It's possible that some people might be skeptical of The Cook and Her Farmer, based on a name that sounds like a Belle and Sebastian song or Zoe Deschanel festival short. Check those preconceptions at the door, because this Old Oakland oyster-bed-to-table restaurant has enormous potential.
A simple bowl of crayfish, sitting in a garlicky, buttery, not-quite-broth that's full of jalapenos and scallions, with hunks of bread to soak it up, was terrific. You have to love ripping little crustaceans apart with your fingers, and at $12.50, it's not cheap, but it's unquestionably worth the splurge -- and in retrospect, I should have splurged harder and gotten the fries, too. (I'll eat some with friends those next time, over a dozen oysters and some po' boys.) Menu items rotate, but for now, California wines, three beers on tap and De La Paz coffee round it all out.
It's a great space, too. An open kitchen can sometimes mean "a window slightly larger than most" but in here, you're there. I sat at the bar and if I'd only leaned in slightly, could easily have snatched some lemons or sourdough bread or even a little Lexan of sauce. (I didn't). But the line cook must have noticed my puppy-dog eyes, because she gave me a little bread plate while I waited.
The Cook and Her Farmer is right next to Cosecha inside Swan's Marketplace, which is among the best of the Bay's several halls of specialty shops and food stalls. It's wide open to the street, with big tables and cheery red stools that match the seismic cross-bracing (which itself runs, cleverly, right into the prep area). When I got up and pushed my chair in, two employees interrupted their conversation to admire my dirty napkins and rubble pile of carapaces: "That's how you eat crayfish!"
That's because that's how you cook crayfish.
The Cook and Her Farmer, 907F Washington St., Oakland, (510) 285-6140.