Hog Island Oyster Farm is a one-of-a-kind experience that absolutely lives up to its reservation only policy.
Just outside of Petaluma, through a few curvy roads, you’ll find Nick’s Cove, and just around the river bend – er, ocean bend – you’ll come upon the Hog Island oyster farm. Don’t be fooled by the term ‘farm’, freshly shucked oysters and valet parking awaits your arrival.
As the Savvy team settled into our picnic table situated right on the shore, we took in the breathtaking beauty of our surroundings. Sans cell phone service, we felt like we were hours out of the city, when really, we were just a short drive out.
We set up our lunch – which the neighboring table made comments about, “Wow, you girls are professionals!” The ASE team smiled, and said, “Yep, we’re event planners!” We like to picnic in style. Speaking of, the farm is available for events - what a special rehearsal dinner that would be!
Hog Island offers two different types of reservations: option one being a table at the boat bar with a menu for ordering oysters and other small bites, the Hog Island staff shucks everything for you. Option two is the picnic area, where you have the choice of shucking your own oysters & BBQ’ing them yourself, as well as ordering from the bar menu. I suggest booking a spot at the picnic tables because it is the only option that allows you to bring in your own food. Also, as a note, hard alcohol is not permitted on the property.
I had never tried an oyster before, but if I were to ever try one, Hog Island would be the place. After my first, I was hooked! Don’t be scared of the texture or taste, they are delicious! The ‘Hogwash’ sauce that accompanies the raw oysters, typically called a mignonette, was spectacular. They add their own twist to it by using sushi vinegar, which is sweetened and salted, and adds an incredible flavor to the shellfish.
Some of you may be familiar with the Hog Island restaurant in the City or maybe the oyster bar at Oxbow Market in Napa, but the farm is a completely different dining experience. Eating at the farm is referred to as eating, “seed to table” because the oysters start as seeds in a hatchery not too far from the farm, then grown at the ocean farmsite, harvested by hand, and then shucked for your pleasure.
We were delighted to have a detailed lesson of the farming cycle at Hog Island, which was fascinating to me because I live on a cattle ranch. I enjoyed hearing the similarities between the two different types of farming. I took extensive notes, but I won’t go into depth and bore you. I will mention a few outstanding facts that we learned during our visit.
The farm raises their oysters from seed in a hatchery, which allows Hog Island to have an 80% success rate of egg fertilization, whereas in the wild, the success rate is around .1%. In the farm industry, oysters are hatched in the hatchery, and once they are a few weeks old, they are placed in small nets and released into the bay, in a controlled farm-like environment. Once the oysters mature past the net stage, they are then moved to a larger net, where they will spend the rest of their life until harvest. By controlling the environment in the hatchery and within the nets, farm-raised oysters are much more plentiful than natural conditions can provide, even within the pristine conditions of the bay.
And pristine conditions they are - tucked away inland, the oyster farm not only provides perfect conditions for oysters, but also for dining and enjoying the beautiful scenery. You can’t quite understand just how special of a place the oyster farm is until you experience it. If you’re traveling to the Sonoma area, I recommend carving out a day for Hog Island, and if you’re a local; what are you waiting for!?