Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off…

According to the great George Gershwin, some of my friends and followers may want to call it off after this post.  Seems when it comes to “oysters versus ersters,” people tend to disagree.  In fact, they fall into one extreme category or the other.  They either love ‘em, or they are repulsed by the very thought of ‘em.

I got a taste of my first oyster at Felix’s Oyster Bar in New Orleans on yet another family road-trip.  I have been slurping the slippery suckers straight out of their shell ever since.   From the deep fried oyster po’boys in Nawlins to “ersters” along the northeast coast, or  “Ostiónes Preparados,” covered in avocado and pico de gallo at my brother Don’s favorite Mexican restaurant.  I love them all!

The Marshall Store offers three seating areas, inside at indoor picnic tables, at the Oyster Bar, or outside overlooking the bay.

The Marshall Store offers three seating areas, inside at indoor picnic tables, at the Oyster Bar, or outside overlooking the bay.

Shucked while you watch...

Shucked while you watch…

Or you can take a seat outside overlooking the sailboats in the bay.

Or you can take a seat outside overlooking the sailboats in the bay.

The best way I can describe an oyster is to say it tastes exactly like the sea smells.  It’s that fresh, salty/sweet, briny sensation that activates my olfactory and salivary glands on impact.  Add to that the creamy plump flesh of nature plucked straight from the sea, and I am in heaven.  An oyster truly captures the essence of the sea.  And for an ocean-lover like me, well, that says it all.   So when friend and fellow blogger LuAnn said “I ate the best barbecued oysters of my life in Point Reyes,” the challenge was on.   “I’ll have what she’s having.”

How is this for a job with a view?

How is this for a job with a view?

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Tomales Bay is the long, narrow inlet that fills the split between Point Reyes National Seashore and the mainland, right along the San Andreas Fault.   These clear, protected waters are home to oyster farms where half the state’s shellfish production takes place.  The tiny town of Marshall is in the heart of this oyster producing area, offering picnic options along Highway 1 where oysters can be enjoyed al fresco, overlooking the cool bay waters where they are grown.

Just down the road is the Tomales Bay Trail, which leads through dairy pastures to the bay.

Just down the road is the Tomales Bay Trail, which leads through dairy pastures to the bay.

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Hog Island Oyster Farm

Hog Island Oyster Farm

Most of these oyster shacks are “shuck your own,” offering picnic tables, grills, and a full compliment of shucking gear. But there are a few exceptions. On LuAnn’s recommendation, I choose The Marshall Store, which likewise serves them up on the half shell, fresh off the farm. But they are best known for their barbecue and smoked meats such as bacon and homemade beef jerky, along with oysters smoked, barbecued, smothered and covered.

I'll take mine with a view, thank you!

I’ll take mine with a view, thank you!

Barbecued with garlic butter was the best!

Barbecued with garlic butter was the best!

But the "Kilpatricks" with house smoked bacon was a close second.

But the “Kilpatricks” with house smoked bacon was a close second.

I start out with half a dozen, but they don’t come cheap.  This is not a place to go if you are famished.   And it just so happens that after a long hike down the Tomales Bay Trail, I am famished.  So I add a bowl of “Fish Stew” to satisfy my hunger after I have tantalized my taste buds with Tomales Bay oysters.  I order my half dozen barbecued in garlic butter with a dab of house-made barbecue sauce (think a combination of traditional BBQ sauce combined with cocktail sauce.)  But I can’t stop there.  I go back for another half dozen “Kilpatricks” (Worcestershire and house-smoked bacon.)   So….Are we calling the whole thing off yet?  😉

LuAnn is right…they were about the best oysters I have tasted thus far.  But if you decide to also take the challenge, go early.  Most of the oyster shacks are closed by 5:00pm.

I am wrapping up my Point Reyes series with some photos of hikes I did in the area.  The National Seashore is a hikers dream, offering rolling grassy meadows, stunning coastal views, or thigh-burning elevation gain over the 1,400 ft coastal range. Short, long, steep, shady or sandy, you can find it here.

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No surprise my favorites both involved the Coastal Trail.  The first time, I did a loop up Sky Trail, down the Woodlands Trail, across the Coastal Trail to Sculptured Beach, then back up the Fire Trail for a total of just under 12 miles.   But a lot of it was spent in heavily wooded forest.  So the next day I got smart and rode my bike through the forest down the Bear Valley Trail for four miles, then hiked the remaining six along the Coastal Trail.
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A small waterfall

A small waterfall

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Point Reyes truly is a place I could stay….till the cows come home!

