Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oysters in Marshall

After a nice work retreat on the Russian River in Monte Rio, meetings about budgets and facilities, and a few dinners involving a lot of wine and excellent food (we were lucky to have the chefs present), I made the decision to take the coastal route down Hwy One back to my house in Sausalito.  This is no small drive, as Hwy 116/12 winds its way 10 miles to just east of Jenner and then joins Hwy 1, south through Bodega Bay,  past expansive beaches, seagull laden rocks, and warm September skies.  The weather was perfect early Indian Summer, practically no fog, and bathing suit worthy heat radiating off the empty mid-week sand.  I stopped for a leisurely run down Doran Beach, a long spit of land that hems in Bodega Bay to the south, and looks head-on at the northern tip of Point Reyes Peninsula.  I have always enjoyed this little known beach, as its orientation protects it from the blinding winds that can ravage these parts.

Working up a  40 minute sweat had afforded me a little lunch along the way.   All I could think about were oysters, delicious Sweetwaters, coined by the Hog Island Oyster Company, getting their name from the local streams that form rivulets through the numerous oyster beds that populate their shoreline on Tomales Bay.  I hadn't driven on this portion of the coast in some time,  and smiled at the one-block row of shops and the old Inn in Valley Ford.  I loved the rambly feel of the smallish town of Tomales, with the best coastal native plant nursery around.  As the highway made its way back out toward the coast, a feeling of peace washed over me.  These gorgeous grassy hills, dotted with dairy and horse farms and an occasional winery, are practically in my backyard.  After travelling at least 2/3 of the coast of California last week, I felt blessed to have such beauty so close at hand. 

Oysters, that's right, I had to fulfill my mission.  The default plan was to stop for barbequed oysters at the Olema Farmhouse Inn before turning inland at Sir Francis Drake Blvd.  I was actually craving fried oysters, and if they had them, I would get them instead.  I passed Nick's Cove in Marshall, the nicely restored property by Pat Kuleto and team. I was feeling a bit too sweaty and underdressed though, so decided to plow on, acutely aware that I had entered oysterland, where most small places dotting this windy shoreline would have oysters in some way, shape or form.  Next was Hog Island Oyster Company, my absolute favorite spot, with small and firm Kumamotos, their famous Sweetwaters, and briny Atlantics to satisfy any oyster afficianado.  I didn't stop there though, either, as my gut was wanting something warm.  After passing Tomales Bay Oyster Company and Tony's (which still had their chairs up), I saw the Marshall Store coming up on the right.   Several signs out front advertised oysters, and I made the last minute decision to pull in.  I had never been to the Marshall Store, but had passed it on many other drives to and from neighboring destinations. 

It's not really much of a store, but more of a small lunch place, with sandwiches, chowder, chili and oysters.  The menu had a few choices:  1/2 dozen raw on the half shell, 1/2 dozen barbequed with chipotle butter sauce, 1/2 dozen oyster Rockefeller.  Oysters Rockefeller it was.  It was still warm enough to sit on the perimeter deck and take in the fishing and sail boats, Inverness and Point Reyes Peninsula across the water.   A sizeable herd of sea lions barked away, as they vied for space on the small sailboat they had taken over (unfortunate for the absentee owner).  I read my book, enjoyed the breeze,  and gazed at the other diners who had chosen the tables along the parking area, no longer on Marshall Store's property, but a place they could enjoy a beer or glass of wine, as the store has only an "off site" liquor license.  After about 20 minutes, a plate of 7 oysters (a baker's half dozen?), flecked with chopped greens and bread crumbs, were set before me.

 I attempted to recall exactly what comprises an "Oysters Rockefeller", as this one consisted of cooked and roughly chopped chard, spinach, onions and croutons.  The scrumptous gems were plump and juicy,  and even more enhanced with a dollop of Tapatio hot sauce.  I was thankful that they weren't too buttery, and no cream or bacon studded these babies.  A subsequent Google search on Oysters Rockefeller gave a variety of answers.  The Marshall Store's version seemed a little conservative, but hit the spot nonetheless. 

Regrettably, I got in my car, reality beginning to hit, as tomorrow would signal the beginning of my work week, and the official end to vacation.  open 7 days until 5 pm.

For shuck and serve yourself, these two places offer barbeques and picnic areas so you can fill in the blanks with wine, cheese and beer:   daily, 8-5   daily 8-6

Here are a few other full service restaurants for oysters along HighwayOne between Marshall and Olema
    (it is worth noting that most offer lodging so you don't have to make the trip back so soon):

Nick's Cove, Marshall, CA Open 7 days, breakfast, lunch and dinner
       Full service restaurant restored by award winning restaurant designer Pat Kuleto.  Menu is worthy of
       destination dining.

Tony's Seafood Restaurant, Marshall, CA:  Only open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, live music.

The Station House Cafe, Point Reyes Station, CA  closed Wednesdays
       They have a large menu with many local specialties, a full bar and many oyster dishes including         Hangtown Fry, Oyster Po'Boy, and good old fashioned Oysters on the Half Shell.

Olema Farmhouse Inn, Olema, CA  open 7 days
       A casual bar atmosphere with Oyster Stew (Fri, Sat and Sun only) and many other local specialties
       Look for them at the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Highway One.

The Olema Inn, Olema, CA  Dinner 7 nights, Sat and Sun Brunch
     A definitive foodie destination for locally sourced ingredients including Marin Sun Farms beef, foraged
     vegetables and, of course, local seafood and oysters on the half shell.

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