Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang was out to set a record. At the Foodbuzz Mobile Feast in 2009, he camped out by the Hog Island Oyster Co. booth and preceded to shamelessly slurp three-dozen sweetwater and Kumamoto oysters. Now, we were going to the source, the Hog Island Oyster Co. farm and he was talking big. Eating more than three dozen oysters was supposedly achievable.
We parked on the shoulder of Highway 1, which was littered with oyster shells, and proceeded past a canary yellow building and bathtub-like tanks filled with bundles of oysters. Our destination was the gravel-lined picnic area overlooking spectacular Tomales Bay, where people grilled, slurped oysters, drank liberal amounts of beer and wine and generally soaked up summer to the fullest.
As Hog Island’s “Our Story” page explains so clearly, Tomales Bay rests 49 miles north of San Francisco and is pretty much an ideal place to grow oysters. “Tomales Bay is a pristine estuary where coastal rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. Extreme tides and cold, clean, brackish waters create an oyster’s paradise.” In all, oyster farmers John Finger and Terry Sawyer lease 160 acres in the bay and produce 3 million Pacific, Kumamoto and Atlantic oysters per year, plus Manila clams and mussels.
There seemed to be two forces working against Mr. Kang’s oyster record. One was our meal at Nick’s Cove, which immediately proceeded our visit to Hog Island Oyster Co. The other factor was the cost. Oysters are expensive. Even at the source, they’re $2 each. Ultimately, he decided to err on the side of enjoyment, limiting consumption so he’d feel good afterwards.
The blackboard menu listed Hog Island Sweetwaters (12 for $24) and Virginicas (12 for $27). They also sell oysters by the half-dozen and two-dozen. We ordered 24 mixed oysters for $50. Both varietals were good, but the Sweetwaters earned their name for a reason, and in the future, we’d both stick just to Sweetwaters.
BBQ Oysters (4 for $12) featured Sweetwaters grilled on the half-shell with natural juices, garlic and smoky, somewhat spicy chipotle butter.
Even though Matt didn’t set his record at Hog Island Oyster Farm, the combination of the windswept setting and pristine oysters was still pretty much unbeatable.