Sake Gumi
Photo by Thien V.

Visiting the Tomales Bay Oyster Company has been high on my priority list since CJ wrote about it last year. Fresh, just caught oysters? Overlooking the bay? Picnic tables? BBQ pits??? If that isn't a dream scenario for you, don't talk to me.

But obviously all of you felt my enthusiasm, as it won the poll for what we would be doing for the next Umamiventure. OYSTER BBQ, FUCK YAH!!! As usual, this post is dispersed with comments by those who attended and many fun pictures (mostly taken by me, unless otherwise noted.) Enjoy!

About an hour north of San Francisco, Claire, Jaime, Peter and I were on the road by 10am to get to Tomales Bay early enough to snag a few tables. Although all the prime-real estate tables right on the water were already taken by 11am, we settled down on the mezzanine level with a great view of the water.


We set up shop, sprawled out our mountain of condiments and coolers full of beer over two tables.


When we first arrived it was still foggy and chilly and pretty quiet, so we settled in with our bloody marys. It was the calm before the storm of friends, drunkenness, and deliciousness.

Here's Claire making the delicious cocktail, which was a simple concoction of vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, ground pepper, and yes, Paystyle, CLAM JUICE!


The boys started the bbq as I walked down to the tent where they sell the bivalves.


Did we want small, medium or large? Extra large? A dozen, or 50??? After careful contemplation, I decided on 50 small oysters for $41. That's 82 cents an oyster!!! HOLLER!


I walked back to our table utter excitement, and giddily sliced open the yellow netting. Then, we put Jaime and Peter to work!


OH NO! Sorry Jaime!!!

Photo by Jaime

The small oysters raw with a squeeze of lemon and a couple drops of Tapatio was my favorite, so simple and tasty.


By noon, more people started showing up. And look! SUN!!!


After many failed attempts, I finally popped my Umamiventure cherry at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, right in time for the traditional opening of oyster season. Armed with a killer Bloody Mary from Claire, I began intermediary calisthenics in preparation for the shuck-a-thon.

The gloves went on, the shucking knives got hot as I alternated techniques from the "hinge pop" to the "side door". The oyster shells (in particular, the "mantle") at TBOC are softer than your average oyster shell so shucking was a breeze.


Dan was a serious shuckmaster from the moment he got there, it was awesome. He brought his own shucker, plus gloves!!! What a PRO!

For the smalls, I enjoyed most straight/raw/undressed, but I indulged in some of the homemade mignonette, vodka, lemon, and yuzu kosho.

In the words of Samer: When in doubt, TAPATIO!


Peter's very first oyster... of his LIFE!!! Monumental moment- I am so glad I documented it.


By 1pm, the party was in full swing, and it was time for another bag of oysters. Dan I walked down to the tent for Round II. This time, we went for the medium size oysters so we could try barbecuing them.


I also saw that they had Manila clams, so I got two pounds of those.


The mediums seemed to be larger than I last remembered, including one stretched out Dali-esque specimen that probably topped out around half a pound.


The larger the oyster shells, the greater probability of finding a clam worm living in the crevices and barnacles of the oysters. Keep an eye out for these puppies, unless you enjoy an extra dose of protein in your diet. Can you see the little guy??

Photo by Dan

What happens when you shuck oysters, barbeque them with chimichuri sauce and a whole lotta love? Food-gasm!

Photo by Thien V.

This was my first time experiencing the bbq oyster and I was surprised by how much I liked it- because I love them raw, I didn't anticipate how grilling them would be preferable. The smokiness and warmth of the grilled oyster was surprisingly awesome! When Jessica ingeniously began dressing oysters with Jaime's now famous chimichurri sauce before grilling them, I became a huge fan.

Thien brought tomatoes and we wrapped them in foil and put them on the bbq as well. What a delight!


Jessica was the funnest, most seriously dedicated grill masters ever.

Photo by Jaime

I only got to have one that Jessica prepped and it was fantastic.

WHAT??? Dan, you shucked 90% of the oysters and you only got one??? That's whack!

I have to confess that I didn't shuck a single one, but enjoyed eating many.

OMG me too! Claire, how did we get away with not shucking ANY OYSTERS ALL DAY???

I'm a condiment whore so the array of sauces that people brought amazed me to no end. Jaime made a chimichurri sauce that was just the perfect addition to the oysters on the grill, and Jessica brought homemade mignonette! Look at this bottle!


We added bacon the grill, and sausages too.

Photos by Thien V.

Then came the clams... together with the corn that James and Christian brought.

Photo by Thien V.

I overheard Helen say that she liked the clam more than the oysters. I have to say that indeed, they were delicious. So fresh, succulent, and tasted of the sea. We didn't even add anything to them and just ate them as is! They were delicious.


Dave and Thien on shucking duty.


The best thing about the whole outing was seeing food bringing all sorts of different people together, even if they didn't know each other. Sharing the food experience made it easy to hang out. Time passed so fast!


I'd have to say the event was amazing! I loved the venue, and the oysters were sooo delicious! I would love to do it again!


Kayoko delighted us at the end of the afternoon with grilled figs topped with fresh ricotta - yum!


I want to send a shout out to Jordan for sharing a Dogfish Head 90min IPA with me, the sharp green hoppy flavour complimented the oysters' flavor rather well.

The facilities at Tomales Bay were lovely, but as an oyster snob I would recommend driving the extra 10 minutes to check out Hog Island's briny goodness.

Oyster Haiku:

Delicious oyster.
Hot grill by Tomales Bay.
Ok, just one more.

Photo by Dave

15479 Highway One
Marshall, CA
T: 415.663.1242

* I'd like to thank everyone who came out to this adventure to SHUCK AND SUCK! It was such a memorable, gorgeous Northern California day. Special thanks and love to Hideko, my mama extraordinaire for sponsoring the event. I know, I'm so sneaky!!!

**Umamiventues are organized monthly, traveling far and wide to find good, cheap grub off the beaten path.

***Become a Facebook Fan of UM to stay updated on all future trips!!!

Past Umamiventures include:
1.) Ocean Jewel Restaurant - Flushing, NYC; June 2007
2.) Red Hook Ball Fields - NYC; June 2007
3.) Taste of Jackson Heights - NYC; October, 2007
4.) Sripraphai Restaurant - Woodside, NYC; November 2007
5.) WINTERMARKET - South St. Seaport; December 2007
6.) Jackson Diner- Jackson Heights, NYC; January 2008
7.) Pacificana - Sunset Park, NYC; February 2008
8.) Puerto Alegre - The Mission, SF; March 2008
9.) Dinosaur BBQ - Harlem, NYC; April 2008
10.) Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden - Astoria, NYC; May 2008
11.) Brooklyn Banh Mi Crawl - Sunset Park, NYC; August 2008
12.) Sheapshead Bay Lobster Crawl - NYC; September 2008
13.) Flushing Food Circuit - NYC; October 2008
14.) Strong Beer Month - SF; March 2009
15.) Loisaida Throwback Crawl - NYC; April 2009
16.) Harley Farms Goat Dairy - Pescadero, CA; June 2009