Best Place to try different Oysters
We are coming to SF Easter weekend for a few days from the Philadelphia area. We're looking for some places to try oysters that we can't get on the east coast. We'll be staying with a friend in the Presidio area and will have transportation. Looking for high-end and low-end suggestions. Thanks in advance.
Seriously, most of the oysters on the resturant menus come from around the world. I can't imagine there being much difference from good oyster restaurants in the Philadelphia area.
Since you mention you have transportation, it might be nicer to take a ride up to Pt Reyes and visit some of the oyster farms. Also, try a bbq'd oyster. IMO, that was why God created the Pacific oyster ... to bbq.
Hog Island oyster bar should have a full lineup of their own local oysters, at least 2-3 varieties, with a few other west coast offerings, though their other west coast stuff looks more widely distributed:
Zuni does a better job with full local representation, good western representation, and then a few others from around the world depending on season.
Swan, Anchor Oyster Bar, and most other local venues will not have as good of a west coast selection.
By far the best thing to do would be to take a drive an hour or so north to one of the local oyster farms on and around Point Reyes. The easiest to get to is Tomales Bay Oyster Co just north of Point Reyes Station on Rt 1. About 10 miles further north is Hog Island in Marshall. And Johnson/Drakes Bay Co is pretty far out Pt. Reyes itself.
Bring some lemons, a heavy work glove for your non-dominant hand, and an oyster knife for shucking. They'll show you how to do it, but they won't do it for you. It's pretty easy once you get a feel for it.
Hog Island charges you to sit at their tables, the other two don't. Or just pick up an ice-chest full and bring them home. You can get a bag of ice at the grocery store in Pt Reyes Station. And beer. The only thing better than beer with oysters is a cold, dry martini; but Rt 1 is not a good road to be driving on filled with martini. In my experience.
And as mentioned, on your drive up every time you see a sign that says "barbequed oysters", slam on the brakes and get out and have a couple.
Hog Island Oyster Co
20215 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA
Tomales Bay Oyster Co
15479 Highway 1, Marshall, CA
Drake's Bay Family Farms Oysters
17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, Ca
re: Chuckles the Clone
Has anyone had experience with a church key as in this Chow Tip?
1. Scrub whole oysters under cold running water before opening them.
2. To shuck, use an oyster knife, table knife, or church key can opener. (Do NOT use a sharp kitchen knife.) Holding the oyster in a thick kitchen towel or special oyster glove, turn it so the deep cup is down.
I've never used a canopener, but I've had to make do with all sorts of other things. If you have nothing but a pocket knife, do NOT use the blade -- use the flat screwdriver tool.
A glove is absolutely essential from a safety standpoint. Even though the right way to shuck them requires very, very little thrust in the direction of the point, there seems to be a basic reflex to shove harder when one's not opening up. "If this tool slips, where will it go?"
Learning to shuck at home is certainly the most comfortable way to learn. But if you don't know what you're doing, don't let that be the reason for not going -- it's a simple process, fairly easy to do, there will be plenty of people around to show you what to do, and you won't be the only person there having their first lesson.
I've got a pretty nice knife I got for not too much at Whole Foods. I don't think it's an OXO but it's got that general OXO look and thick black handle thing going on.
Have a southpaw friend that thought this was a good idea, his nickname "Lefty" now has a double meaning.
Seriously though, yeah it can be done, but why go through the pain/trouble/embarassment?
Picked up a couple of shucking knives up in Hama Hama WA, not the little stubby 2" blades but more like 6". They provide a little more leverage if you're doing the glove/towel pinning the little buggers to the mat method, but they are superb for getting them open when you're standing in a foot to knee deep water with a bottle of hot sauce in your shirt pocket picking them out of the river mouth at low tide.
Purists may scoff all they want, but a few glancing blows at the end away from the hinge ninety degrees to lengthwise will expose a small gap between the upper and lower half, simply insert blade and twist. I manage to eat one for every two I toss in the bucket using this method. Oh yeah, don't wear anything you're fond of, tends to get a tad messy, but hey, you're alread wet with Tapatio dripping out of your pocket.
re: Chuckles the Clone
I've done this before. It didn't end up well (no er visit though).
1) get the smallest oysters they sell. The "mediums" at Drake's Bay were huge and didn't taste that good.
2) learn to shuck at home before you leave. In my experience, the primary issue is the shucker "knife", as the technique is easy. There's huge variation in the devices. You need something pointy, but not too pointy - beginners buy ones that are too broad because they're scared. I now have one trusty shucking knife that's exactly right - I either got it at Andronicos or Sur La Table. As andronicos and whole fools sells raw oysters, you should be able to get some shuckin' in before a high stakes beachside in front of friends or family. Chuckles mentions a glove - not a bad idea, that's what the pros use, don't use one myself.
3) I've come to believe lemon is pessimal as a dressing. If I had to choose one single ingrediant, it would be rice wine, but if you're going whole hog, you could make a minionette before you leave.
4) or learn to BBQ oysters! That might be fun.
5) you *can* shuck oysters with a high-end lock-blade pocket knife, but it's scary.
The sur la table oyster knife is a good one. Pointiness is essential.
Save the medium oysters for the BBQ. I like to shuck them (but this is not necessary) and put them on the grill with a little ginger, garlic, green onions, and a dab of black bean sauce. I think you have to bring your own briquettes. And if you're going to BBQ oysters, maybe you should bring a few burgers, sausages, corn....
re: The Librarian
I agree with rworange, since you have a car take a trip north to Pt Reyes area and visit either Hog Island or Tomales Bay oyster farm. Its a beautiful drive, location and you can lunch on oysters and BBQ them if you wish. As far as restaurants as indicated earlier I cant imagine Philadelphia wouldn't have pretty much the same selection of oysters at some of the higher end places. In SF Swan Oyster Depot on Polk for luch is a good option for a visitor if you haven't been or to Hog Island restaurant at the ferry plaza.
I'd also consider Bar Crudo, located near Union Square. It's more low key and intimate than Hog Island, Zuni, or Foreign Cinema. I'd also second Foreign Cinema for oysters.
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117