliché if there ever was one. Tomales Bay and oysters are truly nothing without each other and for good reason. The setting is just as important as the quality of produce, and this place never fails.

If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for something super fun to do, then this post is just for you!

9:00 AM Friday morning, we got into our red convertible and headed to Tomales Bay. With the top down, and the wind running through my bald spot, we knew we were in for a quite a day. It was pre-memorial day weekend, but you could already see the hordes of Subaru outbacks racing to Nevada to catch the last bits of the white snow-capped mountains.

On the way, we were diverted by a quaint little cheese shop tucked away in Nicasio Valley which was aptly named Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. It’s been family owned for over 100-years and has remained organic before it was a fad. About 2 miles away and resting on 1,150 organic acres, lays Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s farm. When we drove by the farm, we saw happy cows grazing on lush green pastures. The setting was something out of a Thoreau novel, but it’s truly a sight to behold in the flesh.

Needless to say, the cheese was awesome. We decided to pick up a small cheese wheel of their award-winning Foggy Morning Fromage Blanc. I’m in no way a cheese connoisseur, I just know when something tastes damn good, and this tasted damn good! Little did we know the Fromage was going to go perfectly with our grand assortment of accouterments that was to accompany our delicious mollusks. My fiance packed ghee, shallots, garlic, herbs, lemon, lime, serrano chili, Himalayan salt, Fijian masala, and multigrain crackers the night before. Bless her overly organized and always prepared heart.

After tasting the various types of cheeses, we finally came upon Tomales Bay Oyster Company, where you can buy oysters wholesale . A bag of 50 oysters cost us $65. We were the second people there, but we could already see the parking lot getting full as we got to the cash register. We intended on getting a medium bag of oysters, but those suckers were huge, so we opted for the small which were pretty big in their own right.

Since this was our first time buying oysters and grilling them ourselves, preparation wasn’t optimum, so we will make sure to steer you in the right direction if this is your first time.

Preparation Tips: 

  • An ice chest large enough to hold at least 50 oysters. If you’re going to buy more than 50, then please opt for a bigger ice chest.
  • Oysters need to remain chilled and do have the ability to develop bacteria within 5 minutes so keeping them cold is not only important but a necessity. Guard those suckers as if your very life depended on it. I’m serious!
  • They have ice there, but it’s wise to have your cooler already filled so oysters are at their peak freshness.
  • Charcoal, matches, and lighter fluid if you prefer barbequed over raw
  • Oyster or butter knife; watch your fingers!
  • Desired toppings. We are quite partial to herbs, butter, and garlic.

Once we got our oysters, we knew our cooler wasn’t of adequate size, so we Macgyvered our situation the best we could and got most of the oysters in the cooler. We knew we had to get them on a grill ASAP. I asked the Oyster Man (the cashier) where’s the closest place was to grill these bad boys (exact words I used). He directed us to Bear Valley Visitor center, which was about 7 miles from the Tomales Bay Oyster Company.

It’s a great park with plenty of trails and areas to bbq. The sun was out and we quickly found a vacant table and grill. We grabbed a bag of Kingsford Briquets that we packed and began making a fire. It felt oddly primal. I just needed a longer beard and something flannel and I would’ve been set, but we can’t have everything. However, having oysters made it pretty damn close.

Once the briquets were ready, I placed them on the grill and made a makeshift lid with aluminum foil. After about 8–10 minutes, my first set of oysters started whistling and popped open. That’s how you know when it’s done. They actually pop open!

We were giddy with delight. I quickly shucked the top piece of the oyster shell off and used my knife to separate all the meat from the bottom shell. I put a small dollop of ghee and lemon juice for some extra flare and gave it to my fiance. Her reaction can be best categorized as love at first bite.

Our little oyster party for two started taking shape after that first set cooked. We had all the fixings laid out:

  • Chopped shallots and garlic
  • Ghee
  • Lemons
  • Green onions
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapenos
  • Multigrain crackers
  • Soft cheese

One of the most memorable bites is when I took a freshly barbequed oyster and placed it on the multigrain cracker, slathered it with a thick blanket of ghee and cheese, added garlic, shallots, onions, cilantro and topped this seafood Sunday with a jalapeno.

Delicious is an understatement, but don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself! Overall this was a great experience and if you’re in the Bay Area or just visiting. It’s a must try!

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