A plate of oysters beckons ostreaphiles.
Summer has long been deemed the off-season for oysters. During the bivalves’ breeding phase, their sweet, plump flesh can turn milky and thin—spawny, it’s called. But the old rule—avoid oysters in months without the letter R—no longer applies everywhere. The Pacific Ocean’s chilly waters can delay or prevent spawning, and West Coast farmers have begun raising many oyster varieties that rarely breed. So start your engines, ostreaphiles, and head for the shore.
- Clausen Oysters North Bend, Ore. This shop’s reputation for delicious smoked, shucked, and unshucked oysters keeps shellfish lovers coming back. Though there are no picnic tables on-site, you’ll find plenty of welcoming beaches along rugged Coos Bay. (541) 756-3600, silverpointoysters.com.
- Drakes Bay Oyster Company Inverness, Calif. Located on Drakes Estero inside the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore, this oyster farm has a small store where you can buy chilled jars of shucked raw Pacific oysters, fresh oysters in the shell in a range of sizes, and oysters on the half shell. Savor your shellfish at picnic tables on site or call ahead to schedule a farm tour. 17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., (415) 669-1149, drakesbayfamilyfarms.com.
- Hama Hama Oyster Company Lilliwaup, Wash. “The picnic tables are so near the water you almost sit on the oyster beds,” says retail manager Lissa James. On weekdays the packing plant runs at full tilt; picnickers get shucking tips near a mountain of shells and a retail store. (888) 877-5844, hamahamaoysters.com.
- Hog Island Oyster Co. Marshall, Calif. After 27 years on Tomales Bay, the outfit—famed for Kumamoto oysters and for the Pacifics it calls Sweetwaters—has opened an oyster bar beside its beachfront tables and grills. (415) 663-9218, hogislandoysters.com.
- Kachemak Shellfish Growers Co-op Homer, Alaska. Summer visitors shuck oysters from 14 Kachemak Bay farms on Homer Spit (866-978-3762, alaskaoyster.com). Alaska’s Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge, across the bay, offers its guests oyster farm tours. (907-296-2217, ridgewoodlodge.com).
- Taylor Shellfish Farms Bow, Wash. As the West’s biggest grower of nonspawning oysters, this Samish Bay farm has tables and barbecues set up on shell-strewn sand. On July 24, the farm hosts its Bivalve Bash—“old-fashioned rural fun,” says organizer Jon Rowley. (360) 766-6002, taylorshellfishfarms.com.
- Tomales Bay Oyster Company Marshall, Calif. Picnic tables and barbecue pits sit mere yards from oyster beds on glittering Tomales Bay. With a bag of Pacifics, a shucking knife, a wedge of lime, and a spot of hot sauce, you’re set for a feast. (415) 663-1242, tomalesbayoysters.com.
Photography by David Monniaux/Wikipedia
This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.