So if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I’ll order oysters and cancel the ersters
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off
Let’s call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off
Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part
then that might break my heart

So if you like ersters
I’ll eat ersters
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off
Let’s call the whole thing off
~ George Gershwin

11 thoughts on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off…

  1. Now I’m hungry…your photos are killing me!

    Best I’ve had were Apalachicola Bay oysters at Indian Pass Raw Bar…and oh did I mention the music…you never know who’s there “sitting’ in” from Nashville. Just up the road from St. Joseph Island SP.

    http://www.indianpassrawbar.com/

  2. I’m not really an oyster lover, but I will say the best I’ve had were at the Up the Creek Raw Bar in Apalachicola. Lightly cooked sprinkled with a little diced collard greens, parmesan cheese, and crumbled bacon. It was hard to stop at a dozen.

  3. Eating oysters in July? You know that’s not right. :-) I personally think Acme in New Orleans has the best chargrilled oysters in the world. As far as those on the half shell, they’re all good. Once had a flight (actually two) on the half shell in downtown Seattle. Three each from different areas of the local waters. Interesting concept, and have never seen it offered anywhere else.

  4. That’s it, I am done….calling it off! We have never been a fan of oysters, in fact have tried them several times to see what we were missing. Most recently we went to The Oysterfest in Charleston Oregon and they were horrible!

    That said, we do love grilled oysters with a little bit of garlic butter and parmesan! Could eat them all day! The steamed and raw however….not so much.

  5. At the age of 35 I was on a business trip in Baltimore which had a market in city center where there were stands which specialized in oysters and Old Bohemian aka “Bo”. Never having had them, but being a fan of clams I watched for a while to see how the natives approached them and then walked boldly up to the counter and ordered a half dozen of their finest raw and a Bo. The man behind the counter pointed to some shells larger than my hands, which are large and said “these?” When I said yes, he opened six, poured a Bo and passed them over.
    I boldly imitating the natives took one and poured it into my mouth. OMG! I never had such a substance in my mouth before, I did not know whether to spit it out, swallow it or barf! Not wanting to appear the foolish one I grabbed a hand full of crackers giving the concoction enough traction that I was able to swallow it by chugging the BO. I peeked at the other 10 or so people at the counter and noticed that I had not been noticed and repeated the process with the remaining five oysters.
    Years passed with my passing up those treats until when in Rhode Island a knowledgeable oyster shucker convinced me to try some smaller, local product. I became enamored of those sweet, salty little tasty critters and when I go to the seashore I always fine a good provider and enjoy them, enjoy them and never order the biggest ones they have.
    BBQ’d and roasted are awesome also. Plus in my old age I have some un-oaked chardonnay to help them on their final journey.
    Deede does not share my love for them.

  6. Love the title, love the song. LOVE any kind of seafood including oysters. LOVE LOVE the ocean so this is a dream post. Your pictures are fantastic. The bike/hike sounds wonderful and the oysters divine. What a wonderful time you have had and would I have liked to be there – You Bet.

  7. I also Love oysters any way they come and am glad I ate them when I could as now I have a food intolerance for most seafood. :( Yet I drooled. Sky trail is what I hiked with my ex-husband on our honeymoon and camped at the top.

  8. “Tastes exactly like the sea smellls….”
    Exactly. And that’s just what I said about uni/sea urchin. But my darling wife still didn’t care for them. More for me!

  9. I’m so glad you made it to the Marshall Store! My mouth was watering as I read this. I knew you would love the barbecued oysters. And Point Reyes is such a special place to hike. We are in Glacier right now, having hiked the Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel trails for a total of 15 miles. I thought of you hiking Half Dome with a pack on your back while we were on the trail yesterday. It helped me to complete the slog up the long switchbacks to the tunnel. I will be blogging about it as soon as we get some Internet that doesn’t move at a snail’s pace. I’m with you Suzanne, I could hang out at Point Reyes until the cows come home.

  10. It is, at this moment, 12:14 am in middle Tennessee–far, far away from a decently decadent oyster. I would right now gnaw off my left arm for a platter of Kilpatricks up there…with an O and an M and a G.

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