When it's August in San Francisco and you've only seen the sun a few times since May, an offer to take a trip outside of the City is one you always accept. When that trip also happens to be designed around an afternoon of gorging on oysters and white wine, you jump at the opportunity and latch yourself onto the person making the offer toensure that they don't leave without you.
Our journey today took us to the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, CA which is located about 50 miles north of San Francisco. The drive alone is stunning, with endless views of flaxen hillsides, grazing farm animals, hawks soaring against the backdrop of the brilliant, blue sky and landscapes that are totally unique to Northern California. Taking the view in as the passenger in a convertible certainly didn't hurt things either.
After stopping along the way at a few local cheese factories and a grocery store to pick up provisions (including a bottle of dry, Sauvignon Blanc, vinegar and shallots to make a mignonette sauce and some fresh fruit to accompany our cheeses) we drove alongside the Tomales Bay until we got to Hog Island.
We lucked out when we got there because we hadn't reserved a table, but managed to find an opening at one that some strangers were generous enough to share with us. The picnic tables were set in an area bordered by the bay on one side and rolling, lush hills on the other and were jam packed with people shucking, grilling and slurping down oyster after oyster.
Once settled, we placed our order for 3 dozen oysters, a dozen each of Kumamotos (the smallest and sweetest of the bunch,) small sized Sweetwaters (also known as Pacific oysters, and the briniest of the bunch) and some larger, meatier Olympias (the creamiest of the bunch.)
There is no pretentious service at Hog Island. As a matter of fact there is very little in the way of service at all. You order your oysters and are handed a plastic tray of them covered in ice, along with a shucker, a safety glove and some lemons and hot sauce. From there you proceed to the wooden picnic tables and dive in. The oysters at Hog Island are pristine and some of the best I've ever had anywhere in the world. The freshness alone is worth the trip, but the sustainable practices they use lead to oysters that are incredibly clean and closely monitored, so that you know you are always getting the best of the best.
Frankly, I can't think of a better way to spend a beautiful, sunny afternoon–oysters, cheese, wine. The new friends we made. The egrets and hawks soaring overhead and horses grazing on the hills beside us.
As we headed back into San Francisco later in the day, with the top of the car up, our jackets in hand and the looming fog layer hiding the Golden Gate Bridge from view, we were at least content with full bellies and sun kissed faces.