Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Conversation Went Like This:

Chuck: “What’s our plan for lunch?”

Kate: “I don’t know. What are you hungry for?”

Chuck: “Chicken Pot Pie.”

Kate: “They have that on the menu at Studio Diner.”

Chuck: “If we went there, you could have fried clams.”

Do you detect an ulterior motive here? Not only could he have his chicken pot pie but he could sneak some clams from my plate. He gets the best of both worlds.
Now I am less a fan of chicken pot pie than is Chuck, but I have to admit that the Studio Diner’s version was excellent. Under the thin top crust (no crust on the bottom) sat large chunks of white meat chicken, peas, and carrots. What made this special was the delicious and chicken-flavor intense gravy that had been seasoned with either bay or thyme—or maybe both. This was no gloppy gummy insipid gravy. This was real chicken gravy.

Unlike many chicken pot pies, this one didn’t contain potatoes. Rather, the potatoes were served on the side and were real—meaning with lumps—mashed. The only complaint was that Chuck would have liked more of them.

He had his choice of side vegetables—one being asparagus, which I knew was a non-starter for Chuck—and he picked the green beans.
Like the pot pie, these were excellent. They were thin—not as thin as haricot vert, but thin nonetheless—and were cooked just past the raw point. And I suspect that garlic appeared somewhere in their preparation.

Now let’s take a minute to talk clams. Over the course of our travels, I have learned that there is a big difference between East Coast clams and West Coast clams. In the east, you find such varieties as the quahog. These are very large clams which are usually chopped and used in chowders. “In fish markets there are specialist names for different sizes of this species of clam. The smallest legally harvestable clams are called countnecks, next size up are littlenecks, then topnecks. Above that are the cherrystones, and the largest are called quahogs or chowder clams” (

And if you order steamer clams in New England, you are served soft shell clams. "’Steamers’…are an integral part of the New England clam bake, where they are served steamed whole in the shell, then pulled from the shell at the table and dipped, first in the clam broth in which they were cooked, to rinse away sand, and then in melted butter” ( Steamers are so popular in New England that Maryland exports roughly 90% of Chesapeake Bay's harvest to New England. But on the West Coast, the Pacific Little Neck Clam is the favorite steamer clam.

And in the Northwest, you find that most unusual of creatures—the geoduck. “The geoduck…is a species of very large, edible, saltwater clam….The common name is derived from a Native American word meaning ‘dig deep.’…. The shell of the clam ranges from 15 centimetres (5.9 in) to over 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length, but the extremely long siphons make the clam itself very much longer than this: the ‘neck’ or siphons alone can be 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length” ( This siphon bears a strong resemblance to a certain part of the male anatomy—and, folks, that’s all I am saying on that subject.

But the Ipswich-style whole belly clam is unknown on the West Coast which probably explains why we have been so disappointed by the fried clams—really clam strips—we have eaten in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The clams served at Studio Diner are smaller in size than you can find in New England.
But the larger the clam the larger the belly (the soft squishy part), and the smaller size of these is just fine with Chuck. So I generously passed the smaller pieces from my plate across the table and onto his plate.

But this only whetted his appetite for clams so it wasn’t too many days later that we returned so that we could have his own order—but the return came with one stipulation. This was his turn to share. And let me point out that he was not nearly as generous as was I.

And it was during this visit that we finally noticed that the condiment holders on each table look like film reels.

Now I had a decision to make. I love the clams but at the same time really wanted to try one of the diner’s soups—in particular the Mushroom Brie. This proved to earn a spot on my “All-time Best Mushroom Soup” list. It was full of minced, chopped, and sliced mushrooms and had an intensely woody and earthy flavor. You didn’t really taste the cheese, but it added rich depth to the overall dish.

I knew that with a rich soup that I would need to order a light accompaniment so order the day’s “Blue Plate Special”—the Veggie Quesadilla. Sandwiched between two spinach-flecked flour tortillas were chopped mushrooms (Yes, more mushrooms.), tomatoes, and onions along with roasted corn kernels.
This would have been pretty boring if not for the corn. Each kernel had one or more brown spots from the roasting and these imparted a nice nutty taste to the quesadilla.

Now these were two 5.0 Addie lunches and have left us hungry for more clams.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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