Thursday, September 04, 2008

Frisco Road Trip, Pt. 8: The Ferry and the Hog

The Ferry Building in San Francisco has been on my radar for years, ever since the 1989 earthquake damaged the Embarcadero Freeway that had separated downtown from its waterfront. In a stunning feat of civic will and foresight, the building was lovingly renovated and reopened as a showcase for the best of the region's food and art.

Now citizens and visitors alike stroll the parks and the waterfront, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays the plaza is the site of the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. We missed the farmers' market by a day, alas, but got to the building as vendors were setting up their shops, allowing us time for our second coffee of the day at Lulu Petite. I did stop at the Cowgirl Creamery shop for a quick shot of cheddar love (above) from a giant wheel of Neal's Yard Montgomery's Cheddar, then it was on to Hog Island Oyster Company for some of their briny bivalves.

Hog Island had just opened for lunch, so we grabbed two seats at the corner of the bar overlooking the oyster station and ordered a couple of pints to help set the mood. Now, my brother had said that we absolutely must come here, so expectations were high. Watching the guy in charge using his knife, we knew we were in good hands (he showed us his scars), and we ordered a mixed dozen.

While he was shucking our oysters, he explained that Hog Island oysters are farmed near Marshall, California, in the waters of Tomales Bay across from Point Reyes National Seashore. We nodded politely, of course, since he did have a knife, which he casually mentioned he'd sharpened in the tradition of all good oyster shuckers.

Clockwise from upper left: Hog Island Sweetwaters from Tomales Bay; Hog Island Atlantics, Tomales Bay; Hog Island Kumamotos, Tomales Bay; Gold Creeks, Hood Canal, WA; Beau Soleils, New Brunswick, Canada; Dabobs, Dabob Bay, WA
As we slurped our way through them, it was fascinating to taste the differences in flavor and texture, from mild and creamy to salty and toothsome. All had a similar brininess to the liquor, and it was explained that the imported oysters (in our case those from Washington and Canada) are brought in and immediately submerged in the bay so they can "breathe" again before being sold.

Our favorite? The Dabobs for their rich, creamy texture and taste. And the day's fish stew, thick with tomatoes, shellfish and big hunks of fish, (which was getting its last taste test by the staff when we walked in), looked amazing, as did the whole sardines on a salad of white beans (left).

And right now I have to thank our waitress for being patient enough to stop in mid-delivery so I could snap pictures and ask endless questions while she tried to get her work done. Maybe it was the Oregon connection, since her mom just bought some acreage in Central Oregon. Or probably because she's just a really swell gal, but she ended up buying our beers and promising to keep in touch. How great is that?

Details: Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building Marketplace, One Ferry Building (at the bottom of Market St.), San Francisco, CA. Phone 415-391-7117.

Read the other posts in this series: Getting There, Paying Our Respects, Resting in Redding, Schmoozing in Sacto, Home Away from Home, Off on the Right Foot, Choosing Chinese, The Point of It All, and The Last Meal. 


denwanai said...

you have reached heavenly heights; blue sky, fresh oysters and San Francisco culture. I am so envious my teeth hurt. Enjoying vicariously your foodie road trip.

Kathleen Bauer said...

And I didn't even mention the 397 stairs we climbed from the Ferry Building up to Coit Tower!