The sun was glaring in the camera lens, and there wasn’t much we could do about it… Aww shucks!
And you kind of just expect that from a coastal autumn day.
It was one of those perfectly crisp November afternoons. The wind was minimal, but when it blew, it had a sharpness to it that stung the tips of your ears. But it was the perfect day for a couple dozen oysters. Equipped with three, count ‘em, three different hot sauces, lemon wedges, my trusty oyster knife, and some cheese and salami to round out our picnic, we set out for the coast.
Tomales Bay Oyster Company is the longest continually operating oyster farm in the State of California. Since 1909, they have been farming delicious little bivalves. We arrived in the early afternoon, with the sun staring straight at us from across the Tomales Bay. We quickly found that when deciding what sized oysters to purchase, always go with the extra small. I mean, just look at the size of this one – and it was considered “small.”
Tomales Bay Oysters are known for their “plumpness” if you will, with a crisp, briny flavor. Despite being quite the mouthful, they were plump and delicious, though we found that the larger-shelled oysters were much more difficult to pry open than the smaller varieties.
So we worked the knife as best we could, and Amber’s elbow, in an attempt to get leverage, found its way to my face with just about every oyster she pried at.
Oysters have always been one of my favorite sea creatures. Depending on the variety, I often eat them without any accompaniments. So far, I’ve found that kumomoto’s as well as beausoleil oysters are my favorite and need no hot sauce, or mignonette, or even lemon, for that matter. Because oysters filter seawater through their little bodies every day, they take much of their character from their surroundings and are named accordingly. A Hog Island flat from Northern California may be genetically identical to a Belon raised in France, but it will look and taste different because of the sea surroundings.
Winter months are the best for oysters. During the summer months, oysters spawn, and their normally firm flesh turns milky and soft. In the winter they are much more plump and pleasant to eat. Cold waters = tasty oysters.
Oysters are at their most sublime served cold and alive, just hours out of the sea. When an oyster is at its best, it should be reminiscent of the coast. You know, that smell you get when first arrive and roll down the window to breathe in that coastal aroma. It’s like the sea, but not just any part of the sea, it tastes of the deep sea; deep, clear water – the smell I get while trolling along the water, the wind whipping salty splashes – like sweet seawater and briny flesh.
We soaked in the ocean air as the afternoon inched along, without any cause or concern of time, and like whales skimming the surface of the ocean, we tilted our heads back and slurped oyster after oyster until our bellies were full of bivalves, and there was nothing but a bucketful of empty shells.