Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Left Coast Vacation 2010: Day 4 - Trefethen Winery and Swan Oyster Depot
It should come as no surprise to readers of my posts (that is, if there are any) that MW and I enjoy Rieslings, so for our final morning in Napa we decided to visit arguably, the best in the valley. In spite of the phrase, "cab is king," the dry rieslings from Trefethen Winery have gained some impressive endorsements, along with being featured in this New York Times article. The Trefethen estate is massive in size, dwarfing all of the other wineries we visited. After being led on a short, but informative tour we got to down to business and began the tastings. While neither of us fell in love with any particular wines, even the oft-written about dry riesling, I'd recommend a visit if you are looking for something different than sampling cab after cab.
Off to San Francisco, whereupon arrival we headed straight to Swan Oyster Depot. Nothing more than a marble bar where boisterous and colorful employees work hard shucking oysters and exchanging banter, Swan is legendary for serving some of the freshest seafood in the entire Bay area, earning a James Beard Award in 2000 in the American Classics category. Arriving mid-afternoon we had hoped to avoid the equally legendary lines, but were rudely greeted by an hour wait. But patience is a virtue and we were handsomely rewarded with some incredible seafood. We eventually cozied up to the bar and began noshing on freshly baked Acme Sourdough Bread and Oyster Crackers while we ordered. However, the first order of business was to order a round of cold Anchor Steam beers.
We began our meal with a Dozen Assorted Oysters, which included four Kumamoto Oysters (CA), four Blue Point Oysters (MA), two Miyagi Oysters from Tomales Bay (CA) and two Pickering Passage Oysters (WA). In addition to a Red Wine Vinegar and Shallot Mignonette, Swan offers a Garlicky Green Sauce laced with copious amounts of Habanero and Serrano Peppers. I much preferred this to any of the other oyster accompaniments which included, fresh horseradish, and couldn't help but happily slurp each oyster while marveling at the speed at which the employees shucked these tasty bivalves.
Despite having the word "oyster" in it's name, Swan is anything but a one-trick-pony. In addition to oysters, Swan is also known for their seafood salads, available with anything that hasn't already sold out for the day. Placed atop a mound of shredded iceberg lettuce and served with their "famous," Louis Sauce (aka Thousand Island/Russian Dressing). MW and I opted for the Dungeness Crab Salad, and though the price was a bit steep, it seemed rather justified considering the bountiful chunks of meat free of cartilage and shell. The tender and sweet crab meat tasted great with the slightly acidic Louis sauce and the iceberg lettuce contributing some crunch.
We also ordered a Mixed Seafood Cocktail that came served in a dish reminiscent of an ice cream sundae dish. But in this case the ice cream was replaced by an assortment of Small Shrimps, Large Prawns, Oysters and even more of that delectable Dungeness Crab Meat, smothered with a sweet House-Made Cocktail Sauce. Aided by a heaping spoonful of fresh horseradish, this was a seafood lover's dream as the interplay between tastes and textures of the mixed seafood kept the dish exciting on the palette.
Finally, we just couldn't pass up sharing a bowl of Swan's Clam Chowder. Oft compared to the chowder at Hog Island, I felt this was the far superior version. Similar to each other in that the chowder was much thinner than what you'd expect to find on the pier at Boudin Bakery. However, that is where the similarities end. The most obvious difference is that Swan's chowder comes without shells, making for a more fluid eating experience. In addition, the clam flavor was much more prominent than the more refined version at Hog Island. Ultimately, it was this richer clam flavor that swayed me towards my decision, but I encourage everyone to sample both renditions.
In preparation for a large dinner later, MW and I decided to table any sightseeing until the following day, settling around the hotel instead. Stay tuned for our dinner experience at the Ritz.
1160 Oak Knoll Ave.
Napa, CA 94558
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
To see all our pics click the flickr link.