Dig This: The Best Varieties of Clams + the Delicious Ways Restaurants Are Serving Them This Summer

In the broadest of terms, a clam is a bivalve mollusk with two hard shells that protect the edible, sweet yet briny, exquisite yet simple, meat within. Found in most coastal areas throughout the world, clams are both a reliable dietary staple and a treasured delicacy. Served raw, baked, fried, poached, roasted, steamed, or in chowders, sauces, or stews, the versatility and relative plenitude of clams render them an indispensable seafood pick with chefs from coast to coast. Our seafood markets are brimming with a number of varieties of clams, some wild, some farmed, and all infinitely tasty. Here are the best varieties of clams and the delicious ways restaurants are serving them this summer!

Atlantic Hard Shell Clams at The Clam, New York, New York
Atlantic hard shell clams (Mercenaria mercenaria), also known as quahogs (pronounced coe-hog), are the quintessential east coast clam. Quahogs are graded by size, with littlenecks being the smallest (approximately 10-12 clams per pound), followed by top necks (6-10 per pound), cherrystones (3-4 per pound) and chowders (1-2 per pound). The Clam serves up its favorite and eponymous ingredient in a number of expected, and unexpected, dishes: littlenecks on the half shell, clam dip with zesty potato chips, clam and lobster sliders, and grilled white clam pizza, to name just a few.

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Soft Shell Clams at Island Creek Oyster Bar, Boston, Massachusetts
Soft shell clams (Mya arenaria) are also popularly called steamers, piss clams, longnecks, or Ipswich clams and are native to our northeast coast. The soft shell name is a bit of a misnomer as the shells are more brittle than soft. Soft shell clams are more oblong in shape than hard shell clams and are distinguished by a long protruding siphon, which the clam uses to both feed and filter the water. A bowl of steamers dipped in melted butter is one of the purest joys of a New England summer, and Island Creek Oyster Bar does not disappoint with its Ipswich steamers served with crusty bread for sopping up the every last drop of clammy goodness. [Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell]

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Razor Clams at Saxon + Parole, New York, New York
Razor clams, shaped like old-fashioned straight razors, are found both on the east and west coasts. East coast razors (Ensis directus) are known as Atlantic jackknife clams. West coast razors (Siliqua patua) are known as Pacific razor clams and are slightly more oval-shaped than their east coast cousin. Prized in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean cuisines, razor clams are now finding their way onto non-Asian menus on both coasts. At Saxon + Parole, chef Brad Farmerie creates razor clam magic by combining steamed razors and egg salad, served with caviar and grilled bread. Brunch will never be the same.

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10 Restaurants with Their Own Farms: Happy #EarthDay

In honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up 10 restaurants that take the farm-to-table concept to another level — they have their very own farms. Talk about private stock. Celebrate Earth Day and sustainability with a reservation at one of these eateries that takes locavorism to a hyper local level!

Pawtomack Farm 41. Black Cat Farm Table, Boulder, Colorado + Black Cat Farm, Boulder, Colorado.

Chef Eric Skokan wasn’t a trained farmer when he started Black Cat Farm, but he likely qualifies as one now. After trial and error and advice from fellow farmers, he is now a skilled self-taught tractor driver and producer of American Mulefoot pigs and grower of sublime heirloom tomatoes, both of which you’ll find on the menus at Black Cat Farm Table and gastropub Bramble & Hare.

2. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York + Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York.

Dan Barber was inspired by the past to forge the future in establishing one of the nation’s most important restaurant-farm partnerships. Blue Hill opened on Stone Barns’ 80 acres in 2004, and the farm and the restaurant serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and cuisine.

3. JG Domestic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania + Luna Farm, Ottsville, Pennsylvania.

Jose Garces and his family purchased an all-organic 40-acre farm not just as a family getaway; the farm, named for the Garces’s dog and the region’s breathtaking harvest moons, Luna Farms provides freshly grown produce for chef Garces’s east coast restaurants, including Amada, Tinto, and Volver.

