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Jan 28, 2002 02:25 PM

Musseling Weekend?

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Did anyone make it out musseling and barnacling this weekend?

Sadly, I didn't... would love to live vicariously through you who braved the crummy weather! I'm keeping track of the tide tables, and I'm going to make it next month!

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  1. Fatemeh - it was absolutely gorgeous on the beach Sunday! We even took our jackets off, it was so warm in the sun and the breezes were so light. There were a few fishermen, but no other mussel collectors. I was looking for you!

    I still can't believe that I managed to make it down there. After Saturday's mega-tasting of Zinfandels followed by more wine over dinner with friends, I planned to sleep in a little, but was so surprised to open my eyes Sunday and see that the time was already past 12:30pm! But when I saw how glorious the day was in SF, I figured it was worth a shot to head to Pescadero. A quick check of the tide tables (low tide at 3:30pm at HMB and surf report of 10') and a clear, sunny day, conditions were ideal for harvesting.

    After a call to my friend Julie (who was equally hungover) and an offer from Peter to show us the ropes (Tom - sorry we missed you!), I stuffed a change of clothes into a gear bag, and soon I was driving to our rendevous point on Skyline. We hit the beach at 3:40pm, a little behind schedule, but since this was a very low tide, it wasn't a problem. We had 10 lbs. of mussels in less than 20 minutes of collecting and still had dry feet.

    I noticed that the biggest gooseneck barnacles (trunk longer than 1") were further into the water, well into the splash zone. We took a look around and found a more protected spot that had some nice barnacle clusters. Even so, it was a little hairy to get to the prime ones. Peter had me stand on the edge of the precipice to spot waves ("If you stand here, you'll feel in danger of getting soaked when I could get wet") while he stretched to reach around the face of the rock and grab some of the big barnacles.

    On the way back we stopped at Duarte's Tavern to get some green chili soup to go and pie (ollalieberry and pecan). We kept our eyes open for wild mushrooms along the side of the road as we twisted up Alpine Road, but no luck. A little shopping at Draeger's in MP for Acme olive bread, Land o'Lakes salted butter, salad fixings, a ripe pear, and cheeses (Affinois, Mimolette Demi Vieille, and Point Reyes Original Blue) completed our dinner spread.

    The mussels were steamed with a little water, parsley and Sauvignon Blanc, likewise the barnacles. We're getting better at our timing for cooking them. We turned off the heat when most of the mussels were opened part way, rather than continuing cooking until the shells opened wider. It takes more work when eating to remove them from the shell, but we liked the softer almost custardy texture better.

    The barnacles were disappointing to me. Not nearly as sweet as the smaller samples I'd collected on the Sonoma Coast. The difference in taste may be due to the location, larger size, or maybe I cooked them longer. I'm not giving up though and will continue to experiment.

    Peter opened two Sauvignon Blancs - 1999 Cain Musque' "Ventana Vineyard" Monterey County and 2001 Seresin Marlborough. We split in our preferences. I felt the 99 was too vegetal with a definite jalapeno pepper character (which was good with the chili soup, btw) and preferred the rounder fruit flavors of the 2001. Peter objected to the pearish flavors in the 2001 (from 10% Semillon in the blend) and oily finish, and prefered the 99. Julie was the tiebreaker, voting with me. (g)


    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Melanie, what gear do you take on these quests? Buckets with seawater and/or gunnybags to tote the shellfish? Any special knife to remove the barnacles from the rocks?

      The one time I fetched my own mussels it was from the Johnson Oyster Farm and I never could get the beards off!

      1. re: Sharuf

        We carried a couple of small buckets to the beach. The mussels are tossed in them, rinsed a few times with sea water to loosen the sand, and then transported with seawater. In the car we had a 5 gal. paint bucket with a tightfitting lid to transfer the mussels to for transport home.

        We wore gardening gloves to protect our hands for yanking on the mussels. The cotton ones do get soaked, but it's for a very short time and they're what we have on hand.

        No special implements to remove the barnacles. We had some brought garden cultivators and prying tools along, but weren't sure whether fish & game regs allow their use, so we didn't. I had a harder time loosening these than Peter did. When I pointed out a cluster of big barnacles in a tough to reach spot, he said he'd hold me by the ankles and lower me over the edge! Luckily, instead, he figured out a way to reach them himself with my acting as wave counter/spotter.

        You'd be advised to bring a change of clothing to the beach in case an errant wave hits you. Also, never turn your back to the ocean when you're in the surf line.

        Getting the beards off is a tough job. Sometimes it's just not possible and I cut them off with scissors, however, that leaves a stub inside. What I suggest instead is just leaving them and making the mussels finger-food in a Tom Jonesian way at the table. Soon we abandoned the cocktail forks and just used our hands. The beards provide a handle for putting the mussel in your mouth and you can just bite off the edible part and toss the beard and tough muscle attached.

        Another tip: what was really great this time is that my friend Julie has tabletop butter warmers. This kept our Meyer lemon-garlic melted butter hot the whole time at the table, avoiding having to remelt the butter from time to time.