Michelle Labi-Klonecke

A Trip to Hog Island Oyster Co.

What is the day-trip distance limit?  At what point does the driving distance tip over into overnight-stay territory to justify all that time stuck in the car?

Couple the fact that only two hours (or less!) separate Sacramentans from the big city and the mountains, with our city’s nestled position in California’s very own fertile crescent, and we get an embarrassment of culinary riches in our day-trip radius. And while a drive to San Francisco or Oakland, Lake Tahoe or Donner almost always guarantees a good time, there exists a wealth of intimate experiences without the headache of zeitgeist weekend traffic.

Enter: Marshall, CA.

Clocking in at just under two hours away from Downtown Sacramento, it’s a hop and a skip from Point Reyes Station and makes for a heck of a pairing with Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma. It fits the bill for our day-trip limit, and it is home to the Hog Island Oyster Co. farm, to boot. Perhaps you’ve visited their outposts at the Oxbow Market in Napa, or the Ferry Building in San Francisco, but the farm offers an altogether different experience. Penned in animals or raised-bed vegetables, this farm is not, but it definitely fits the definition of Farm-to-Fork – or Farm-to-Shuck, as it were. Whether you’re just swinging by to pick up a bag for later, or you shuck your oysters right there, you can’t help but pause to appreciate the stunning surroundings. The oysters are harvested mere feet away in the Tomales Bay, brought in to get cleaned off, and before you know it, you, too, are cursing and making faces trying to leverage the oyster knife under countless stubborn shells.

We’ve put together a guide to help you do just that. You have a few options when you visit the Hog Island Oyster Co. farm:

1. Buy live, unshucked oysters (or clams, mussels or crabs, when in season) at the Hog Shack – sold in netted bulk bags – and take them to a picnic table. The picnic area is split into two kinds of tables: a limited number of reserved tables that have grills (along the outer edge of the area), and grill-less first come, first served tables (in the center of the area). The reserved tables come with a knife and glove (and some accouterments for your oysters!) and cost $5 per person. For the non-reserved tables, you can easily rent a glove and knife if you don’t bring your own.

Either way, you are welcome to bring your own picnic and set up shop – you can even BYO(non-hard)B. In the event that you’ve shucked until you can’t shuck anymore, bring yourself a cooler. If you don’t have ice, chill; they sell it at the farm.IMG_24252. Buy oysters at The Boat oyster bar (located within the picnic area) that are shucked to order and accompanied by Hog Wash – the house take on mignonette sauce (a bit zestier). You can also order meat or cheese plates, and beer and wine. This is a great option if you aren’t set up for – or in the mood for – shucking oysters.

3. Buy retail oysters from the Hog Shack (as outlined in option A), and instead of sticking around with the sometime crowds, hit the road. With free valet parking, you should be able to pop in and out. You’ll need your own oyster knife and glove for this route (which you can buy at The Hog Shack), but it’s well worth the effort. Since you’ll need to head back along The 1 anyway, why not drive eight minutes further to Dillon Beach? There, you’ll be able to shuck off your shoes, any carsickness that may have ensued, and fresh oysters to your heart’s content – and all on the path less traveled. You’ll dead-end into the beach where you can park and set yourselves up on one of the picnic tables, dip your toes in the ocean, and watch the sunset. There’s a general store – Diekmann’s – right at the turn onto Dillon Beach Rd. where you can stock up on anything you may have forgotten – like coal, for example (obviously not from personal experience).IMG_2413IMG_2402IMG_2414Whether you choose option 1, 2, or 3, you’re sure to enjoy a scenic, albeit windy drive down the coast a bit. Some salt air and fresh-water oysters ought to jump start what we can define as the grown-up Spring Break – a breaking out of old routines, and a spring into the unexplored.

See you on the farm.IMG_2438 copyIMG_2447IMG_2435