Sunday, July 27, 2014

Surf and turf

Last year, when we visited the Jolly Oyster food concession at San Buenaventura State Beach for the first time, it was a chilly weekend day in August, and business was slow. But this weekend it was another story - the sun was out, and the place was hopping.

An array of picnic tables with umbrellas are scattered on the grass, where a trailer and a food truck park. One sells clams and oysters you can get by the pound, and cook them yourself on the charcoal grills (bring your own charcoal). Some families bring elaborate picnics, with burgers grilling away, and sit down together to shuck oysters for starters. A boom box plays reggae and old '80s rock.

There's a bike and surrey rental stand next door, and the park's strange post-modern restroom complex, all of which puts the Jolly Oyster at a good location to attract passers-by.  The park's liberal rules allows guests to bring their own wine and beer to picnics, making for a convivial crowd.

A few yards away there's a food catering truck, selling prepared dishes of oysters, steamer clams and scallops. We chose this option - for four of us we ordered one of every dish on the menu to share.

Baked oysters habanero
Baked oysters came in two versions, one with habanero chiles, the other Creole-style. We ordered one of each. "Let us know what you think of the habaneros," said the proprietor. "It's one of Theresa's new recipes."

I was afraid they'd be too spicy, but they were amazing. Rich with butter, herbs and parmesan, they had a grassy tingle of capsicum that was bright but not painful, and we gave our thumbs-up to Theresa.

The other star on the menu was panko-crusted fried oysters, with a soy dipping sauce and a tart slaw on the side. The oysters were perfectly fried - crispy on the outside and creamy beneath. The soy dip was the perfect condiment.

Cracked crab claws were next - big, fat claws harvested from Channel Island crabs - one claw is taken and the crab is set free to regenerate another, making this a sustainable seafood.  Guilt-free, we dug the sweet meat from the shells and dunked it in a horseradishy mayonnaise.

We also had oyster tacos, scallop ceviche, and steamer clams, cooked in a buttery wine broth. Washed down with a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, it was a seafood-rich day!

We ate well, then took a walk over the dunes to the water's edge.

We also bought eight pounds of steamer clams to bring home in our cooler - Sunday night dinner for our house full of guests. What could be better?


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

It sounds a lot like Tomales Bay Oyster Co. Have you visited there?

smalltownme said...

Mmmmmmm. I keep leaving this same comment!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

one claw is taken and the crab is set free to regenerate another, making this a sustainable seafood.

That is sheer brilliance! Our East Coast blue crabs have pretty small claws- most of the meat comes from the muscles at the base of the legs.