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Stories from the Coast   ~   The Nick's Cove Blog

Shucking Good Time!

Maybe I should not announce this publicly, but here goes … I cannot shuck an oyster very well!

Trust me, I have tried: with gloves, no gloves, round handle, long handle, plastic handle, wooden handle, short shucker, longer shucker, on the table, in the hand … I am just not very good at it! So, I leave the shucking to the professionals here at Nick’s! And man can they shuck! Rigo and Ceasar are super-fast … even Chef Austin is efficient (even though he is allergic to the tasty bi-valves)!

Recently, our Private Dining Manager, Kathryn, had a group of executives come to Nick’s Cove for some “team building” and she put together a shucking instructional! What came out of that day was not only the newest addition to our hands-on fun at Nick’s Cove, but a whole lot of laughter from the team and a shucking good time. oyster_shucking_lesson_raw_bar_waterfront_nicks_cove

If you would like to schedule a private shucking lesson for your team, email our events staff at and we would be happy to arrange for your very own waterfront, shucking instructional, complete with oysters, cocktails, champagne or wine & beer for you to enjoy with your team!



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The Life of an Oyster

Here at Nick’s Cove we pride ourselves on our knowledge of these tasty bi-valves, so here are a few fun facts about oysters that will make you the terror of any beachside trivia group!  101

* The word “oyster” was first used in English in the 17th century and comes from Old French “oistre”, which comes from the Latin word “ostreum”, which comes from the Greek word “ostreon”, which means bone.  It was first used in print by Shakespeare, “Why then, the world’s mine oyster, which I, with sword will open”, which coined a common phrase.

* There are many varietals of oysters but two types: 1) true oysters, belonging to the family Ostridae, and 2) pearl oysters which belong to Pteriidae.  Pearl oysters are not edible but true oysters are delicious!

* Oysters are filter feeders and can mitigate pollution by removing excess sediment, algae and nutrients from a body of water.  Their reefs also create a habitat for other marine species.

* While some oysters varietals have two sexes (Olympia and European) their reproductive organs contain both egg and sperm.  They commonly change gender at least once during their lifecycle.

* In the past, people were advised only to eat oysters in months that contain the letter ‘R’, in modern times refrigeration allows us to enjoy oysters year-round!  While it is true that in some areas the texture of oysters change in warmer months, in colder habitats (like Tomales Bay) the changes are seldom noticeable.

* Oysters contain a high proportion of vitamins C, D, B1, B2 and B3; and if you eat at least four per day you will get the recommended daily allowances of calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and Zinc.  A half dozen oysters only contain 57 calories and have 6 grams of protein!

* The ancient Romans believed oysters are an aphrodisiac and 18th Century lover Cassanova supposedly ate 50 every morning for breakfast to maintain his virility.  It is actually true that the amino acids produced by oysters and their high levels of zinc can be a factor in increasing sex drive, especially when enjoyed in a waterfront cottage …

* In the 19th century, New York Harbor became the largest source of Oysters in the world, and helped to establish the city’s restaurant trade with their popularity.  Today, Wilapa Bay in Washington State has the highest production in the US.

* Oysters can be prepared many ways, including raw, grilled, fried, baked or sautéed.  My personal favorite is our own Oysters Nickerfeller, the oyster is topped with gruyere cheese, house-made bread crumbs and baked into gooey deliciousness.  It is also commonly kown that Nick’s Cove is home of the original BBQ oyster.

raw_bar_nicks_cove_wine_barSo come take a drive down Highway 1 and check out some of these fascinating creatures at our outdoor Raw Bar with our house-made mignonettes, in the restaurant where we serve them raw or cooked, or perhaps have them delivered for breakfast in one of our cottages (I hear it worked for Cassanova)!







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From Flower to Flute

about_bottles[1]On a recent visit to Heidrun Meadery I learned about a very old, yet newly re-emerging method of creating a tasty sparkling beverage.  Heidrun Meadery, located in Point Reyes Station, is producing several varietals of naturally sparkling meads using the traditional Methode Champenoise.

We arrived at the Meadery after a meandering drive through West Marin along Highway 1 on a gorgeous summer day. The first thing I noticed when entering the property were the vibrant colors of the flowers.  After the blue and gray of the ocean and the gold and brown of the fields, the bright reds and brilliant greens were captivating; I can see why a bee would want to make her hive there!

