Oysters, Chowder & Beer on the Sonoma Coast

Brian and I just got back from a month-long trip to the U.S. for the holidays, which made us feel like fancypants jetsetters. Just stops in Fairfax, New Orleans and Sonoma; no big deal. For such a long trip, it flew by, and we managed to indulge in many, many delicious meals with some of our favorite people.

Hog Island Oyster Co., Tomales Bay

I grew up in the town of Sonoma, California, where my parents still live, and I love going home for obvious reasons. Awesome wine, food, people and scenery? Yes.

I was especially excited to make it back to Sonoma because I haven’t visited in almost two years, and Brian hasn’t gone with me in five. We must have charmed the weather gods because it was sunny, temperate and beautiful for our entire stay (a rarity in January), and we took full advantage by planning a day out on the Sonoma Coast.

Way back in high school, my friends and I would pile into someone’s car, crank up the tunes and drive out to the coast as often as we could. Mind you, a Northern California day at the beach is not a scene from 90210. It’s usually freezing. We’d wear hoodies and jackets and scarves… but every now and then, we’d get a day warm enough to get in the water. But even on the grayest, windiest, saltiest days, the Sonoma Coast is absolutely gorgeous.

Bodega Bay has always been my favorite for lounging, grilling and eating out, but we decided to go south 30 minutes and stop in Tomales Bay first for one reason: oysters. Tomales is known for its fresh-farmed, delicious oysters, which I wasn’t really aware of when I was younger. I’ve always liked oysters and would eat them grilled or cooked in butter or wine from an early age, but it wasn’t till I lived in New Orleans that I started eating them raw. Oysters on the halfshell, plain or with just a little hot sauce and lemon, are damn near perfection. They taste like the ocean in the best possible way.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

A Day on the Sonoma Coast

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Hog Island Oyster Co. has oyster bars in Napa and San Francisco, but if you head out to Marshall on Tomales Bay, you can eat a few fresh-shucked beauties right on the farm. If you have a picnic reservation, you can shuck and grill your own, but we went the lazy route and ordered from the bar – which is the bow of an old wooden boat. An order of raw oysters, an order of grilled oysters with chipotle sauce, two beers from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg: heaven.

Sweet boat.

We got there at about 11 a.m. on a Monday, the day the Golden Gate Bridge was reopening after a weekend closure for renovations. We had the place entirely to ourselves for about an hour, enjoying views of the bay while the friendly staff worked around us to a great soundtrack.


Tomales Bay Oyster Co.

After Hog Island, we drove a few miles down the coast to the next stop on our oyster tour: Tomales Bay Oyster Co. You can buy bags of oysters by the dozen for a great price (we paid $15 for ours), then carry out or pay $5 a person to shuck, grill and eat at the picnic benches next to the bay.


I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never actually shucked my own oysters before… so we got a quick tutorial (and a knife) and got to work. The oysters were amazing, and totally worth the extra effort.

Tomales Bay Oyster Co.

The Tides

We still had a little room after our oyster appetizers, so we drove up to The Tides, an old favorite in Bodega Bay. Normally, we order a feast from the snack bar – clam chowder in a bread bowl, calamari, oysters – and eat at the tables outside if it’s not too windy (or more often inside), but it was closed that day. So we got a loaf of sourdough and a large order of clam chowder from the deli and feasted that way instead.

Lagunitas Brewery

Bellies finally full, we drove back into Petaluma and wrapped up the day at the fantastic Lagunitas Brewery. I love their beers and their funky NorCal character, and the tour and tasting didn’t disappoint. You leave wanting to hang out there all the time and somehow get a job (any job) there. Go for a visit, drink a beer in their tap room and ask them to tell you all the good stories (like the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale).

I miss you, NorCal, but we’ll be back soon for the rest of your oysters and beer.


I wrote this post as part of the Your Turn Challenge from Seth Godin’s team. Anyone can participate and write one blog post per day for seven days on any topic. My lovely sister Melia inspired me and gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get writing again. Gracias y besos – here’s to Day 1!


3 thoughts on “Oysters, Chowder & Beer on the Sonoma Coast

  • January 21, 2015 at 2:32 am

    I didn’t know that there was a place on the coast where you could grill your own oysters! I am very impressed that you can eat them raw. I haven’t tried them but feel my face squinching up at the thought. All of the other eating and drinking sounds divine. 🙂

    • January 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Melia, I’d love to go out there for a BBQ the next time we’re back! It’s beautiful and would be a really fun way to spend the day. Thanks, oysters are delicious raw 🙂 You may not like them right away, but I recommend at least giving it a shot…

  • January 22, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Yes, it’s a date! Can’t promise that I’ll try ’em, though I would like to say that I have…


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