My husband and I stay in Potrero Hill in San Francisco, not removed from my two eating places, Nari and Kin Khao, however we’ve a particular place we go every time we’d like a breather from the town. It’s a weekend residence about an hour north, in a quiet city referred to as Marshall, with wraparound home windows overlooking Tomales Bay. The home was a retailer — individuals would pull their boats up out again to purchase coal for his or her fireplaces and feed for his or her livestock.
In the present day, Tomales is legendary for its oyster farms, and the home is three doorways down from the Hog Island Oyster Co. If you look out the window early within the morning, you possibly can see the oysterers trekking out to the boat of their coveralls and going off to reap.
On the aspect of the home is a sq. hearth pit the place we grill the oysters. We’re nonetheless within the Bay Space, so even in the summertime it’s fairly cool and, within the evenings, we wish to construct a fireplace. The good friend we hire the home from owns a mill that makes use of reclaimed wooden from all around the West Coast, so we all the time have loads. Through the first 12 months of the pandemic, we didn’t socialize indoors, so the hearth pit grew to become an amazing gathering place.
Cooking with hearth is ritualistic. You possibly can’t flip it up and switch it down; there’s a rhythm to it. If you construct one, it’s highly regarded to start with, after which it’s important to look forward to it to scale back to a sure temperature — or it’s important to construct the pit in a different way, so you’ve some components which are fairly sizzling and others which are chilly. As a cook dinner, it makes you extra thoughtful. It slows you down. It’s like all artistic pursuit: Parameters and limitations drive you to consider clear up an issue.
As soon as we construct the hearth, we shuck the oysters and open some champagne or chablis. We get several types of oysters, together with Hog Island’s particular Sweetwater ones. Some we eat uncooked. Others we cook dinner over the flames with a spoonful of chorizo on high — when the juices combine with the oyster, it’s simply so scrumptious. I may eat dozens.
I do a few of my finest pondering once I’m out by the hearth. I don’t normally give you new concepts or clear up issues once I’m making an attempt to do it. However once I’m constructing a fireplace and cooking with my palms, my thoughts turns into extra open. That’s once I get concepts. For me, it’s about creating an area the place I’m glad and cozy — after which issues that I’ve been mulling over simply crystallize.
This interview has been edited and condensed.