A Weekend of Aphrodisiacs: Champagne, Oysters and Glee.

It has been too beautiful out to stay inside and write, though I have been meaning to sit down and reflect on last weekend all week. So now that we're back to true San Franciscan fog and chill, I'll just come right out and say it: I spent one day in wine country, one day in oyster country and a night in an 80's bar. Top that!

By 10am on Saturday morning I was sunning myself on the balcony of the chateau Domaine Carneros with a flight of bubbly and a landscape of auburn colored grape vines. I know what my friends back East are thinking - something along the lines of 'shut-up-I-hate-you', but please allow me to brag about where I live for just a moment, as I have spent the past few posts lost somewhere between homesickness and adjustment. Let me have this

Our next stop was Cuvaison Estate Wines, where we were served crisp chardonnay and smooth pinot noirs in a tiny, yet chic modern greenhouse with a wrap around deck. Our group's favorites, besides the 20yr old sommelier who could have passed as Javier Bardem's son, was the 2008 Block Chardonnay and the 2008 F5 Block Pinot Noir. Both of which I purchased, but left at my (lucky) friend's house - ah, the perils of vineyard hopping.

Lunch was at Girl and the Fig in Sonoma Square, where we gorged ourselves on the Fromage Tower (a girl's dream come true), their famed fig and arugula salad (worth the hype), and their top sirloin burger with melted brie and grilled onions as my main course. The only thing I have to say about that is excessive. The traffic on the drive home was mitigated by a case of DCL's (known as Delicious Coors Lights in my house) and a sing along playlist that may or may not have included a number of Glee hits. The singing continued into the night with too much Whitesnake and not enough Guns n' Roses at Butter, rated San Francisco's #1 Trailer Park bar, for their Saturday Rock City Night ("a night of party rock anthemology and smash up madness!") Let me express how relieved I am that there were no video cameras around. It was not pretty.
Sunday was a touch tamer, starting with a breathtaking, albeit windy drive up Rt 1 (a therefore challenging trip for those with a stage 3 hangover). We made a few stops, sometimes for the scenery, more often for yours truly to find her stomach. Our final destination was 1.5hrs north of San Francisco in Marshall, California - otherwise known as Oyster Country. When it comes to my adoration of molluska, I am an equal opportunist. I find West Coast oysters creamier and nuttier than their East Coast cousins, who are saltier, brinier and tougher (a startlingly accurate representation of the coastal inhabitants, bivalve and homosapiens alike). It really depends what you're in the mood for. In my delicate state on Sunday, the less briny, the better. I needed those babies to go down smooth and gentle. And that they did. We washed down two dozen of the freshly shucked beasts on The Marshall Store's patio overlooking sunny and serene Tomales Bay: raw kumamoto, raw Pt Reyes, barbecued oysters, and smoked oysters served with a creamy chipotle sauce over toast points. My hangover virtually vanished - can you blame me?
 NBD, just kicked back a wheelbarrow's worth of bivalves:
In an effort to combine both experiences from my weekend in culinary glee, I recalled a dish from my Brother's engagement party: barbecued oysters with champagne butter. However, if this seems like too much work, stick to a glass of bubbly with a platter of raw oysters - a match made in Northern California heaven.

Barbecued Oysters with Champagne Butter:

For the Champagne Butter Sauce:
  • 2T. minced shallots
  • 2T. unsalted butter
  • 1C Champagne
  • 1 dozen large, fresh, live oysters in their shell (they should feel heavy and be clamped shut) 
  1. Preheat barbecue grill.
  2. Scrub oysters with brush under cold water and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and soften the shallots over med/low heat, until fragrant.
  4. Add the champagne to the saucepan and reduce by half over medium heat. 
  5. When reduced, cover and keep warm over low heat.
  6. Place oysters cup side down on grill, which should be about 4" from the hot coals. Close lid, open any vents and cook for 8-10 minutes until shells begin to open.
  7. Remove all oysters when first one is completely open. I use an oven mitt to remove the oysters, so as to not spill their juices.
  8. Pry open all oysters with a paring or oyster knife. Sever the muscle, leaving the oyster in it's half shell. Transfer onto a serving platter and drizzle with champagne butter sauce.
  9. Be blissfully happy.
My next recipe may have to be one for roast duck, as my urban, Manhattan raised, previously non-water dog practiced her duck hunting skills on an unsuspecting stick this weekend. 
The stick won.
- The Heat


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