Hog Island Oyster Company raises our favorite oysters. They are easy to get in San Francisco or Napa at the Hog Island Oyster Bars, but by far our favorite way to enjoy them is at the actual oyster farm in Marshall on Tomales Bay. We went last weekend with friends for a shuck-your-own-picnic– a long overdue visit! The drive to the oyster farm is beautiful. You drive down Highway 1 through fragrant eucalyptus trees and postcard-perfect views of the bay.
The oysters are as fresh as can be, plucked straight from the filtration tanks where they live before going to the market. We toured the oyster farm last December and learned a lot about the oyster farming process. Hog Island purges their oysters for at least 24 hours in tanks of chilled water that is circulated through a filtration and sanitation system. Oysters they bring in from other growers get the same special treatment.
You’ll find baskets to collect all of the oyster shells. What do they do with those shells? Well, they grind the shells and use them as a substrate for the new oysters to cling to. That allows us to have individual oysters, otherwise they would grow in clusters. We had a picnic lunch and wine, and shucked our own oysters. We brought our favorite oyster knife, but they also have them there.
If you don’t like to shuck your own, you can buy shucked oysters at the boat oyster bar. They also serve bread, cheese, beer and wine. You can pick up some complementary lemons and hogwash at the oyster bar (they also sell charcoal if you run out).
Our friends Mclaren and Madeline reserved the picnic table six months ahead. It was the first weekend with availability, so if you’re plan to go, make your picnic reservations months in advance! If you can’t get a reservation at the farm, you now have a new place to enjoy their food and the scenery on Tomales Bay re-opening summer 2017. Hog Island has recently acquired the historic Tony’s Seafood Restaurant.
We had a bag of extra-small Sweetwaters (Sarah’s favorite), the best size for shucking and eating raw, a dozen Kumamotos (Clayton’s favorite), and a dozen smalls for grilling. We had the best time sitting out by the bay with a cool breeze and hot sun and sipping pink bubbles from a magnum our friends brought (thanks Madeline and McLaren!). We highly recommend these wine and champagne glasses for picnics and parties. They even stack for easy transportation!
Bring sunscreen! We forgot to and both came home super-burned. You can bring wine to the picnic tables, and they sell it on the boat house, but absolutely decide ahead of time who’s driving home. The roads are narrow, winding, and full of blind turns, even if you cut back through Marin to the highway.
Later in the afternoon we headed home. We’d never driven Highway 1 all the way from the oyster farm back to the city. (We usually take Lucas Valley Road, which goes by George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and through a redwood forest.) We decided to take the scenic route home with amazing vistas of the Pacific. We even saw two whales. Clayton didn’t get to take in much of the scenery because he was focused on the road, but we pulled off a few times for photos.
If you love cocktails, we’re partnering with Hog Island to share a summer series of exclusive cocktail recipes. Check back weekly or sign up below to get the them sent directly to your inbox.
Hog Island Oyster Farm
20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA
Recipe: Hog Island’s Sacred Cenote Cocktail
Recipe: Hog Island’s Punch Drunk & Bitter Cocktail
Recipe: Grilled Oysters with Herb Butter
Recipe: Spicy Mignonette