Disregard the “R.” That old-wives-rule, that oysters should only be consumed in “R” months of September through April, is so antiquated that it would be laughable if only one could laugh while slurping oysters. Thanks to modern farming practices, summer through early fall is actually peak season for Pacific hybrid harvesters such as those along Tomales Bay and Point Reyes. For the best local bivalves, dig into these beauties:
Hog & Rocks, San Francisco
This is a restaurant and bar devoted to ham and oysters (rocks are oysters in seafood slang). Seriously. In his vision for such a first-and-only concept, chef-owner Scott Youkilis changes the menu frequently, yet lovers of the good briny stuff can count on marvelous mollusks from prime sources such as Point Reyes (high salinity, sweet), Pacific Orchard, British Columbia (crisp, smooth, cucumber flavor), Wellfleet, Massachusetts (a divine warm bread aroma, yeasty, medium cup), and Kusshi, British Columbia (mild, light texture). The chef pairs each with a sauce, though the meaty treats shine just fine with simple lemon. Grab a seat near the oil painting memorializing prosciutto on a cutting rack alongside a plate of oysters, and sip a seaworthy cocktail like the classic Salty Dog updated with Rain Organics vodka, grapefruit juice and a salt-crusted rim.
3431 19th Street, San Francisco, 415-550-8627, hogandrocks.com.
Waterbar, San Francisco
Chef Parke Ulriche keeps things so fresh on his raw bar that he updates the oyster selection daily, in varieties hailing from California to Novia Scotia. The lengthy “Come Unhinged” by-the-shell or platter menu reads like a wine list, in tempting descriptions such as the lettuce-flavored Cove Miyagi from Tomales, the buttery sweet Kumamoto from Humboldt Bay, or the creamy plump French Kiss from New Brunswick. There’s even an oyster that reminds intriguingly of watermelon, called an Evening Cove, from British Columbia. For a bit fussier presentation, make a beeline to the weekend brunch showcasing specialties like barbecue-baked oysters flooded in garlic-parsley butter; the mollusks are sustainably farmed by the Lunny Family in the pristine waters of the Drakes Bay estuary. Still, savvy slurpers really line up for this deal: a special daily $1 oyster, dressed in fennel mignonette and all-you-can-eat from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, 415-284-9922, waterbarsf.com.
The Marshall Store, Marshall
Anyone who wonders where to find “The Best Oysters on the Planet” need only read the sign on this rickety old wood building. Then, of course, suck a few of these succulent Pacific specimens down his or her gullet. It just doesn’t get fresher, since the shellfish are pulled from the same sparkling blue Tomales Bay waters that lap beneath the pier-deck where they’re consumed. The choices are simple, ordered at the corrugated steel counter and offered as raw, barbecue or Rockefeller. Yet in a classy touch, there are local wines and beers to wash them down, and extras like crusty breads and green salads from the deli. One warning – keep an eye on the weather and call ahead if things seem inclement. When storms roll in, the deli doors roll shut, because indeed, this tiny store is that close to the water.
19225 State Route 1, Marshall, 415-663-1339, themarshallstore.com.
Chef Masaharu Morimoto, aka Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, only offers one oyster dish on his hot appetizer list, but then again, what an oyster. Delicate and rich and entirely decadent, this lavish recipe features a graceful plate of fresh, daily-market oysters glistening in teriyaki sauce, nestled with a nubbin of uni, and finished with a small slab of foie gras. The result looks a bit like jewelry, glittering in earthy colors on a snow-white bed of rock salt. It tastes nearly as precious, too.
610 Main Street, Napa, 707-252-1600, morimotonapa.com.
Tip: If you’re slurping sparkling wine with your oysters (as you should!), let Pure Luxury Transportation take the wheel. Plan a festive evening out with a private limo or Town Car.