Tomales Bay Oysters – An Unforgettable Meal at Everyday Prices

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Not to turn this into a food blog, but talking about The French Laundry reminded me of another awesome Northern Californian meal you could have at a mere fraction of the cost.

Both the Tomales Bay Oyster Company and the Hog Island Oyster Company have farms located by the ocean about an hour north of San Francisco. Anyone can drive up and shuck live oysters that were harvested hours ago just a few feet away. Sit on wooden picnic tables and save money by bringing everything else yourself for a gourmet picnic – shucking knives, lemon, wine, crusty bread, cheese, and so on. Eat them raw or cook them on provided grills. A dozen oysters costs $10-$20 depending on size and type. A comparable meal at a restaurant would cost more than twice as much and wouldn’t be as fresh.

These were the best oysters that I’ve ever had at any price!

I’m trying to think of similar opportunities where you can get the highest-quality ingredients without the white tablecloth, do some of the work yourself, and enjoy an unbeatable meal for the cost of a chain restaurant. When I was younger, we used to catch crabs using chicken necks and a net. Hunting your own meat and fishing also come to mind, although those require a bit more equipment and skill.

Here’s a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” found in a recent Yelp review that will make oyster-lovers salivate.

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

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  1. I believe they stopped farming oysters themselves and ship them from Oregon for the last few years. Maybe they meant they still farm them during season, but don’t have enough to meet demand.

    • Jonathan Ping says

      I know they close down the farm in warmer months and some import oysters from the NW during that time, but I can’t find any info that supports the notion that these farms are non-operational. Source?

  2. I don’t mind the food posts, they’re fun and who doesn’t like to save a few bucks when dining out. You appear to be enjoying yourself.

    While I no longer live in Calif (retired in FL, more affordable), I’ll let my Marin Cty friends know.

    Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous new year.

  3. Nice to see some posts about enjoying the fruits of your labors. It reminds me that money is made to be spent (hopefully on what brings pleasure), not just saved. Thanks for sharing your life with us via your blog. Happy holidays!

  4. My wife and I were just in Point Reyes for the first time this weekend. An excellent day trip when visiting San Francisco. Though, we didn’t plan very well for oysters. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way that these places serve oysters, and only oysters. No drink, bread, cheese, sauces or any of the other items you may want for a highfalutin picnic.

    Luckily, we found The Marshall Store nearby, a great self-service restaurant with rustic tables right on the bay. Pretty close to the experience of an oyster farm, and a great option if you want to enjoy oysters but don’t have all the other provisions.

    As this is a money blog, I have been having great luck with Costco Travel for car rentals, which often has reservations at very low prices. We literally saved hundreds of dollars in Maui, and the rates for SF last weekend were lower than all other options.

    • Jonathan Ping says

      Sorry to hear that, yes most are pretty barebones but it keeps the prices down I think. There is a pretty good dairy (forget the name) nearby as well that sells artisanal cheeses.

      I’ve never used Costco travel for car rentals, I thought they mainly sold package deals. Good tip!

  5. Please keep posting foodie posts. We try to cook nice meals at home to save money and splurge on occasional meals out. Have you posted on wine?

    • Jonathan Ping says

      I’m not very knowledgeable on wine. I mainly drink reds, we tend to get wine as gifts and then I work through them slowly as the Mrs. couldn’t drink while pregnant and breastfeeding. I’ve been meaning to try the Bota box as it keeps the oxygen out without having to finish an entire bottle. Got some tips? You could write a guest post on it if you’d like.

  6. Jonathan, slowly becoming a food blog, eh?

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