We were on our way to dinner at Nick's Cove, that cozy collection of cottages and a restaurant on the edge of Tomales Bay and purportedly the place where the barbecued oyster was invented. We were certainly there for oysters, but also to escape the hard landscape of the city for a few hours. The transition began in earnest after leaving highway 101 in Petaluma, the lush grassy hills dotted with cattle darting in and out of view as the car traveled along the two lane country road towards highway one. The bucolic scenery zipping by was so lush with spring grasses and wildflowers that even with the threat of cold and pollen wasn't enough of a deterrent to rolling down the windows for deep breaths of sweet air.
By the time you arrive to the bayside cluster of buildings, you've shed most of your city skin, that psychic membrane that slides into a heap onto the floorboards of your car. The transition starts with the rolling hills, followed by the clean air, total loss of cell phone reception (trust me, a very good thing), and should be completed by ordering up a Marshall Manhattan ($13, Breaking and Entering Bourbon, Anderson Valley spiced stout syrup, Angostura Bitters, spiced cherries). Think of it as your city to country decompression chamber.
Prepared with homemade oatmeal stout syrup in place of the sweet vermouth, the clever substitution sweetens and flavors the drink with barley, making for the kind of whole grain goodness your doctor probably didn't mean you should get more of on a regular basis. The house-brandied cherries are saturated with baking spices all the way to the pit, and warm the soul when the cold coastal fog spills in. Paired with a half-dozen of Original Tomales Bay BBQ'd Oysters ($17, house BBQ sauce, garlic parsley butter) and you have the most relaxing moment you can have in the Bay Area.
Be warned: the relaxing effects of the calm bay views, big sky, clean air, and great food and drinks will make it hard to want to head back home and slide back into "city mode." Rent a cottage and let your texts, tweets, and traffic wait another day.
By Dean Castelli
2 oz. St. George Breaking & Entering Bourbon
¾ oz. Spiced stout syrup*
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Spiced or brandied cherries
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with cherries.
*Spiced Stout Syrup
12 oz. Anderson Valley "Barney Flats" oatmeal stout
½ cup Granulated sugar
2 Whole cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon Allspice powder
Zest of ¼ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
In a stainless saucepan combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, then strain.
Nick's Cove, 23240 Highway 1, Marshall, 415-663-1033