Truly fascinating to watch, we saw the true stars of the show busily buzzing just beyond the greenhouse/tasting room. Currently, Heidrun Mead is made from honey sourced from a wide range of apiaries but ultimately it is their goal to make Estate Mead using the honey produced from their own bees foraging on their property.  As the tour continued inside the historic barn we were shown a full line of large-scale champagne production equipment, where the honey is fermented, the yeast is added, and the mead is bottled, racked and riddled.

The process of taking the mead from flower to flute is the vision of owner, Gordon Hull, who started Hiedrun Meadery in Arcata in 1997.  The move to Pt. Reyes Station in 2011 facilitated the switch to vertical integration, where the whole process will soon occur on the farm where he also resides with his wife and their children.

The Meadery is open for visitors Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm on a reservation basis.  If staying with us and looking for a nice day-trip, please contact our concierge at (415) 663-1033 to make a reservation or you can order a glass of Mead in our dining room!


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Hot Summer Days and Horse Feathers

Here at Nick’s Cove, we have found ourselves in the middle of a Tomales heat wave over the last several days.  Anybody who lives more than 5 miles east of Tomales would consider five consecutive days of temperatures in the mid 80’s with a refreshing fog layer rolling in just after sunset just plain pleasant.

Not on our bay.

People are going to extremes to beat the heat.  The local farmers are wearing short sleeved shirts, tourists are driving Highway one with the tops of their rented convertibles down and not wearing a winter coat. The oysters are panting and I recently overheard a local fantasizing about what life would be like with air conditioning in their house.

Personally, I couldn’t offer a better way to cool off than with an ice-cold beverage.  The newest member in our cocktail list family is just that. We are starting with a house-made ginger soda for its known health benefits, a shot of St. George Breaking and Entering Bourbon to soothe the frayed nerves that a heat wave can bring on, and a squeeze of lime just in case scurvy is concern.  There we have it: Horse Feathersginger_soda_nicks_cove

What really makes the drink unique is our Ginger Soda. Our house recipe is really pretty simple: fresh ginger, lime zest, lemon grass, agave nectar and a little citric acid. The ginger syrup that these ingredients produce sings summer and refreshing to me and I have found it to be quite a versatile cocktail ingredient.  To make our ginger soda, we just mix one part syrup to two parts club soda.  The ginger soda on its own is a great afternoon cooler that hits the spot without being overly sweet.

Nick’s Cove Ginger Syrup   

In a blender add:

1 1/3 cups water
5 ounces peeled fresh ginger

Puree the Ginger until it’s smooth and transfer to a small non-reactive sauce pan.

Add 1 ½ tablespoons citric acid (commonly found in the canning section of grocery stores)
1/3 cup chopped lemongrass (about one stalk)
Grated zest of 2 limes
1 cup agave nectar

Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through fine stainer or cheese cloth. Cool and enjoy!


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Perfect Commute!

Many of our guests look to the North and to the South on Highway 1, cock their head to the side and ask, “Do you live near here … do you have a long commute?”

While a few live just down the road in Marshall or up the road in Tomales, many of the Nick’s Cove Crew live in Petaluma, or Cotati/Rohnert Park, Sebastopol all of which are slightly less than a half-hour’s drive.  While we are not in walking distance to work, we all agree that our commute is as bucolic as they come: rich, green farmland, grazing cows and no stop-n-go whatsoever!  photo

There are the occasional slow-downs: cows in the road, or goats or wild turkeys crossing the road; however, the tractor heading to work however is, by far, my favorite! tractor_nicks_cove

While Nick’s Cove is closer than you think, the feeling of being so far away that immediately takes over upon arrival is what our guests crave … and we like it that way!



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Chicken Littles at Nick’s Cove


If you have ever enjoyed a farm-fresh egg you know that I speak the truth when I say: there is simply nothing better tasting … that plump golden yolk says “good morning” like no other breakfast item can!  While this is only our very first egg ever, we expect more to be quickly on their way!

Now that our Frog Creek Farm is on its way to stardom, one simply cannot have a farm without chickens running about! Here are a few photos of our farm chickens. Take notice of the hen-house charmer … we call him Slick Rick!

Come say hi to our chickens next time you are out our way!



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Tomales Tonic

047One thing I know for sure about our Restaurant Manager, Dean Castelli … he likes a good challenge! Recently, Dean was tasting wine at Taft Street Winery during one of our off-site staff wine trainings when the owner gave him a glass of the winery’s homemade tonic. 049

It did not take Dean long to get online, do his appropriate research, don his “chemist cloak” and voila: our very own Nick’s Cove Tonic was born!

