Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending my very first clam bake on the North Fork of Long Island with the boyfriend and some of his friends. While I am told clam bakes are a New England tradition, the Stein family shows the North Fork how its done (our hosts for the night). Pete (David’s friend) had spent all day preparing for this feast and his hard work was clearly evident.
We arrived in the late afternoon after a long day of sunning ourselves on Shelter Island and to be honest I had no clue what to expect. For those not familiar with a clam bake… apparently it’s a New England tradition where you cook a brunch of sea foods together and supplement them with a variety of other ingredients such as corn, potatoes, sausages, etc. You often hear of cooking a clam bake in a pot but the clam bake I experienced went above and beyond!
We walked up and were immediately welcome into the Stein family fold. The world really is a small place because I had met Pete earlier this year with a friend and spent a day with him noshing on foods at The Hester Street Fair. Needless to say I was happy to see a familiar face! The entire Stein clan had descended on what I would like to call “The Stein Compound,” an amazing enclave tucked away into a small bay right on the south side of the North Fork. After weeks of being holed up in Southampton David and I were pleasantly surprised with what the North Fork was like and immediately took a liking to the place.
With a drink in our hands we found a spot to sit and watch the magic of the clam bake unfold. Pete had assembled an amazing set-up…a large cauldron layered with coal, seaweed, burlap sacks, corn, potatoes, lobsters and clams. I was in awe of the spectacle before me…I couldn’t have picked a better place or more friendly group of people to celebrate my first clam bake with.
With a loca brew in hand, I was ready to get my hands dirty and help out in any way I could… Pete obliged my request and gave me the vessel to hold while they picked out the ready to eat clams.
*Happy as a CLAM!*
Laid out on the top of the glorious pile lay the clams that were ready first. The bowl hit the table and everyone went to town! Sure butter is a nice accompaniment to any clam, but these were so fresh, so briny, so good that I just dug in to the insides and slurped them down.
The attention to detail and care Pete and his family put into this process was unbelievable… I need to learn the practice of patience before I do this on my own. Watching them was completely mesmerizing, I could barely focus on anything else going around me (which was a bunch of cute little kids enjoying their last days of summer and friends laughing and enjoying the beautiful afternoon)! With the clams done and eaten, we focused on the next step… the lobsters, corn and potatoes. Lifting the burlap sack an amazing sight unfolded…. bright red lobsters nestled on top of a bed of meaty potatoes and husk fiber-free corn (Pete and his family had removed the husk fiber from each piece of corn earlier in the day and then replaced the outer husk to cook….I mean wow!). I was salivating and could not wait for our meal to begin.
*Isn’t that a glorious sight!?*
With the clam bake in full swing we waited with bated breath and salivating tongues to eat. With everything ready to go, we grabbed plates and attacked the buffet table with excitement and a desire to satisfy our hunger pains. I went straight for the female lobsters because they had the good stuff going on…. the roe! Some people may find it disgusting, but the “nasty bits” are almost always my favorite parts (this includes the green “tamale”). I implore you to try the roe and tamale as well when you next get the chance (it’s the best!).
No summer dinner is complete without the presence of pie….so we finished with a berry pie a la mode and spent the rest of the evening cooking s’mores by the fire next to the dock. I didn’t want the night to end… it was a perfect ending to the summer.
I cannot thank the Stein family enough for their generosity and hospitality. Last Saturday night was nothing like I thought it would be and everything I wanted and more. They definitely made my Labor Day weekend; it’s a shame I came to experience my first clam bake at the end of the summer…. but you better believe I am going to tackle creating my own next year (inviting the Steins of course!)!