Writer Serena Renner recently went down the cioppino rabbit hole, discovering the real story behind San Francisco’s most iconic dish, how it’s changing, and, of course, where to find the best bowls in the Bay Area. But for those who are ready to go a step further this crab season, we can assure you that nothing beats catching and preparing Dungeness crab with your own two hands. Enter the king of San Francisco’s sea-to-fork movement.
For Kirk Lombard, a.k.a the Sea Forager, the world is one giant tide pool. He runs a sustainable seafood CSA, hosts fish parties, and most importantly for travelers, leads foraging tours along the San Francisco waterfront. During the Dungeness crab season, which kicks off in November, you can take his three-hour coastal tour, where you’ll learn the trick to catching a crab from the shore using only a handmade snare. His personal crabbing spot is “not for print,” but, during crab season, it’s legal to snare one at any beach outside the Golden Gate Bridge, he says, as long as you’re not in a protected marine area. As for cioppino: “I love it! Fish restaurant in Sausalito makes a great, sustainable cioppino though my favorite place to get it is my own house.” $42. seaforager.com
Three other ways to taste Bay Area marine life
…go crabbing: November means one thing for San Francisco seafood lovers: Dungeness crab, and lots of it. Kick off with season with Berkeley Charter Boats, which takes the hungry and curious on full-day tours of the Marin coast and the waters around the Bay Area’s Farallon Islands, teaching them how to set traps and fish for rock cod along the way. $120, doesn’t include tackle and fishing license. anchorcharterboats.com
…forage for seaweed: If you want to dip your toe into the sea-foraging trend, turn to the king of the local shores, Kirk Lombard of Sea Forager Tours. A longtime advocate of sustainable seafood, Lombard—a former musician—peppers his quirky walking tours of San Francisco’s shoreline with facts about local fishing rules and tips on where to find edible seaweed. Come ready to get your hands wet—you’ll also learn how to trap rock crab and the secret to catching the monkeyface eel with a bamboo pole. $42. seaforager.com
…dive for abalone: The key to abalone diving is the (risky) free dive. Scuba tanks are banned, so intrepid eaters must hold their breath as they swim down toward the sea floor. Sonoma Coast Divers, a fully certified and long-standing outfitter, will walk you through the entire process, from how to assemble your gear to how to use an abalone iron to pry the mollusk from the rock. The day ends with an abalone picnic, where you’ll learn to clean, slice, tenderize, and cook the prized mollusk. $99.50, not including equipment. sonomacoastdivers.com