Friday, November 16, 2007

Hog Island Oysters

On my last night in West Marin California I decided to have some friends over for dinner so I could get my last gasp of all the gorgeous local ingredients available there. I picked up some grass fed beef--the cowboy steak cut from Marin Sun Farms--and great greens from Star Route Farms. My friend Erik Schlagenhauf, the farm manager at Hog Island Oyster Company, said he'd bring some oysters! You can't get fresher than that!

Erik brought two of my favorite oysters that Hog Island produces, the Hog Island Kumamoto and the Hog Island Sweetwater. The "kummy's," as I call them, are a very small oyster that comes from Japan. They were sweet, plump, with a bit of a buttery finish--an oyster any novice would love and appreciate. The sweetwaters are incredible, and probably my most favorite oyster. These were so rich, plump and juicy, and had a very subtle briny flavor. One thing I notice about the Hog Island Oysters is they have almost have a milky color.

Hog Island is located on Tomales Bay, one of the most gorgeous esturaries of the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 20 miles long, it's a perfect location for raising oysters because the waters are cold, and move steadily with a good supply of the phytoplankton that the oysters snack on. Since oysters often spend 2 to 3 years to mature, water quality is incredibly important to them. The folks at Hog Island are dedicated to taking the best care of the ecosystem that they can, and you can taste it in their oysters.

Watching Erik and my friend Geoffrey shuck oysters was just incredible, pure art. Erik would tap the top of each oyster before opening one, somehow knowing by doing that whether they were good or bad, I think this comes with years of experience. He tried to explain it to me but I didn?t understand. Each oyster they opened was not torn or ripped but perfect. Also, they opened dozens in less than 20 minutes.

Anyone visiting Northern California along Highway One should make sure to stop for some oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company. They are open 7 days a week and honestly, it is one of the most romantic things you can do. Bring a nice bottle of Chablis or some local beer, and even pack yourself a picnic lunch. You can shuck the oysters right outside the farm where picnic tables are set up, and the view is spectacular. If you can?t make it to the farm, Hog Island has a fabulous little bar set up at the Ferry Plaza Market along the Embarcadero that is lovely as well.

Hog Island Oysters
The Farm Highway 1
Marshall, CA 4 15 .663.9218


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