March 12, 2021 – The place is a trip, part Mad Max, part shellfish picnic, part garage sale, and all intrigue.
American Abalone Farms hides out behind a wilting gate on a residential street that leads to Davenport Beach. That places it a drive north from Santa Cruz, which could also inspire an adventure to nearby Shark Fin Cove, timeless (and tiny) Davenport proper just up Highway 1, or the beautiful beach itself, where on our visit by an elephant seal was the 8,000-pound star of the scene.
Those details make it a fitting introductory installment of new EMB Friday feature “Found Treasure,” wherein atypical, overlooked and even obscure food-and-drink finds are the main course. They might include any number of things, from secret-menu morsels to DIY kitchen hacks to incognito personality-plus community institutions, but the core DNA is one of discovery.
The farmstand opens 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday, selling shuck-your-own oysters ($2 each), abalone ($5.99 each), pre-pounded abalone steaks ($25/four small steaks), sea urchins ($15/box), and abalone shells ($1-$2). The line moves slowly, but there’s lots to look at, and if you like your shellfish fresh and the setting funky, this is the move.
There’s also a barebones cement patio overlooking the Pacific and the seemingly improvised farm. Our group opened oysters there with the help of hot sauce, lemon and an oyster knife, then retreated home for abalone we washed with egg, breaded with Italian crouton crumbs, flash fried in olive oil and relished in as much as any pandemic meal I can remember.
Before we left the farmstand, we asked about all the vintage bowls, utensils and kitchen tools piled around the wooden bar beneath the chalkboard menu. The young solo host told us those were for AAF’s new restaurant-to-be, which sounds to me like another serving of discovery.