The Jolly Oyster, Ventura, CA
My husband Tony and I are currently living in Thousand Oaks, CA. It's a beautiful place, but maybe not the most exciting for a young couple. What it does do well though is function as an excellent starting point for day trips or weekend adventures, many of which I will be chronicling in this blog. A few Sundays ago we decided to try something new and search out the Jolly Oyster, a food truck that serves fresh oysters and manila clams from farms in Baja California. The truck is parked right on the beach in the San Buenaventura State Park, halfway between LA and Santa Barbara (it was super-easy to find because it's right off the 101 Freeway) and is managed by a really friendly couple.
This is how it works: The Jolly Oyster Truck is surrounded on one side by a beautiful area of picnic tables and trees (and almost each picnic table has its own barbeque). Besides oysters and clams, the Jolly Oyster also sells charcoal, oyster shucking knives, and other necessities you might need. But if you come prepared, you can bring all of these things and more on your own.
I recommend packing any supplies you need for lighting a barbeque, and a picnic that will accompany the oysters and clams. Tony and I brought three types of fresh bread (for dipping), a yellow beet salad from Whole Foods, and then everything we needed to cook our seafood: olive oil, parsley, garlic and white wine for the clams, and cocktail sauce and lemon for the oysters. You should also bring cooking utensils like a pot (for clams), plates and silverware and of course some good wine (we brought two bottles of white from the Russian River Valley--- chilled in a cooler with ice).
As Tony got down to work shucking the dozen Kumamoto oysters we ordered to begin, I started cooking the clams on the barbeque. First I roasted sliced garlic in olive oil (you can use butter) in a pot over the coals. Once the garlic was fragrant I added a generous amount of white wine and the clams. Once the clams opened, I threw in a handful of fresh parsley and let them cook for one more minute. The result were clams that melted in our mouths with a little fresh kick of parsley to finish. We used most of the bread to sop up the delicious leftover sauce.
The Kumamotos were huge, salty and delicious. After we finished them (and the clams) we decided that we wanted more oysters so we ordered a dozen of the Pacific variety. These are much smaller but also meatier-- they have a thicker consistency that make them really scrumptious. The oysters cost $1 each and the clams $6 per pound. We also bought charcoal and a shucking knife, but since we were first-timers our total bill was only $19! A serious deal.
The only downfall of the day was that it was extremely windy, which made it a little difficult to cook in the open. But we made it happen and then thought about how awesome it would be to come on a really hot day. A perfect day would be to combine a long lunch with wine, and then maybe a game of beach volleyball on one of the courts right nearby.
We strolled on the beach, but since it was so windy we decided to head into downtown Ventura and explore. Main street in downtown is very charming, lined with cafes, restaurants and interesting boutiques and thrift stores. We found a place called Bernadettes and sat down on the outside patio to soak up some of the sun without the wind. There was a blackboard listing the daily homemade soups including a mushroom clam chowder. After we ordered a few local beers, a band set up and started playing old classics. Bernadette came by to chat and told us that business was finally picking up since the weather was getting warmer. We ended up staying for a while because it was so relaxing, and the place filled up with locals by the time we were leaving.
It would have been nice to stay for dinner at one of the good looking restaurants, but we had to head home. Next time-- there is definitely more to explore in Ventura.