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Of oysters, salt cod, stuffed pasta and running away to the Bay Area

April 18, 2011 | 11:41 am

Marshall

Running away to the Bay Area for the weekend is always a good idea, particularly if you like to eat. In a little more than three days, I tried some old favorites and discovered a new one. I had gone up to make some comments at Thomas Keller's induction into the French Legion of Honor on Thursday afternoon and decided to spend a couple extra days. After the event, a bunch of us gathered at Bouchon (salt cod fritters and boudin blanc). Good as always. Friday lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe (halibut tartare and pork with choucroute) and Sunday brunch at Zuni Cafe (oysters, Caesar salad, pizza). These are time-honored rituals for me; I've been eating at both places for probably 25 years, and it's nice to know that there are some things you can always count on.

But Saturday was one of the best food days I can remember. A friend and I drove up the coast to Tomales Bay to the Marshall Store. Three dozen raw oysters, a dozen barbecued, a big tinfoil bag of barbecued mussels, some of the new house-made sausages and half-bottles of Sancerre and Chablis later, we left sated and happy. If you haven't been there yet, make this a stop on your next trip. It's only about an hour from the city, most of it rolling through idyllic Marin County dairylands.

That night, on restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila's recommedation, we hit Cotogna, the new casual dining restaurant from the Quince couple, Michael and Lindsay Tusk. This is another place you've got to go to. Some of the best stuffed pastas I've ever had anywhere. And all the wines on the list are $40 a bottle or $10 a glass. Terrific exploring.

Isn't that what a vacation should be all about?

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Some offerings from the Marshall Store. Credit: Russ Parsons

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