While king salmon swim against the current to spawn upstream in the Sacramento River each spring, the people who love to eat them move in the opposite direction.
Come early summer, seafood lovers point their noses to the coast, where they can whet their appetites on briny oysters, then dig into salmon filets, grilled to off-the-hook perfection.
You can find both of these delicacies at Nick's Cove in Marshall, where Executive Chef Austin Perkins serves up California Coastal Cuisine that's sourced from the shores of West Marin and beyond.
And the 27-year-old Petaluma native has tips galore on how to grill fish and seafood to summertime perfection.
Nick's Cove is known for its fresh seafood, but legend has it that was also the first restaurant ever to serve barbecued oysters.
The 1930s-era fishing and hunting lodge was reborn as a high-end hideaway in 2007, after San Francisco restaurant designer Pat Kuleto spent $10 million restoring the rundown roadhouse, fishing pier and cottages back to their rustic glory.
The resort, which was sold last year, is just a half-hour's drive from Petaluma and 45 minutes from Santa Rosa.
You can still order The Original Tomales Bay BBQ'D Oyster, which boasts a secret barbecue sauce inspired by the original recipe, or Baked Oyster Mornay, smothered with cheese and bread crumbs.
But real oyster lovers may prefer the light flavor of Grilled Oysters "Nick-erfeller," made with a splash of licorice-scented Pernod, fresh tarragon and butter.
"Our phlosophy is not to manipulate things too much," Perkins said. "I like to taste all the components as complementary but not overwhelming."
Tomales Bay is home to several world-renowned oyster farms, and the tide-tossed beds where most of the oysters are raised can be seen from the deck of the restaurant, located at the northern end of the bay.
"We have to be the closest restaurant to the oyster farms," Perkins said. "Oysters are filters so they need the turnover of the tide water."
Perkins sources oysters from all over the bay, serving up scallop-edged kumamotos from Hog Island Oysters, the smooth-edged miyagis from Marin Oyster Co. and Preston Point oysters from Tomales Bay Oyster Co.
"It's the most pristine bay in California, because there is no commercial fishing here," Perkins said of Tomales Bay. "It's very clean water."
In the winter, Perkins likes to serve heartywild game dishes and braised meats, to fortify his customers against the cold rain and wind off the Pacific.
But come summer, Perkins lights up the grill and lightens up the menu with grilled steaks and fish.
"We're lucky to live somewhere where you can grill 10 months out of the year," he said.
One of his favorite cuts is the flat-iron steak, a long, narrow strip that comes from the shoulder and lends itself to a marinade.
"Right now, we're using an espresso marinade made with Kahlua and vinegar," he said. "It's almost sweet-and-sour."
After marinating the steak all day, he throws it on the grill and serves it with a simple, pinot-noir reduction sauce.
"It's cooked down, and then we add butter," he said. "It's a very easy sauce for home chefs."
Perkins serves two or three fish specials a night. This time of year, he likes to serve grilled salmon with sturdy stalks of grilled asparagus.