I love oysters! I always have. I don’t remember when I had my first oyster, but I am pretty sure it was when I was a little girl. I recall when I was younger, other kids, thinking it was weird I ate these gray, raw, ugly things. As I got older, and began studying nutrition in college, I remember being really happy to learn how healthy oysters could be for me as well. One of my favorite things to do when I was in college, was dare friends (who had never tried oysters) to “just try one”, so I could crack up watching the funny looks on their faces while they tried to choke these strange looking things down. For many, oysters are an acquired taste.
On a Saturday last July, I had the pleasure of making the short trip north of San Francisco, to meet a group of organic food enthusiasts, for a tour of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm in Marin County, and meet the owners.
Our tour started at 11am, which meant I had to leave my house south of San Francisco, at around 930 am, in order to allow myself plenty of time to get there. The day didn’t start off the greatest. My attempts to drag my boyfriend out of bed, on an early Saturday morning, to visit some oyster farm with me, (his words “in the middle of nowhere”) were completely thwarted by unusually cold weather, gray skies and rain. Looking out the bedroom window , from my warm, cozy bed, I was questioning whether it was worth the 3 hours round trip driving time. My motivating factors for going were: I actually had never been to an oyster farm before, knew I wasn’t likely to get another chance to attend an organized educational tour in the near future, and had really been looking forward to this. I got ready, jumped in the car and began my drive, freezing cold weather, rain and all.
It’s funny how often (me included) SF Bay Area residents, forget about the many gorgeous drives we have, just minutes from our front doors. Not only was the drive “by myself” not bad. I was having a really great time. Even in overcast, drizzly weather, mornings on the northern California coast have kind of a magical feel to them. I decided to take the slightly more time consuming “coastal” route after the Golden Gate Bridge, along highway 1, instead of 101. The views were absolutely breathtaking. I found myself asking, “How had I forgotten how gorgeous this drive was?” and “Why had it been so long since I had come here?” I stopped several times, taking photos of the ocean crashing up against the rocks, watched the surfers, turned on classical music, and reminded myself how lucky I was to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I also remember thinking “I am so lucky to still be alive, having this extraordinary sensory experience”.
I met my group at Drakes Bay where we met up with the owners who were incredibly nice and completely dedicated to their business. We were given a wealth of information about oysters, their particular farm, how good oysters were for the local ocean water, their Marin Organic status, ect. I have listed a link to their website, which if you want to learn more, has everything you ever wanted to know about Drakes. The only bad thing about this part of the day, was that it was cold, drizzly, and windy so it was hard to pay attention since we were outdoors right on the water. The other thing I might add is its incredible how much cheaper oysters are when your at the farm and buying them “un shucked”. I think that day you could get 80 large oysters “un shucked” for some insanely low price around $100 bucks. I’m not sure what they cost today, but that’s what they cost on the day I was there.
It was now 12:30, not having eaten breakfast, I was starving. I had remembered seeing some cute cafes just a couple minutes south in Point Reyes on the way up, and decided that seemed like a good idea. I decided upon a place called Olema Farmhouse because there was a big sign out front screaming “Barbecued Oysters” and the place looked popular. The sun was coming out and there was a nice little spot for one on the covered back patio next to the “Oyster Barbecue Guy” so I could watch him shucking and cooking.
For some reason, they don’t have the oysters listed on the website menu, but they had a good selection from local farms, including Drakes Bay!
I started with an order of 6 barbecued oysters. 2 from each farm listed, and tried all 3 toppings: Spicy Chipolte, Barbecue, and Garlic butter. They were all insanely tasty, but that day I really felt that the Drakes oysters, were the biggest, and seemed to have the nicest barbecue flavor. By the time I was finished, I had eaten 18. I would have ordered more, because they were so good, but I was feeling kind of silly eating so many in one seating
If you live in the Bay Area I highly recommend doing the drive along highway 1, and hitting the multiple oyster farms north of Pt Reyes. Its really fun, (even by yourself), the views are amazing, its super cool learning about the different aspects of oyster farming, and the best part is all the cafes along the way serving up the fresh local fare.