Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to love an oyster

Oysters. They've been a topic of conversation around my home lately, mostly on whether it's okay to hate something that is supposed to be such a delicacy. It seems the texture is at issue --the certain vaguely gelatinous quality that doesn't set well with some of my family--in fact, the word "wretch" comes to mind when they think of the shellfish.

Personally, I think oysters are wonderful, like blasts of fresh seawater, as inviting as the spray blowing off of a wave while you're out at Rodeo Beach. A splash of mignonette sauce (champagne, shallots, red wine vinegar) and the oyster captures the best of the ocean. At least for me. But I have to honor those in my home who strongly beg to differ.

Solution: oysters fresh Tomales Bay. And my barbecue grill.

A summer at my Marin home means barbecued oyster,s a solution for the (alledgedly) unpleasant gelatinous quality of the bivalve, and a wonderful way to avoid the frustration of trying to pry open the @(&$# things. I've watched the guys at Hog Island Oyster in the Ferry Building Marketplace wield their oysters knives like sushi masters--flick flick flick and the shell pops open to reveal the nugget of meat inside. Me? It's more like hack claw stab, as my futile attempts to open the shell prove completely and utterly fruitless. Then again; I shouldn't feel so lame: there are things known as shucking gloves that look like fashion statements for King Arthur--definitely more armor than glove.

Ah yes, but that's where my barbecue comes to the rescue. First, buy a bag of insanely fresh oysters from on of our region's local oyster farms. True, you can buy them fresh at Whole Foods or other outlets but fresh oysters make a nice excuse (as if you need one) to head to Pt. Reyes and Tomales Bay.

Bring an ice chest (you'll need one to bring the oysters home). Buy enough to feed everyone at least 3 or 4 (a dozen costs $14 at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, one of my favorites if only for the fact that they have their version of the St Pauli Girl, here a buxom brunette with a startling resemblance to Jane Russell, holding aloft a huge back of oysters like it weighs about an ounce).

Oysters on ice, head home quick. Heat up the grill. Have on hand your favorite barbecue sauce, or just melted butter and garlic. Toss the oysters--still in their shells, onto the grill. Close the lid, but keep an eye one the oysters--soon they'll pop open all on their own. Akin to Woody Allen's Annie when she tossed lobsters into boiling water, it might feel a little murderous, but it works. When they open, use a turkey baster to squirt a little of your sauce into each oyster; cook about 2 minutes more. Remove carefully with tongs (they are VERY hot). Cool slightly, then eat. Beyond perfect.

Sound like too much work? Head out to Olema and order up some barbecued oysters at Olema Farm House, or continue north to Marshall and dine on the deck at Nick's Cove. There might not be anything better.

Let me know if you try to barbecue your own oysers, and what your family thinks. Or share your summer barbecue favorite, especially if it takes advantage of something as distinctly Marin as fresh oysters from Tomales Bay.


  1. Great article! Your photos are very appropriate as well

    The Best Chesapeake Bay Oysters are grown on our family farm!

    Quality & Sustainability

  2. Hi--thanks for writing and glad you enjoyed the article! Your oysters are fantastic--I lived in DC for many years and raw East Coast oysters really are fabulous. You're making me miss the Chesapeake--love that part of the world. Thanks again!