Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Clamman
North Sea Road, Southampton, NY
631-283-6437
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo









You know how its said that seafood is at its best when its fresh? It should also be cooked knowledgeably and well to be at its best, but if you start with a good product, the prospects of success is that much higher. And if you don't catch your own, then you'd best have a purveyor you can trust.

To generations of people on the east end of Long Island, this purveyor went by the name of "Clamman" and the people in this little shack not only have a lobster pound and cut the seafood fresh, they also cooked it for your dinner, or for a big party. Like many fishmongers in this here parts, they specialized in clambakes to take out or to come to you. It's a very New England tradition, and the eastern end of Long Island observes it. Even if politically, they are in New York State. If you extend a line upwards from Montauk Point, you'll end up in Cape Cod ... all the same geological formation.

They also sell chowders and soups by the pint or the quart, and in addition to their fresh seafood, they also have frozen things like langoustines, or green-lipped mussels. And like most fishmongers, they will also sell staples like rice or pasta or bread, as well as lemons and bottled and store-made sauces. Chalkboards above the deli cases price out the specials, letting you konw "what's good" today.

A note about their fresh seafood — they never have enough, which is an important point. They cut as much as they believe they can sell. In the seafood business, better to fall a bit short than have it go bad. They have enough of a selection that if you can't get one thing, they will happily recommend something else just as good. The men and women behind the counter are knowledgable and will give general preparations tips, too.

I come here for the smoked fish, which they do themselves. I used to think they'd smoke anything they had leftover at the end of the day. It's possible that's what they used to do. Sometimes the smoke was very strong in flavor and the meat could be dry. So I learned to go after the oilier fish like bluefish or something dense like swordfish or marlin.

It seems they've learned more about smoking because the vittles in the smoked fish case were oily fish like chilean seabass, black bass, bluefish, salmon. Salmon belly meat was also made into jerky, which was chewier and sweeter. We don't eat it here, instead taking it home and buying some decent fresh bagels and cream cheese for a great Sunday breakfast. It's not inexpensive — about $30 a pound, but it fed four with seconds, more than adequately.

Long ago, they would serve a clambake in a clean paintcan. You put it on your barbecue or open fire on the beach until it boils, time it for 20 minutes, then enjoy the clam bake. Wonder if they still do that? I don't think so, it seemed people were picking up their lobsters in aluminum-covered baking pans, but maybe it's a variation. A clambake is traditionally lobster, hard clams, softshell clams, corn on the cob, new potatoes (the pink pontiacs), chicken, sausage, and lots of drawn butter. (Commercial versions tend to skip the meat, cooking it separately or replacing it with grilled steaks for surf and turf.)

One society matron type was complaining, "This doesn't look like a 3 pound lobster," when she was given her foil covered baking tray. So they weighed it for her and it tipped the scales at much higher, of course. I'm wondering how many 3 lb lobsters she'd seen, I doubt they're that common. It was good to see that the Clamman (or in this case, the Clamchick) was not phased by the criticism, though she warned, "It's a different weight after it's cooked, next time ask for it to be weighed before you have it cooked."

And if you'd prefer to wait outside in the balmy weather while your seafood cooks, there are little benches amidst flowerbeds and ice machines for you to enjoy. Inside, they have free newspapers for children, targetted at grandparents. Oddly nostalgic — this is the type of place, curiously, where one learns to love fish under the guidance of Grandpa and Grandma, not Mom and Dad. That makes the Clamman the best uncle, ever, as well as the perfect purveyor of seabeasts!


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