4. L’Espalier, Boston, Massachusetts + Apple Street Farm, Essex, Massachusetts.

Apple Street Farm was founded in 2009 by L’Espalier chef McClelland, and its 14 acres serve as the primary source of organic harvests of everything from artichokes to zucchini, free-range poultry and pork, egg-laying hens, honey, and more for L’Espalier. The restaurant is 26 miles away, and chef McClelland is known to hand-deliver just-picked product to his team of chefs.

5. The Mulefoot Gastropub, Imlay, Michigan + Romine Family Farm, Imlay, Michigan.

The Mulefoot’s namesake comes from the heritage breed of pork that is served at the gastropub and raised at their local family farm located about eight miles from the restaurant. Chefs and twin brothers Matt and Mike Romine look after the pigs when they’re not working in the kitchen of their restaurant, but father Joe primarily tends to the heritage hogs, first procured from local Toad Hall Farm in Emmet.

6. PRESS, St. Helena, California + Rudd Farms, St. Helena, California.Continue Reading

Celebrating National Garlic Month at The Stinking Rose (Because Where Else?)

st-portrait moonDid you know that April is National Garlic Month, and yesterday was National Garlic Day? We think it’s only fitting that the mighty clove, also known as the stinking rose, gets its very own month and day. After all, it’s been seasoning food and fighting off illness and garden pests (not to mention warding off vampires) for centuries. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, “It has been known in China since antiquity, and was an important article of diet in ancient Egypt and in classical Greece and Rome.” Despite its popularity, however, the patrician class frowned upon the accompanying smell, with the Roman poet Horace even writing that garlic is more harmful than hemlock.

While we diners only officially fete garlic and all its stinky goodness during April, Dante Serafini and Jerry Dal Bozzo, owners of The Stinking Rose in the Bay area celebrate it 365 days a year. Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, the restaurant plows through about 1.5 tons of the stuff a month, featuring garlic in virtually every dish on their menu. For guests who don’t want to stop their allium sativum intake with spaghetti, there’s even garlic chocolate ice cream. Continue Reading

What’s in Store for Restaurants in 2015?

grains blog2015 is here, and it’s made us start wondering what the next year has in store for the restaurant industry. To find out, we gathered predictions from some of the most influential people in the business: chefs, restaurateurs, editors, and more. From menus and cocktails to service and technology, here are the trends they expect to see play out this year. Read on, then tell us in the comments: what are your predictions?

FAST CASUAL

“Star chefs known for the power of their personal vision will open up fast casual: Dave Chang, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Josh Skenes, Jose Andres. We’ll be eating better burgers and vegetables, quickly.” — Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief, Food & Wine

By far, the most common prediction among industry leaders is a revolution of traditional fast-food restaurants, and a growing interest in casual, affordable dining from top-tier chefs.

As Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer tells us, “Everyone wants to be the Chipotle of (fill in the blank).” Author Ruth Reichl added that chefs are addressing a serious problem by offering affordable food in underserved neighborhoods. “I think that’s going to mushroom and they’re going to be really successful,” she notes.

COMPENSATION 

“I don’t know if this will truly be a trend, but my heart holds out hope for it: better pay for cooks.” — Francis Lam, food writer and judge, Top Chef Masters 

With some restaurants eliminating tipping and exploring alternative methods of compensation, fair pay continues to be a hot topic in the industry. Corney Burns and Nick Balla of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine tell us, “We see restaurants moving away from tipping, coming up with alternative ways to compensate staff.”

GRAINS

“I expect to see more awareness and discussion of monocultivar grains in the coming year. I was just involved in a film called The Grain Divide with such chefs and experts as Michael Pollan, Dan Barber, Chad Robertson, Marc Vetri, Sean Brock, and more regarding the benefits of small mills over mass-produced product and its effect on health and flavor profiles.” — Michael Tusk, Chef/Owner, Quince and Cotogna

In 2014, whole grains were popular on menus and cookbooks alike — and 2015 should be no different, as chefs rediscover a variety of heirloom and specialty grains.

“Rye was the big grain of 2014. I predict chefs will explore other grains for breads, pastas, and, especially, desserts.” — Izabela Wojcik, Director of House Programming, James Beard Foundation Continue Reading