Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

On the list of things I’ve been excited to do since moving back to California, driving out to Tomales Bay—a long, narrow inlet on the fringe of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin—for fresh oysters has been high for a while. I’d heard, however, that weekends at the oyster farms can be mobbed so we waited until a day when we could drive out midweek.

Aron was tasked with researching where to go. Ever since he read Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, a history of New York as revealed through the lens of the bivalve, he’s been our resident expert—or at least aficionado. I enjoy them tremendously, but as much for the romance and the experience of eating them as for the flavor.

He chose the Tomales Bay Oyster company—partly based on location and partly because they only have a shuck-them-yourself set-up (as opposed to a restaurant). But there are a few Oyster farms in the area; Hog Island is perhaps the best known and offers both pre-shucked and do-it-yourself service.

We were able to snag a waterside picnic table without issue on a Thursday in mid-March, but I recommend you look into the option of reserving a table if you’re headed out on a (busy) weekend. Here are the official details on picnicking at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company (and Yelp is a good resource for recent tips).

They grow Pacifics here, in a variety of sizes—I find the larger ones better for grilling and we wanted to eat these fresh, so we went with smalls.

Briny and fresh: we got a quick tutorial in shucking.

Smaller yet were a second (east coast) variety, the Kumamotos. 

I hear the picnic scene can get elaborate, but we simply brought a bottle of wine from Scribe and stopped by Cowgirl Creamery on the way through Point Reyes Station and picked up some great cheeses and a baguette. You can’t go wrong with Cowgirl Creamery (the Red Hawk is probably our favorite, but Aron picked out a fresh cheese and I chose their new-ish Inverness to try).

It was about as perfect a lunch as I could have asked for: the cheese and wine would have been enough. As would have been the view of the sun bouncing off the water. But then throw in a few dozen oysters, grown within eyeshot, and it would be hard to beat. And so if you ever do a chance to go midweek, when the place is relatively quiet, I recommend you take it.

P.S. Oyster beds off Cape Cod. And off Korçula Island in Croatia.

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