Some people seek out the beach for sun and sand. Up here, where we are blessed with the astounding beauty of the Marin and Sonoma coasts, it's equally about the food — the happy habitat of the slurpy, shuck-needy, sweet-meated oyster.
Down them raw, barbecue them or slather them with all manner of accoutrements and a meal is made, preferably paired with something ice cold and brewed or a creamy sauvignon blanc bubbling with minerality.
Here are some local favorite places within an afternoon's drive, where oysters are the stars, many other fine foods may be enjoyed and in some cases, a room can be had for the night.
<CF114><CP9>Dillon Beach Resort and Caf?/CP>: </CF><CF101>A</CF>n out-of-the-way place with ocean views that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Featuring galloping bowls of clam chowder, big breakfasts and great bread, the Dillon Beach Resort also touts a surf shop and general store. But that's not all. Oceanside two-bedroom cabins big enough for six people may be rented by the night, week or month, complete with equipped kitchen and outdoor barbecue ($200-$250/night). It's the ideal place to hole up for a getaway exploring this, the more rugged side of Tomales Bay.
<CF102>1 Beach Ave., Dillon Beach, 878-2696, dillonbeachresort.com.
</CF><CF114><CP9>Hog Island Oyster Farm:</CP> </CF>Hog Island has become a household name because of the quality of its oysters, clams and mussels — the first to be certified sustainable — and because of the nature of its picnic experience on the farm (reservations required). Here, tables are laid out and barbecue pits made available for a grand day out, shucking your own and eating just a stone's throw from where the oysters are harvested. Already shucked and grilled oysters, along with beer, wine and other local goods like cheese are also sold at The Boat, Hog Island's own oyster bar on the farm, on a first-come, first-served basis.
<CF103>20215 Highway 1, Marshall, (415) 663-9218, hogislandoysters.com.
</CF><CF114><CP9>Inn on Tomales Bay Bed and Breakfast:</CP> </CF>This quiet, simply adorned inn, right near Nick's Cove, has three rooms overlooking Tomales Bay with big beds, fireplaces and reading chairs; no TVs in sight. Rates range from $130 to $150 a night, a perfectly acceptable bargain after a day of eating and exploring.
<CF102>22555 Highway 1, Marshall, (415) 663-9002, tomalesbay.com
</CF><CF114><CP9>Nick's Cove:</CP></CF> Known for great farm-to-table cuisine and amazing waterside views, Nick's Cove has just introduced a monthly series of Vintners' Dinners the first Thursday of every month through 2012, partnering with Thumbprint Cellars, Halleck Vineyards, Freemark Abbey, Lagunitas Brewery, Patz & Hall and Boheme to showcase each producer's wines (or beers) alongside four to five courses of executive chef Austin Perkins' food. The winemakers (or brewers) are on hand to personally pour their wines, tell stories and answer questions. The restaurant is also kicking off Wine Wednesdays, a chance to get 50 percent off any bottle on its wine list, even reserve vintages. Nick's makes a mean brunch, too, all the better after staying the night in one of its 12 coastal cabins, some of them pet-friendly.
<CF102>23240 Highway 1, Marshall, (415) 663-1033, nickscove.com.
</CF><CF114><CP9>Rocker Oysterfeller's:</CP> </CF>This gourmet, Sonoma Coast-meets-the-Deep South restaurant within the Valley Ford Hotel, nine miles from Bodega Bay is both serious kitchen and saloon. Chicken Fried Duck is on special at the moment, and the dinner, Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch menus all are equally inspired and offering drippingly good food, from Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Cakes to Buttered Clams in Fennel Broth on Ciabatta to Mushroom Smothered Cloverdale Rabbit and Southern Eggs Benedict (braised greens and black-eyed peas give it the Southern kick). Whatever you choose, it's good, sourced from Sonoma County farms, ranches and coastlines. Rocker's also runs the Sonoma Coast Fish Bank next door, a sustainable fish market and oyster bar. Closed Wednesdays.
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