Tomales Bay

Name: Tomales Bay

Location: 5479 Shoreline Hwy, Marshall, CA 94940

Website: http://www.tomalesbayoystercompany.com

I’ve heard people wax poetic about the oyster farms north of San Francisco enough times to finally go myself. From home base, it’s a two hour drive to get there and requires waking up at the crack of dawn. The first stretch of the drive is the basic California freeway system, paved roads and concrete walls leading the way.

Once you’ve entered Marin county, however, it’s like being transported into a New England port town without leaving the state of California. If you make all the right turns, the road leads you to a quaint downtown where antique dealers and locally run shops rule. But the road to Tomales Bay is far from idyllic itself; the twists and turns along the way are enough to churn even the strongest stomachs.

It’s all worth it, however, once you reach Tomales Bay.

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The oyster farm is, as indicated by the name, situated on a bay. Picnic tables are scattered throughout and arriving early is highly recommended. Tomales Bay opens at 9am and closes by 5pm daily. While it may seem like a long time, you can pass a day there in a blink of an eye.

They don’t sell very much other than oysters, clams, mussels, and some accompaniments so it’s necessary to bring anything and everything else you’re going to need. This includes all the cookware, utensils, and other food you’ll need for the day. Luckily, other picnickers are usually nice enough to loan or barter for items if you forget something.

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Oyster shucking isn’t as intimidating as it looks, thankfully. After some initial hesitations, everyone was an expert by the end of the day.

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A small charcoal grill sits by each table and on windy days, it may take a few attempts to get the fire going. Cooking can take up a long part of the day depending on what you bring. On this trip, we brought potatoes and corn to go along with the oysters and clams. Other seasoned groups brought meat to grill, pasta, and soup!
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Maybe it’s part pride from shucking it myself, but these were easily the best oysters I’ve had. The whole trip overall was worth the trek and all the preparation in advance. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

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Zambra Tapas Bar, Burlingame, CA

Name: Zambra Tapas Bar

Location: 250 Lorton Ave, Burlingame, CA 94010

Website: www.zambratapasbar.com

Even in the most happening of downtowns, Tuesday night date nights can be quiet and unassuming. Such as the case on this particular night, but at least we had our pick of restaurant.

With only two other parties present at the restaurant throughout our meal, it’s safe to say that it was a slow night at Zambra. Letting the date take charge of ordering, we ended up with a varied selection of small plates. And please pardon the picture quality. Dim lighting and iPhone photography are not my specialty.

First up was the Piquillo Pepper (pepper stuffed with shrimp and wild mushrooms with sofrito crema on the side). The peppers were soft, but I found the stuffing to be too mushy for my liking. Without reading the description, it was difficult to identify the shrimp and mushroom filling.

Piquillo Pepper

Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with spice tomato sauce and aioli). Easily the most forgettable dish of the bunch. While the potatoes were crispy, they had little flavor.

Patatas Bravas

Jamón Serrano (serrano ham, grilled asparagus, poached egg). Salty and reminiscent of bacon wrapped asparagus. The date, being a huge jamón fan, was disappointed in the quality of the meat. Sadly, the poached egg went untouched. (I’m usually a poached egg fan, but just wasn’t in the mood for it that night.)

Jamon Serrano

The albondigas (ground lamb and beef meatballs, spice tomato sofrito) were satisfying, but meatballs usually are.

Albondigas

Lastly, the dish I was most excited about made an appearance. The moules frites (mussels, garlic, chorizo, peas, sherry, fried shoestring potatoes) was a large portion and could easily be a meal in itself. However, the mussels were overly chewy and the sauce not as decedent as it could have been.

Moules Frites

An after-the-fact check on Yelp revealed that Zambra has an average 3 1/2 star rating. However, most reviewers were disappointed in the tapas offering. Their paella may be worth a try, but based on this experience, I’m not likely to stop by here again.

Bakesale Betty

Name: Bakesale Betty

Location: 5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Website: http://www.bakesalebetty.com/

Located in the hip part of Oakland, Bakesale Betty is a perfect example of an eatery that only makes a few things, but makes them well. The shop itself is small and seating is outside. Though at times the line can be long, don’t be intimated by it. Because of the limited menu, orders are placed and received quickly.

Bakesale Betty's

The centerpiece of the menu is the fried chicken sandwich topped with coleslaw. Crispy yet tender on the inside, the fried chicken is not overly greasy. The coleslaw is slightly tangy and compliments the chicken perfectly.

At $8 a sandwich, Bakesale Betty may be pricey for its menu offerings. The shop also offers an ever changing variety of baked goods such as cookies and cakes.

Back A Yard, San Jose, CA

Name: Back A Yard

Location: 80 N Market St, San Jose, CA 95113

Website: http://www.backayard.net/

Choosing the right pregame meal is always a difficult decision. With a large variety of restaurants located in downtown San Jose, there are plenty of options. Back A Yard is usually near the top of my list, perfect for a quick and delicious meal.

Diners order at the counter, receive a number in exchange for payment, then waits at a table for the food the arrive. Back A Yard has traditional Caribbean offerings such as a plethora of jerk meats, plantains, and red beans and rice.

Fried Chicken Wings

There’s a few appetizers listed on the menu. On this particular trip, I decided to try an order of friend chicken wings. The wings were well breaded and crispy. The accompanying dipping sauce may be too spicy for some, so it’s good that the sauce it served on the side.

Oxtail Plate

For the main course, I split an oxtail plate with my dad. This is easily our favorite dish here. The oxtail meat falls right off the bone and the flavor is on full force. It’s not jerk based and I’m at a loss of words on how to describe it. The only real shame here is that more people don’t order this.

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

Strangely, the first item to arrive at the table was the pineapple upside-down cake. I found it to be overly sweet, so it was good that there was someone to split it with.

Having been here a handful of times already, Back A Yard is consistent with food quality and service. For the more adventurous, there is a goat curry special that is sometimes offered. Prices are fair for a Caribbean restaurant. The oxtail plate is towards the higher end of the price scale at around $14. They tend to get busy on Sharks game days so plan your trip accordingly.