I can always tell when Dean has been up to something good: when he sees me for the first time, he rubs his hands together, smiles slyly and says, “So …”  052This day he gave me a taste of the tonic water. Honestly, I have never tasted anything so refreshing and delicious!

So, we did what all good restaurateurs do: we mixed cocktails! We made vodka tonics and gin & tonics and compared them side-by-side with regular tonic. Hands down the Nick’s Cove Tonic was a favorite with staff, our chef and most certainly with me!

Inspired by the classics, Dean breathes new life into old-style cocktails; his creativity is your reward!

Next time you are in ask for the Tomales Tonic which features Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin (made locally in Sonoma) and our very own Nick’s Cove Tonic!

Not a gin fan? No worries, simply ask for the Nick’s Cove Tonic in any of your regular cocktails … you will be glad you did!




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Frog Creek Farms … the new Nick’s Cove Garden

001For the past 2 years, the garden at Nick’s Cove has been dormant … just waiting, patiently for someone to come along and breathe new life into the rich, luscious coastal soil. In my very first blog post, I wrote of my intention to bring our garden back to life. 003

Well, I am happy to report that the garden at Nick’s Cove, recently named “Frog Creek Farms” is truly on its way!

In February, I hired Ross Barlow – a fantastic gardener/farmer! And, in only three months’ time he has transformed our garden.

Just last week, we harvested the very first lettuces from our garden and served them in our restaurant.

002Needless to say, Chef Austin Perkins and I are overjoyed at the site of those beautiful leaves fanned out on our dining room plates!

While there is still lots of work to be done, we are all excited about the journey and cannot wait to share with all of you the bounty from our Frog Creek Farms!



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Worth The Drive …

Nick’s Cove is an amazing place: to dine, to stay, to “check-out”, to connect (with each other, to nature), to watch a sunset, to build memories. We truly pride ourselves on providing a spectacular overall guest experience. And while we are a bit of a drive, I believe we are worth the time it takes you to get here. I am certain of this because hundreds of our guests over the past year have told us so…

016Each time a server or bartender presents the guest with their check, the guest also receive a “Guest Comment Card”. I read each and every one of the cards that come back; it’s my daily ritual with my cup of coffee and I am addicted to it!

The cards with information about a referral are set aside and I send a hand-written (long-lost but much-loved thing of the past) thank you note to the person or property or winery who referred their guests to us. Some cards have information about a light that is out in one of the cottages; I send that information to maintenance. Some have information for us to improve things such as how they were greeted at the hostess stand; how their food took a little bit longer than they had liked. I discuss this with our management team every Thursday at our team meeting and, if the guest provided me with their contact information, I send a note of apology to them and thank them for taking the time to provide me with their feedback.

Overwhelmingly, though, what I read are all the cards praising us – telling us how much they love Nick’s Cove: the food, the cocktails and wine, the cottages, the amenities, the Boat Shack, the attention to detail, the professionalism of our staff, the knowledge of our staff; they tell me how they cannot wait to come back or how they wish they could have stayed longer; they tell me great details about their time with us; they tell me all the things I know: that we are worth the drive!

Ultimately, it is their story to me, about their individual experience that matters! Sure, we don’t always please everyone, and certainly we make mistakes. But all those cards stacked up on my desk get me past those not-so-great reviews/comments. It is the Guest Comment Cards that make all of us strive to do better today than we did yesterday.

So, to all of you who have been here and taken the time to write – THANK YOU!


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I wanted to take a couple of minutes to celebrate one of my favorite veggies: Cauliflower! NIcksCove_312  0006 9

Good quality cauliflower can be found nearly year round and locally has a 6-8 month season. Everything from gratins to a simple roast showcase the unique flavor. Here’s a recipe for my Warm Cauliflower Salad.


2 Heads Cauliflower
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut cauliflower into florettes (de-stem the head until only about an inch of stem remains). Chop larger florettes in half so that all pieces are semi-uniform in size; place in bowl. Add olive oil and toss. Place pieces on baking sheet and roast in pre-heated oven for approximately 8 minutes. While roasting, make vinaigrette.

Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette

1/2 cup whole grain mustard
1 shallot, minced
2 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Place ingredients in jar and shake to incorporate. Set aside.

Combining and Plating

In sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pre-roasted cauliflower and sauté over medium heat approximately 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Toss a large handful of wild, fresh arugula and sweat approximately 30 seconds, tossing continuously. At Nick’s Cove we also throw in shaved Serrano ham (or prosciutto if easier to find), but that is completely optional. Place the sautéed cauliflower and arugula (and ham, if using) down the center of a platter. Drip the vinaigrette over the top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.



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