An oyster on the half shell is easy to love; nothing else so perfectly captures the sweet-salt essence of the sea. The Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, California, grows some of the most delicious oysters in the United States.
What's Hog Island's secret for the best bivalves? Partners Michael Watchorn, John Finger, and Terry Sawyer try to make their oysters as "happy" as possible while growing on the farm.
The best method for doing so is to give them a clean, fresh home for the two to three years it will take them to mature. Since oyster farmers don't rely on feed, the oysters must be placed in the midst of good currents where algae bloom.
The Hog Island partners, all marine biologists, were aware of these facts when they leased five acres (they now farm 110 acres) on Tomales Bay, a marine sanctuary. Their farm lies in the path of a freshwater stream; this lowers the water's salinity a few parts per million, which makes the oysters taste more sweet. They harvest more than 100,000 mature oysters each week. Most are shipped immediately to restaurants nationwide. But there are always plenty left over for the lucky visitors who pull off Highway 1 to devour the tasty oysters at the simple picnic tables beside the bay.