Pick up abalone at American Abalone in Davenport, Calif.
Decades ago, abalones were plentiful in California waters. Those days are long gone, and since 1997, it has been illegal to sell or buy wild abalones in the state. But four abalone farms in Northern California offer aficionados a chance to savor this rare delicacy. It's similar to the meat of scallops, only sweeter and firmer.
The one-shelled mollusks are expensive—up to $28 a pound—because they are tricky to raise and slow to mature. Red abalones, the most common variety, grow just an inch a year. "Some people are squeamish about shucking them," says Art Seavey, a partner in Monterey Abalone Company. "But it gets easier if you do it once or twice." Here's where to find the freshest abalone.
▪ American Abalone Live abalones and tenderized steaks, Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 245 Davenport Landing, Davenport, (831) 457-2700, americanabalone.net.
▪ The California Abalone Co. Live abalones at Dock F-23, Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay. By appointment. Call the harbor master: (650) 726-5727.
▪ Monterey Abalone Company Live abalones by online order or at the fishing wharf, weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 160 Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey, (831) 646-0350, montereyabalone.com.
▪ Pacific Abalone Farms Live abalone, mainly ordered by phone or email. If you're in the area you can arrange to pick up your order. Monterey Harbor, (831) 236-4278.
Photography by Tom Ebert
This article was first published in November 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.