After a 20-year gap in my raw oyster tasting, Hog Island Oyster Company has converted me. I’ll admit. I was oyster shy. But these wizards of shucking have perfected the art of serving raw oysters, fresh on a bed of crushed ice, drizzled with a light and not-too-acidic mignonette and a squeeze of lemon.
I first experienced Hog Island while attending the Summer Solstice party at Round Pond Winery in Napa. With oyster shuckers working their magic while guests sipped chilled chardonnay, I watched in fascination. It had been a very long time since I’d eaten an oyster raw and my only oyster memories were of a chewy bite of salty cocktail sauce. Oyster po-boys and Caesar salad with a sprinkling of fried oysters? Sure. But eating them raw? I didn’t see the point.
But during the Round Pond evening, it only took me about two minutes watching people around me indulge in Hog Island’s Oyster Company’s best (and groan repeatedly with satisfaction) to realize I was missing something major in my foodie life.
That first taste of a raw oyster is unlike anything else you’ve experienced. It’s cool on the tongue and drenched in a salty essence reminiscent of the sea. As you tip back the shell and the oyster slides into your mouth, its texture becomes soft and tender to the bite. After a long moment of savoring, your palate is absolutely ready for more, more, MORE.
On the bay side of the Ferry Building Marketplace, Hog Island Oyster Company offers daily selections of specialty oysters and a la minute chowders. Pick a table on the deck outside with a view of the Bay Bridge, or pull a stool up to the oyster bar for a view of the open kitchen and chefs at work. In San Francisco we enjoyed oysters four ways. Raw, we sampled Blue Pool and Penn Cove Select. The Blue Pool are very small and tender with a buttery texture. The Penn Cove Select are slightly larger with a more prominent flavor. To try something warm, we ordered baked oysters casino (rich, buttery, flavored with bacon and paprika) and oysters tarragon (lighter, fragrant with tarragon and shallots). Both were really good. The hands-down favorite of the day? The Blue Pool raw oysters. Simply succulent.
Hog Island oysters are farm-raised and recognized on the Super Green List of Sustainable Seafoods.
There are many places you can enjoy Hog Island oysters: in Napa at Oxbow Market or in San Francisco at the Ferry Building Marketplace on Embarcadero, as well as farm markets and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area (check the website for a complete listing). Perhaps one of the most special places to indulge is in Marshall at the Hog Island Oyster farm itself on Tomales Bay. Picnic tables are available by reservation only (book early!), and guests may arrive at The Boat oyster bar first come-first served. With a plentiful supply of oysters served waterside, guests can linger with their favorite bring-your-own wine (small corkage fee) and soak up the sunshine during their waterfront meal.
Hog Island Oyster Company
Various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area