Travel Feature Story

Placid, Peaceful, and Picturesque Tomales Bay is a Hidden Pearl

Article and Photographs by CANDICE MERRILL
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 | 3:29 PM

About an hour north of the bustling city of San Francisco lies an oasis of tranquility; Tomales Bay. The water on the bay is like glass, reflecting the light from the sky. It laps gently at the shore and invites those around it to just breath.

The scenery is vast and the towns are few but those little towns offer great lodging and in some cases great dining. Oysters are the catch of the day because they are farmed in the tranquil waters of Tomales Bay.

One of those towns is Marshall home of Nick’s Cove, which has one heck of a restaurant and an assortment of some the cutest beach cottages. They can be your home, if only for a short time. Our home sweet cottage was call Ruthie’s Cottage and was right on the bay. Nick’s Cove has 12 cottages that are either on the bay or have bay views. Most sleep 2 to 4, and each has its own name and story.

Ruthie’s Cottage, with its own deck on the water, has wood paneling, a leather couch, king sized bed with lovely linens, a kitchenette and a large bathroom with a heated floor (nice!). It also has a wood burning stove that actually heats the cottage up nicely. They’ve got WiFi and cable TV but there is no cell reception, so put those phones and along with them, your cares away.

When you arrive you’ll be offered a plate of fresh oysters, lightly grilled with a tang of sweet barbecue sauce. The oysters are plump and flavorful and the only way you could get them fresher is to dig for them yourself.

We enjoyed our oysters with a glass of wine on the private porch and felt the stress and strain start to drain away. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner at the restaurant at Nick’s Cove. The last time I ate there I gushed about the food so I was really looking forward to our meal.

We chose the Chef’s Tasting Menu, which is a five-course tasting menu. To start with we had one each of the cooked oysters: BBQ’D, Mornay and Bacon Braised. I won’t eat raw oysters but cooked ones are entirely different. My favorite was the Baked Oyster Mornay with plenty of Parmesan-cheesy sauce and crunchy bread crumbs on top of a plump fresh oyster. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Next we enjoyed a roasted cauliflower salad that was awesome. Roasted and lightly charred cauliflower was studded with smokey pancetta lardons and peppery arugula. It was tossed with a grainy mustard vinaigrette that made the whole dish sing.

Pan seared Yellow Tail sat atop a bed of braised cranberry beans, heirloom tomatoes and pea pods for our fish course. You can’t beat Nick’s for freshness, it shows in every ingredient from the fish to the cranberry beans, everything was delicious.

Trio of oysters, Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Yellowtail, Mascarpone Panna Cotta

Wood fired prime New York steak was the next course. Smokey and tender, the steak sat atop a bed of celery root puree and was accompanied by lobster, wild mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts. The meat was cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth.

For dessert was a creamy Mascarpone panna cotta, layered with lemon verbena poached apricots and garnished with a piece of shortbread. Light, creamy, and slightly sweet the panna cotta was light and slightly sweet, with the wonderfully tart apricot compote on top.

A short walk and we were back at our cozy cottage. I stoked up the fire in the stove and watched the dancing fire. I got a little too enthusiastic with the fire, at one point I think it was about 80 degrees in the cottage, but it was so much fun! The bed was plump and so were the pillows and I drifted off to sleep with visions of oysters in my head.

A continental breakfast comes with the cottage, so the next morning we had fresh coffee, fruit, muffins and scones to nosh on before our tour of The Croft.

Farmer Brendan takes care of a large patch of ground were he grows all manner of vegetables. There were many varieties of tomatoes (heirloom mostly) which he shares with a crafty fox and a covey of quail, squash, tomatillos, micro greens and many other veggies that are used in the restaurant. There is also a chicken coop where Brendan intends to populate with chickens to produce fresh eggs. The croft is located on a rise in back of the property and there is a wonderful view of the bay, restaurant and cottages. Lodgers can sit at the tables in The Croft or enjoy a round of Bocce Ball.

Alas and alack our stay at Nick’s Cove was at an end but that was not the end to our adventure, it was on to Inverness and the Tomales Bay Resort. The Tomales Bay Resort is a Cape Cod inspired compound on the Point Reyes National Seashore Park. They’ve got all sorts of rooms to suit families to romantic couples retreats. The resort has WiFi but phone reception is spotty at best. There’s a pool and they are currently renovating the onsite restaurant, Fog’s Kitchen, due to reopen in the fall.

Our room was in the adult-only section of the resort and overlooked the water. It had a private balcony and a fireplace. The king bed was pillow-topped and the room boasted a leather sofa, desk, wet bar, refrigerator, flat screen TV, and large granite bathroom with a shower. Very nice.

There are all manner of things to do while at Tomales Bay Resort, you can hike or kayak, head over to Limantour Beach or go to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. But we didn’t do any of these, we simply walked on the pier, sat on the balcony, and at night we watched the fire. It was wonderful.

The next morning it was back to reality and a seven hour drive. So with big sighs we left placid, peaceful and picturesque Tomales Bay.

The 411:

Nick’s Cove Cottages and Restaurant, 23240 Highway 1, Marshall
(415) 663-1033, www.nickscove.com

Tomales Bay Resort, 12938 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness
(415) 669-1389, www.tomalesbayresort.com

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