Tomales Bay State Park is a 1 ½-2 hour drive from Davis. The drive through Novato, and Highway 101 is gorgeous with winding roads, green hills and cows grazing that finally opens up to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes. Catch a great lunch in Point Reyes at Reyes Café that Sunset magazine named “Their favorite spot in town.” Their website http://www.cafereyes.net/ touts “Thin crust wood fired pizza from dough made from scratch daily, Niman Ranch all-natural fennel sausage and uncured dry salame, fresh local oysters, organic greens, Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese, La Quercia all-natural Prosciutto and house roasted, shade-grown organic coffees are among the many wonderful items we have waiting for you.” If you see a fresh pie sitting fireside when you visit, don’t skip it!
After lunch, continue driving to Tomales Bay State Park. It’s a cute, windy drive about 10 minutes from Point Reyes. Have your $8.00 day fee ready for the gate, grab a map, and head down to Heart’s Desire Beach, a popular spot to put your kayaks in the water. There is a small parking lot there for slower days or early visits. On the weekends, you’ll most likely end up a little further away in the overflow parking.
There are several hiking trails. Our two favorite quick hikes (approx. ½ miles each) which are perfect for little ones are the hike to Shell Beach and the hike from Heart’s Desire Beach to Indian Beach. Here the kids can cross a small bridge, play in the swampy water or on the beach, and investigate and play in the two teepees that were resurrected in honor of the Native Americans that once lived there. The hike to this beach boasts small placards with information about the plant life along the way including ferns, blackberries and yes, Poison Oak. We’ve done the long inland loop, but there wasn’t much to look at, just lots of thick brush.
If you’re oyster and clam lovers, drive back through Point Reyes and around the other side of the bay to Tomales where you’ll find several places to load up on the shelled delicacies including Hog Island Oyster Company. Many people use the picnic tables and BBQs and eat the oysters there, but shelling oysters is no easy feat, so we usually bring an ice chest, load up, and head home where we can prepare them in the comfort of our own kitchen with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to buy a shucker if you don’t have one. Don’t confuse this with the Hog Island Oyster Company restaurants in Napa and SF in the Pier One Ferry Building. There is no champagne or servers here. It’s very much serve yourself, and very messy. The upside is that you can get a dozen oysters here for as little as $10/dozen where as in the restaurant, they’re more in the $36 price range.
I used to be deathly afraid of eating raw oysters. I was sure that I would be one of the few to get sick and die. I would ask the servers in restaurants if anyone had died from eating an oyster at their establishment, much to the embarrassment of our friends. I also had to be perfectly inebriated to eat one. And, they had to be very, very small oysters. Now, I love them, although I’m not a fan of the huge, “how do you swallow this” varieties. I can eat them sober now although I’m usually two sips into a glass of bubbly, a Tequini or a Cosmo.
My chef extraordinaire husband prepared the oysters with some Meyer lemons and a mignonette sauce made with white wine vinegar (which he said should have been rice wine vinegar, but we were out), red onions (shallots would have been preferred), red bell pepper, flat leaf parsley and cracked black pepper and served ice cold. I much prefer eating oysters with mignonette as opposed to cocktail sauce or hot sauce.
The clams were cooked in a broth of white wine, garlic, butter, and mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) along with the rest of the red pepper and parsley, and braised until the clams opened. We served those in large bowls with lots of broth, and garlic, butter toasts.
Where is your favorite place to go when you visit Tomales Bay and Point Reyes?