A Weekend at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

I’m a few miles north of Point Reyes Station, and I’m doing my best avoiding cyclists riding two by two around blind turns along Highway 1. Upon reaching a short stretch, I see cars beginning to line up along the side of the road. I don’t know where I am, but I immediately pull over and begin to park. The sign across the street reads “Tomales Bay Oyster Company.”

The parking attendant is yelling while peering upwards at the sky to make sure we all look both ways before we cross the street. She reiterates that this is not a street, but Highway 1.

Along this beach-esque location, the ground is soft, but it’s not sand. Rather, it’s what appears to be worn shells—perhaps the remains of the crustaceans farmed here. My wife shuffles the cooler in her arms to touch my shoulder, pointing towards a series of picnic tables in the distance, and tells me, “They’re here.”

We join our friends at some reserved tables. After the typical greetings, we begin to unpack the coolers, set up the food and chat while the rest of our group arrives.

The “cash only” sign next to the service counter causes me to reach in my back pocket and make sure I had something other than plastic in my leather wallet. Our table reservation came with a dozen oysters, but there are ten of us and we’ll need more. “Three dozen large,” I say to the lady behind the counter, and suddenly a rather large bag of oysters is plopped in front of me.

To the right of me, along the same counter, another lady shows a group of newcomers how to use the shucking tools and avoid cutting yourself with the knife.

I arrive back at the tables with the oysters in tow. The grills in front of each table are being prepared and fixings of lemons, limes, Tabasco and Tapatio, and our own seasonings and butter are being mixed and readied to top the oysters.

We immediately fall into a rhythm: One person shucks, another adds toppings, another places them on the grill, and the others ensure our wine and margarita glasses are continually full. Once complete, we begin the feasting, joking, splashing in the shallow waters with our four legged friends and singing along to the tunes on the radio.

A few hours later and our bellies are full, the sun is at its peak and we’re ready to head back to civilization. It’s half a day well spent.

—Michael G. Hurston