It’s been a long, cold winter on the east end of Long Island, and though I love being home-based in East Hampton, these times remind me that we are water-locked at the end of a 100-mile “island.” It was time to get out of Dodge, so last weekend I took a quick jaunt to one of my favorite places on the planet, Northern California. My good friend Anne Millett (of the fabulous stationery company Mira Aster) and her husband Matt hosted me for four action-packed days of fun and exploration around Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. The farms, the food, the 70+ degree sunny weather, expansive of beauty all around – it’s all so good. We packed so much in that I couldn’t possibly show it all, but tune in for the next few days for some of my favorite highlights.
HOG ISLAND OYSTER FARM
The perfect moment. That’s what we found at Hog Island Oyster Farm on Tomales Bay. This is simply the grooviest spot ever. We went early in order to grab space at one of the communal picnic tables, but if you’re a good planner, you can actually reserve a table for the day (call at least a month in advance). Groups come with picnics, wine, dogs and barbecue items in tow and seem to hang out endlessly. The spot is so gorgeous, it’s tough to pull yourself away. THIS is a place to have a party!
Clockwise from top left: the stand, oysters on the half shell, barbecued oysters, happy slurping people, the entrance, a happy party, all-gone bbq’d oysters, the reserved tables by the bay, center – menu sign
The best oysters I’ve ever eaten – this is the main thing we found at Hog Island. Though the menu includes a salad and some cheese and charcuterie options (Cowgirl Creamery is a neighbor in the next town of Point Reyes), we kept it simple with the farm’s oysters two ways: on the half shell and barbecued. Both were utter perfection. My fabulous florist friend Ariella Chezar swears she can eat 40 at one sitting. I’ll be spending the summer perfecting the barbecue technique, which is like nothing I’ve ever come across on the east coast (see recipe below).
Left to right: groovy gathering, the farm, table by the bay, the barbecue
Fun fact: one of the company’s founders, John Finger, hails from the North Fork of Long Island and studied Marine Biology at Southampton College.
On the way to the Farm: garage doors featuring local Abalone shells, the view from the picnic area, house numbers on driftwood
Hog Island Oyster Farm
20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA 94940
TOMALES BAY STATE PARK
Following our feast at Hog Island Oyster Farm, a quick trip to Point Reyes Station and Cowgirl Creamery, we continued a stunning drive around the horn of Tomales Bay to the state park for some staggeringly gorgeous views. About an hour up the coast sits Bodega Bay, which is where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.” We were lucky to have a warm, sunny day, but it’s easy to see how a bit of fog and chill could transform the vibe into something quite spooky.
Hog Island Farm Style Grilled Sweetwaters with Garlic Chipotle Butter
Served at Hog Island Oyster Farm. (Recipe from their website)
Smokey and sweet and a touch of heat. Grilled Garlic Chipotle Butter oysters have become a favorite at the farm. Our friends & customers call them finger-lickin’ good. We’re pretty sure your friends will be speechless.
50 Hog Island sweet water Oysters
1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter softened to room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup bourbon (plus a nip for the chef!)
3/4 cup finely chopped garlic
Half of (10 oz) can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped.
The Butter (can be made up to one week in advance, keep refrigerated)
In a medium bowl, dissolve the brown sugar with the bourbon. In a food processor or blender, combine the softened butter with the bourbon/brown sugar mixture and add the garlic and chipotles. Mix on medium/high speed until well blended (OK if some chunks remain). Lay down a sheet of parchment paper (12″ or so), scoop the butter compound onto the sheet working to form a long row. Roll the butter in the parchment, like a burrito, folding the ends as you go. Refrigerate for about two hours or until firm. The finished roll should be the dimension of a cube of butter, only longer (about a foot). When you are ready to grill, slice 1/8″ pats of butter from the butter log and place on top of your shucked, raw oysters. Allowing the butter to melt as the oysters cook. *You can also skip the log-roll and leave the butter in a airtight covered bowl (refrigerate after making). Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto each oyster as they grill.
Open a cold one and fire up your grill to medium hot. Pre- shuck a few dozen oysters and remove the butter from the fridge. Place a pat of butter onto each shucked oyster and get those ‘sters on the grill. Open another cold one while you watch the butter and oysters begin to bubble. After about 2-4 minutes of bubbling and sizzling remove the oysters from the heat. The oysters will be ready when the edges of their meat begins to curl and the butter sauce is bubbling hot. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Enjoy with a frosty beverage.
Then make some for your friends.