Hog Heaven (Hog Island Oyster Company -- Marshall, CA and San Francisco, CA)
I lived a sheltered life before I got my sluttin' on. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, blind to anything but local delicacies. While these included great seafood, authentic Italian food and mean subs, my culinary view was pretty limited.
It was while I was in college that I discovered many things I can't imagine living without. Despite being sequestered in frigid upstate New York, the town surrounding my school was pretty rad. It was there that I visited my first farmer's market, learned about organic ingredients and ate at the famed Moosewood Restaurant. I also had the privilege of earning my education in a place that had it's own dairy with a homemade ice cream shop, orchards that produced beautiful apples every fall and a dining program that was acclaimed far and wide and included no less than 20 dining options in addition to bringing in guest chefs from around the nation. That kind of made up for the fact that I did, indeed, have to walk to class in three feet of snow uphill both ways. Really.
My school had several different colleges within the university, and I was able to take classes in the Hotel school. This enabled me to take a class called "Wines," which involved learning about wine but also drinking fuckloads of it every week. Thank God I subscribed to a notetaking service, because I'd usually fall asleep after the drinking portion.
I also chose to take the cooking class that the Hotel school offered for "non-hotelies." Apparently, we are not all created equal. So I rented the chef's whites, bought some knives and showed up every Friday for the four hour class. Yee haw!
It was in this class that I first tried oysters. I know, ew, oysters in upstate New York. Even the instructor said, "I really try not to eat them unless I'm at the source." But I figured what the hell, ate them anyway, loved them and didn't get sick. I'll never forget the silky goodness sliding down my throat in all their ocean flavored glory.
After that, I became an oyster fiend, lapping them up wherever I thought it was safe to get them. It took me another five years to get Jon to try them and now if I want some of my own, I have to pry them out of his firmly clenched fists.
Fortunately for us, there's Hog Island Oyster Company, located in lovely Tomales Bay.
Hog Island's Oyster Farm is rad. What's more rad, is that you can buy oysters right there and picnic with them. You know they're fresh, because you can see the little buggers all happy in their holding tanks. And you can buy, like, 100 for $1. Not really, but it averages out to about $.50 - $1 per oyster. I'm partial to the tiny ones, I think they are sweeter, so we usually buy 50 for $25, grab a glove and start shucking.
All of H.I.'s oysters are great, it just depends on your preference. Try one of each if you are not sure and then just buy a fuckload of the ones you like best.
Because, apparently, I'm cursed, it always rains when we go there. But I really don't care, because when I see those little beauties wiggling in their shells and taste their briny goodness, all is right in the world.
And since the good Lord above seems to answer my prayers once in awhile to make up for the rain, Hog Island has an outpost in the Ferry Building. And not only do they carry the delicious bivalves, they'll cook you some tasty dishes as well. These include some fan-fucking-tastic clam chowder, oyster stew and pasta with clams. Plus, you can get beer there. The only drawback is that the goods don't come as cheap once they've carted 'em down to the big city.
In addition to oysters, The Island O' Hogs provides manila clams. These are teeny tiny, the way I like them. We usually buy a pound of them and then go to town when we get home. Yes, I do eat at home sometimes. Stop laughing.
So my advice is hop in your car and make the drive out to Tomales Bay so you can get your action for cheap. But if you're rich and/or lazy, you can just go to the Ferry Building. (Just don't park on the street and not put enough money in the meter and get a $35 parking ticket like I did today after going to Taylor's. HOW THE FUCK DOES A QUARTER ONLY BUY 7.5 FUCKING MINUTES?????).
And just for kicks, let me know how many oysters you can manage to eat in one sitting. It only counts if you don't puke.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld