The Point Reyes food obsession encompasses far more than just restaurants. Local producers take enormous pride in their work, and offer it for sale retail to local cooks and visitors alike. Stopping at one or two local food markets or shops is essential to complete a true Point Reyes experience.
Several oyster farms make their home in Tomales Bay, providing their wares to fine restaurants locally and across the state. The Hog Island Oyster Co. (20215 Hwy. 1, 415/663-9218, www.hogislandoysters.com, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.) is open rain or shine and offers a picnic ground with barbecue grills. (Reservations are required for picnic tables on weekends in summer.)
Far from a chi-chi tourist trap, Hog Island doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a working oyster farm. You can buy the goods from a walk-up shack in the midst of warehouses, working buildings, and oyster tanks. If you prefer them raw and completely fresh, a shucker in orange hip-waders stands ready to pry open your jewels then and there. Lemon wedges and a bottle of hot sauce sit carelessly on a folding table that serves as the oyster bar. To take your oysters home, request them packed in ice for a small additional charge.
If you prefer land mammals to shellfish, Point Reyes is like a dream. Both beef and dairy cattle are grazed all over the place — even on legacy leased parkland. At the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop (10905 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station, 415/663-8997, www.marinsunfarms.com) you can pick up possibly the best cut of beef you’ll ever eat.
All Marin Sun Farms cattle are 100 percent grass-fed and humanely (even lovingly) treated. The result is beef that melts like butter and barely requires a knife to cut. Marin Sun also cuts and sells pork, lamb, goat, chicken, and eggs in season; the butcher will be happy to explain meat seasons to you, as well as give you a life history of the meat you’re purchasing.
Point Reyes cheeses have become a national phenomenon in top-tier restaurants. To get some of the world’s best cheese right from the source, visit the Cowgirl Creamery (80 Fourth St., Point Reyes Station, 415/663-9335, www.cowgirlcreamery.com, Wed.–Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.) in Point Reyes Station. It’s taken only a little over 10 years for this woman-owned farmhouse cheese factory to become a heavyweight in the artisan cheese world.
Though Cowgirl distributes over 200 artisan cheeses from around the world, they deliberately keep their in-house production small — only seven kinds of cheese come from their factory in Point Reyes. They purchase their milk and cream locally, from the nearby Straus Family Creamery. Want to go behind the scenes of this unusual cheesemaking haven? Make a reservation for the weekly tour on Friday at 11:30 a.m.
Finally, for the best fruits and veggies the region has to offer, hit one of the weekly local farmers markets. Point Reyes Station holds its market at Toby’s (11250 Hwy. 1, 415/663-1223, www.tobysfeedbarn.com) on Saturdays 9 a.m.–1 p.m. You can also pick up botanical bath products, locally grown and spun wool, and handmade jewelry and crafts.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition