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RI: Clambake

My primary goal for the trip was to eat myself stupid with seafood, and up to this point in the trip, I think I was doing pretty well.  My secondary goal was to do a proper New England clambake.  Not surprisingly, everyone was on board with this decision.

I originally wanted to do the whole dig a pit, throw in some coals, seaweed, seafood and stuff, cover it with a tarp, wait a bit, and enjoy.  But that idea died quickly when we checked the rules for the beach and no form of flame was allowed.  So, off to the stove-top!  Well, eventually.  Gotta get the stuff first.

We stopped by a small place to purchase our seafood.  They had a modest, but good quality, selection of bivalves.  The lobsters were divided into different clothes baskets according to their weight.  We bought two one-pound-and-a-halfers, but they did have one monster of bug.  Our best guess is that it weighed in around five pounds and covered half of the bottom of a clothes basket.

You’re looking at around a $50 lobster.

We were laughing at Janessa because she wanted to get a picture holding the lobster, but she made Matt take it out of the bag for her. Note the not-so-suppressed look of terror.

Gotta have at least one pic of our hapless victims (while they are still kicking).

Apparently this is a very regional style of sausage. Which is sad because it is a very good tasting one. If you see some, buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Two pounds each of littleneck clams and mussels.

The recipe for a clambake is really easy.  It sums up as: gather the ingredients, layer them in a huge pot, and cook.  The specifics are as follows:

One pound of sausage, sliced for the bottom layer.

Then the two pounds each of littlenecks and mussels. Cleaned, obviously.

Next, one pound of baby red potatoes. Cut them fairly small because these take the longest to cook. (1″ cubes or smaller)

5 or 6 ears of corn make up the next layer.

Gotta have the obligatory pic of holding one of the lobsters.

Finally on top goes the bugs. The tasty, tasty bugs.

While I was putzing around the kitchen working on the clambake. Dave whipped up a couple of loaves of beer bread. He’s handy that way.

I pulled out the lobsters a little early because the taters were not done and I didn’t want my delicious bugs ending up overcooked.

SQUIRREL!

. Bucket of goodness.

Once everything is layered in the pot, cover, turn the burner to high, and cook for 17 to 20 minutes.  Basically, until your potatoes are tender and the lobsters are bright red.  Everything else will be done by the time these two are ready.

It was decided that the easiest way to divy up the lobster was first to remove all the meat from the shell.  Easier said than done for a couple of novices.

Let the cracking commence . . .

Pulling the meat took a bit of time. In fact, Lindz had time to play around with the new camera and take a few pics.

Yup. Still plugging away at it.

All the meat from the two lobsters. Including some roe.

Terry’s plate before . . .

. . . and Terry’s plate after.

The clambake was a little on the expensive side, but split between five people it was really reasonable.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a blast cooking it.  And guessing by how quickly it was devoured, I think that they enjoyed eating it as much as I did.  The lobster did end up slightly overdone, but it still tasted great.  The mussels and clams were the hit of the party though.  Basically it’s hard to screw up really fresh seafood (as long as you don’t overcook it).  The only thing not eaten was some of the sausages and potatoes.

Yup, it was good.

And here is the only picture from the entire trip (about 500 photos) that include all five of us.

RI: Port of Galilee

A quick apology first.  Since I was just learning how to use my new toy, there was a bit of a screw up.  Somewhere along the way, the camera got switched to manual focus and I didn’t realize it for a day and a half, so there are a bunch of pictures that I’m really less than satisfied with.  Please bear with me, we’ll get to better ones soon.

The whole dream of the Rhode Island vacation started with an invitation from our friend Dave’s parents.  They have a beach house that they were kind enough to open to Dave and some of his Seminary friends for a week.  Through a couple of iterations of who was interested and available, our group came out to be Dave, myself and Lindz, and Matt and Janessa.

Da group. Matt, Janessa, Dave, and yours truly. Lindz was behind the camera.

Our first day in Little Rhodie, we went over to the Port of Galilee for some seafood lunch.  There is a restaurant that Dave’s family goes to all the time that is about a 20 mile drive from the house (or about 10 miles as a crow would fly).  Champlin’s Seafood is located right on the inlet from the ocean to one of the many saltwater ponds in the area.

Champlin’s Seafood. One of my new favorite places ever. Too bad it’s a half of a continent away.

They have a great working relationship with the fishing boats that use the Point Judith Pond as a harbor.  Many dock right outside of the building.  One touch that I thought was really cool is that they have the names of the fishing boats that they buy from on the life preservers hanging up around the building.  Besides the restaurant, they also sell a large variety of fresh seafood.

This is one of the fishing boats that supply Champlin’s. The photo was taken from my seat where I ate the first of many unbelievable seafood meals.

Their menu has a selection that any seafood lover would drool at the mere mention of a quarter of the items.  I would highly recommend at least looking over the menu before you go.  That way, you aren’t staring slack-jawed at the menu board trying to make a decision while people are waiting for you.  They have a full bar, so if you would like a homemade bloody mary, a beer, or just a soda, they have your thirst taken care of as well.  I should warn you that you should be prepared to spend a bit of money.  It’s not excessively expensive, but it isn’t cheap either.  I really should clarify that a bit: the quality to cost ratio is unbelievable, but it’s not someplace most people can afford to go more than once or twice a month.  Yeah, I feel better with that description.

Dave bought a half-dozen clam cakes to share around the table.  Think of a doughy (in a good sense)  crab cake and substitute in some clams.  They were really good.

Deep fried clammy goodness.

Lindz and I went a little wild with our order.  Based on Dave’s recommendation, I went with the deep fried whole-bellied clams.  In hindsight, I should have gotten them a la carte, and shared Lindz’s fries and slaw.  Whole bellies are whole soft shell clams as opposed to clam strips which are sliced hard shell clams.  The whole bellies that I ate had a nice mild clam flavor with a sweet undertone.  You didn’t need tarter sauce or anything to accompany them. I’ll put it another way for you.  I kept eating them after I was stuffed halfway through my meal.  Hands down, they were the second best clams that I have ever eaten.  Lindz ordered a lobster roll dinner for herself.  I think she still has the lobster bug from when we ate at Cosmos.  Ha ha!  Lobster bug, get it?  I’m so punny!  I did swipe a bite and it was really good.  Perfectly cooked and oh, so tasty.  Speaking of Cosmos, that is the reason why I got a 1/2 pint of their lobster bisque.  This was good, but it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Cosmos.  Significantly cheaper, but still slightly disappointing.  I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s still far better than you can find most anywhere.

Lower left: whole belly clam dinner. Upper right: lobster roll dinner. Bottom right: 1/2 pint of lobster bisque. Upper left-ish: 2 cherrystone clams

Finally, I saw that they had raw cherrystone clams on the menu.  I’ve never heard of, much less had clams on the half shell before.  So I ordered two of them.  I figured I’d offer Lindz one and if she declined, then I could eat both of them!  But, she was feeling adventurous that day and decided to try one.  Which still made me happy.  Janessa kindly documented our experience.

A little squeeze of lemon . . .

Hoist them and say “Cheers!” . . .

And suck them down!

I’m spitting out a lemon seed, not the clam.

If I was still hungry and we didn’t already spend a healthy wad of cash, I would have happily gone back and ordered a baker’s dozen.  They were everything that people tell you that good shellfish should taste like.  Slightly sweet and a bit like a fresh ocean.  These are the clams that claim the #1 slot in the best that I have ever tasted.  Lindz even liked them.

As far as seating options go, you can either sit inside (it’s really spacious) or out on the deck (a bit more limited).  It was a gorgeous day, and the place wasn’t busy, so ours was an easy choice: the deck.  I would suggest going there for lunch or an afternoon snack because I heard that around supper time, the line can get up to a hundred feet long or more.

One of the “patrons” hanging out at the restaurant.

Watching boats go by while eating fresh seafood is priceless.

One of my stated goals for this trip was to eat myself stupid with really good seafood.  This place fulfilled that dream and then some.  It also set the bar unbelievable high for the rest of the trip.

601 Graves, part III

The restaurant that Lindz and I went to was the one located in the hotel.  I can’t describe Cosmos any better than the line from the New York Times: “Hybrid of SoHo slick and Minnesota nice.”  Like the rest of 601 Graves, it has a modern chic decor.  The staff was unbelievably nice from the hostess, to the bartender who chatted with me at the bar while I was waiting for Lindz to come down, and to our AMAZING waiter who was spot on with personality and menu suggestions.

The first step into going out to a fancy place is getting suited up properly.

Lindz is justifiably proud of her smokin’ hot dress.

We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, which wasn’t too hard because there were not a lot of people dining that night.  But they did take care to place at least a couple of tables between us and the closest diners for a more intimate experience.  Lindz and I decided to split a bottle of one of their cheaper wines.  $40 is cheap for a bottle considering they had some that ranged upwards to $1000.  Like I was ever so subtly hinting at before, our fantastic waiter struck up a conversation with us right after we were seated.  In the process of explaining our little celebration, he threw out a few suggestions to try on the menu.  One of which was the tuna tartar appetizer.  He described it as “habit forming” and that he would eat it as often as he could.  Since both Lindz and I like sushi, we figured this would be a safe bet for a starter.  Boy were we wrong.  Saying that this tartar was a safe bet is like calling McD’s cheeseburger a safe bet and getting filet mignon set down in front of you.  This tartar is not comparable to anything that I’ve ever had before.  The freshness of the tuna was unquestionable.  The richness of the fish and whatever spices they mixed with it was heavenly.  Plus, as a side, they put a dollop of avocado ice cream on the plate.  This may sound like a weird concoction that you would see on Iron Chef, but it really does work.  The creaminess of an avocado transitions beautifully into the creaminess that one gets with a high quality ice cream.  So like our waiter said, habit forming.  One quick example why I have a bit of a foodie crush on our waiter is that he went ahead and had the kitchen split our app orders without asking us.  He was able to anticipate our wants and needs even before we realized them.

This photo does absolutely no justice to the beauty that was on my plate.

The other appetizer that we split was some lobster bisque.  I’m not sure what Lindz’ motivation was, but I just like to say “I’ll have the lobster bisque.”  Makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.  I was not to be disappointed with this selection either.  The bisque was a thick creamy seafoody bowl of goodness.  It was everything you would expect out of a bisque plus more.  The more was a couple of morsels of lobster chillin’ in the bottom of the bowl like the prize in a cereal box.  Only better.  Much better.

This lobster gave its all. And all it gave was gleefully cherished.

Between our app and main course, the waiter brought out a palette cleanser for us.  It was one of those fun little things that molecular-gastronomists like to do.  It had a concentrated citrus liquid (orange I believe) suspended in a gelatin skin, which was in turn suspended in a different liquid in a shot glass.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of it and the only thing I remember is the strong taste of citrus and the pop of gelatin skin.  While it may not be the highlight of the meal, it was definitely fun and amusing.  The timing on the courses was stellar.  There was no awkward lag between one dish and another.

Lindz decided to go all out on the fancy seafood this night.  For her entree she chose the butter poached lobster.  There is really no way you can go wrong with that combination.  The little bite that I stole from her proved that very well.  Without a doubt, this was the most perfectly cooked lobster that I’ve ever had.  The butter flavor was infused into the meat and since it was poached, the meat was unbelievable succulent and tender.

Now this is how to create visual appeal on a plate.

I opted for the white wine braised rabbit.  I choose it mainly because I haven’t had rabbit in a long time, also it was the most out of the ordinary dish they had for entrees.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to be adventurous with my food.  It pains me to admit this, but this was the weakest dish that we were served the entire night.  I’m a self-proclaimed salt fiend and by the time I got to the end of my dish, it was getting a bit salty even for my palette.  Other then being a bit heavy handed with the NaCl, this was a great dish.  the rabbit was tender and flavorful.  The pasta, I’m 98% certain was made from scratch and cooked to the perfect chewiness.  All in all, it was a great meaty and earthy dish.

I usually shy away from pasta dishes, but with one like this, who am I to resist?

Even taking our wild sushi meals into account, this was by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten.  That being said, it was also without question one of the top three meals that I’ve ever eaten.  As soon as we can afford it, I’m planning on going back.

Ouch!

I do feel a little guilty about the tip we left our waiter.  Don’t worry, it was in excess of what we normally do and we are generous tippers.  If we could have afforded it, I would have left him a 100% tip because with his help the experience was that great and the food selections were even better.  If you can afford to splurge for a night, I recommend this place without hesitation.