The Jolly Oyster
Today we are going to talk about oysters, clams and the ways to enjoy them on a reasonable budget. If you like paying three bucks a pop at Santa Monica Sea Food, be my guest. I refuse to overpay, so I find places that allow me to enjoy great food without burning a hole in my pocket.
This weekend my wife Karina and I left LA and visited Solvang as well as surrounding areas. Solvang is a great Dutch village about 130 miles away from Los Angeles. Restaurants at Solvang are a separate story and I will cover my favorites on a different day.
Our hotel had a number of takeaway flyers, one of which caught my attention. The advertising was for a place called The Jolly Oyster located in Ventura’s San Buenaventura state park area. Yelp had a wonderful review and some information about the owner. We decided to give it a try and drove down 101 towards Ventura. Both of us were pretty hungry and almost gave in to temptation of In and Out Burger. After an hour drive we approached the park entrance. A quarter mile later we saw a blue trailer and five people picnicking next to it. I left my wife in the car and went to see what the place was all about. The owner of the place, Mark, greeted me and gave me a little shopping list to make our experience better. Basically, one needs to come prepared with bread, wine, cups, plates, and forks. We drove to the nearby Vons and bought garlic, Champaign, shallots, orange juice, parsley, limes and French baguette. When we came back I choose a variety of oysters and clams for 50 bucks including the oyster knife which is probably the only knife missing from my knife collection. Mark brought out a big plate of oysters of three varieties: Kumamoto oysters, Pacific oysters and Manila clams. He was very accommodating and taught me how to properly open the oyster without cutting my hands. Remember safety first! While talking to several people I heard some horror stories about cutting themselves with the knife while opening oysters. Please do not attempt to save 10 bucks by not purchasing the proper oyster knife. Mark even had one for five bucks, but I decided to go with the Victorinox one instead.
Mark suggested we grill the oysters. Reluctant at first, Karina qnd I agreed to experiment. I would never say that the oysters could be so much fun. We ate them big, medium and small with lime, hot sauce and just raw. It seems like with cigars, scotch and wine, different oysters taste different. They taste like seaweed that surrounds them, like the bitter salty water of the ocean that they grow in. For those of you who have ever been in the open ocean away from the shore, oysters taste like a wave spray hitting the face.
While exploring culinary magic, Mark told us his story. He used to be an investment banker who was overworked, tired, yet in possession of a dream of owning an oyster farm. It wasn’t easy as with any new enterprise, but he managed through seven tough years, which made him and his love of ocean stronger. Mark came up with an idea of placing e restaurant near the shore to make people feel the presence of the ocean. The place is beautiful; surrounded by the dunes and tees and makes for a great picnic area.
After we finished eating the oysters, Mark threw some charcoal and helped us fire up the grill to make clams in chopped garlic, butter, shallots and parsley. We reduced the butter, garlic, shallots in beer and moved the clams into the mixture. It sat there for about five minutes until the clams opened up. We removed it from the fire and … O Heaven! It tasted so good, you actually have to try it yourself. I will post some pictures but pictures do not do justice to this place. This is an experience you have to go through to appreciate. So the next time you and your people are hungry, go to Jolly Oyster! The website is www.thejollyoyster.com an please come prepared for the picnic.
Here is a suggested list:
Metal mesh glove (protects your hands)
White wine or any type of alcohol like Champagne.
Limes or lemons
Any picnic food you like that goes well with seafood.
Pot or skillet for clams
Thank you Mark for a wonderful experience. Let’s take advantage of this great place and experience!