Apparently oysters have aphrodisiac qualities. I've never eaten them specifically for that purpose, but I'm giving you this recipe just a couple of days before Valentine's Day so consider yourself warned (in a good way?). Anyway, after a rather unfruitful, yet very enjoyable, mushroom foraging expedition in Point Reyes a few weeks ago, my fellow forest-traipsing friend and I headed up to Marshall for fresh oysters. Marshall is less of a distinct town than it is a collection of oyster shacks and farms, beach houses and small enclaves of homes and shops dotted somewhat randomly along the coast.
We made our way to Hog Island, an oyster company popular for its sustainably-farmed and extremely delicious Kumamoto (Pacific), Atlantic and Sweetwater oysters, as well as its superb mussels and Manila clams. Even on cold and foggy days (i.e., most days), Hog Island's picnic tables and charcoal grills, which are nestled along the beach with incredible views of Tomales Bay, draw a crowd. As we waited in line to buy our oysters, we noticed on the chalkboard menu an enthusiastically-written 'We have clusters!' My word association with 'cluster' is a word that will not be repeated here, but fortunatey the mind behind Hog Island's clusters is substantially more mature than mine.
Clusters are two or more oysters that have fused together, thus rendering them unsalable to nearly all of Hog Island's restaurant customers, who usually serve oysters on the half shell. These misshapen, mutant clusters are uglier than your average oyster - but I say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'd be lying if I said the price discount wasn't a factor in my decision to embrace the clusters, but I figured I could still serve them on the half shell, and then flip them over for half shell round two!
And indeed I did. I recruited a friend to help me plow through the insanely large number of oysters I'd scored for a more than reasonable price, and threw together a zingy Asian-inspired mignonette that complemented the briny oysters and lovely Sunday afternoon quite well. We sat on rickety chairs on my apartment building's rooftop pseudo-patio and, as predicted, enjoyed our clusters on the half shell - twice (and for a few, thrice).