The sea air was calling to me. It was time to visit Lynn & Alan (Sister & Brother-in-Law) at their roomy home that fronted Long Island Sound in Milford. In times past we would enjoy a New England clam bake on their back deck on a summer day. Drinking Sauvignon Blanc, eating lobsters &c, telling stories & laughing, all the while listening to the water rolling against the sea wall. It was time to bring the festivities of the summer deck to the interior of their wonderful home. It’s February. Sandy and I provisioned out and packed up the necessities, including my treasured double lobster pot, and headed south to the Milford hamlet of Woodmont.
A clambake ain’t all that hard (which is why I am good at it). My Brother Paul would tell me stories about digging a deep pit in the beach sand. Building a wood fire, throwing in good sized rocks/stones onto the wood pyre & keeping that fire going. Adding wood as required to get the rocks white hot with heat. Next dump in a good quantity of seaweed on the bright hot rocks, then throw in the essentials of the feast on to the steaming bed of seaweed: lobsters, many of them. Several ears of corn, still in the husks, added as a side. Cover the pit with a tarp and let the steam cook the contents.
Engage in an exhilarating game of scrabble on a spread out beach blanket ’til the bake is done (kidding).
I selected two wines to open with the enfolding repast. We started with a Bordeaux Blanc that I had first tasted a week ago when I presented the Wines of Lafite in a tasting. The Les Légendes R Bordeaux ’21 was the perfect apéritif to sip with a selection of olives & cheeses as I got busy prepping the contents of the double lobster pot. Then the “show piece” was Paul Hobbs’ Dry Riesling. Hillick & Hobbs Dry Riesling ’19 is the inaugural release of Hobbs’ new venture in New York State’s Finger Lakes region.
Domaines des Barons Rothschild Les Légendes R Bordeaux Blanc ’21 (Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux)
Les Légendes Bordeaux Blanc comes from the Entre-deux-Mers region. The vineyard rests on the hillsides located between the two rivers South East of Bordeaux: the Dordogne and the Garonne. The 2021 Bordeaux Blanc is a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Sémillon. Pale gold color. The nose is fine and elegant, mixing aromas of white flowers (acacia) with mineral notes. The palate is harmonious, fresh and balanced.
Hillick & Hobbs Estate Dry Riesling ’19 (Seneca Lake, NY)
Situated on the southeastern banks of Seneca Lake, the property was acquired in 2013 and started being converted to riesling one year later. The vineyards are planted to high density and one of the first in the area to run up and down slope similar to those of the Mosel region. Such an expressive nose of white peaches, nectarines, mandarin oranges, white flowers and vanilla. Grows with each swirl of the glass. Intensely mineral and racy palate that feels lighter than it is, because it’s so precise and vibrant, the lime and mineral freshness making the long. dry finish mouthwatering. The first release from David and Paul Hobbs’ Riesling project in the Finger Lakes. 94pts James Suckling
JIM WINSTON’S SIGNATURE CLAMBAKE
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
3 olives stuffed with blue cheese
4 Skinless boneless chicken thighs
8 Small potatoes
4 Ears of corn (preferably with husks on); cut into halves
1lb Smoked sausage cut into 4 pieces
24 Little neck clams
5 bottles/cans of lager beer
A stout bunch of fresh dill
1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
2. Empty the beers into the base part of a lobster pot. Place the fresh dill in the bottom of the upper part of the pot. Put heat to medium-high.
3. Once the beer reaches a low boil, turn heat down to low-medium. Place potatoes into the pot. After 10 minutes add the chicken to the pot for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Adjust the heat to ensure that a steady steam is getting thru to the upper part of the lobster pot. Add the lobsters to the pot.
5. Cook the lobsters for 25-30 minutes. Check 20 minutes in. The lobsters should be fully red. If not, add 10 minutes to cook time.
6. Add the sausages for 5 minutes
7. Adjust the heat to ensure that a steady steam is getting thru to the upper part of the lobster pot. Put the clams into cheesecloth and tie to close into a sack. Add to the pot.
8. When clams open it’s time to tie on the ol’ feed bag!
Recommended serving sequence: 1. Clams & Sausages; 2. Lobster & Corn; 3. Chicken & Potatoes. OR, conversely throw caution to the wind & put everything on to a big platter and proceed to independent selection scarfing down.
n.b. Soft-shell “steamer” clams are the preferred clam type for a true “New England” Clam Bake. I have been using Little Necks because they’re easier to source and they are less fussy to consume.
James R. Winston, YS