Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A bill in my home state of Massachusetts will make the quahog the state shellfish. What?! Did I hear a snicker out of you? Surely it’s because you don’t understand the magnificence of the quahog. And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced co-hog, not qwa-hog as a delusional Midwestern executive chef once tried to tell me. Who did the staff believe? Me, of course. Respect. Of course you know how to pronounce quahog if you’re a Family Guy fan.

But what about the soft-shelled clam? Doesn’t it have rights to the state shellfish title? Will it be edged out by the hard-shelled quahog? Fried clams and steamers vs. chowder, cherrystones and stuffies? That’s a tough one.

That’s not the only news out of the Massachusetts State House. Another bill is pending to make Rex Trailer the state cowboy. Surely that one will pass unanimously. My first brush with TV fame was on the Rex Trailer show. I only remember a procession through the set and then having pancakes with Cactus Pete. It was very exciting. Boom, Boom, Boomtown!

Continuing with the Massachusetts theme, did you know that New Bedford is the largest U.S. commercial fishing port? They can thank their scallop fishery for that status. In 2009 the scallop harvest was valued at $249 million, according to the latest federal fishery statistics. “And scallops, unlike lobster, have proven remarkably recession proof with prices rising steadily through the downturn even as the amount caught held relatively steady.” I keep an eye out for sales on scallops at Harris Teeter; their selection always looks fresher than scallops in other markets. The next time I buy some, I’m making Baked Buzzards Bay Scallops – quick, easy and so delicious.

One of my favorite breweries outside North Carolina, New Belgium, is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Twice recently on visits to the Busy Bee Cafe I swooned over their Dunkelweiss. Last night I bought of six-pack of their summer seasonal, Somersault Ale, a kolsch they describe as “a perfect, summer lounge-around ale that is easy to drink.” Yes, it is. My next six-pack purchase will be from a North Carolina brewery. I support my local brewers whenever I can, but since I’m a beer geek and like to try new things, I usually alternate between NC and out of state beers. However, I must confess, because I’m in a constant battle with the bulge, I keep Yuengling Light Lager in stock as my summer house beer. At only 99 calories, it’s my compromise refreshment beer.

Whenever someone I know goes to northern California to visit the wine country, they always head to Napa or Sonoma. I did too until I moved to Sacramento and discovered the more modest wineries hidden among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. You’ll especially love that area if you’re a Rhone lover like me or a Zin fan. Just 30 minutes from Sac, you’ll find really good wine at more reasonable prices than Napa or Sonoma in a setting that is often more gorgeous. You won’t have to pony up money for tasting fees. At some wineries you may feel like you’re in a rec room or dressed-up shed, but the person pouring wine might just be the vintner. There’s gold in them thar hills!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Robert Louis Stevenson: “Wine is bottled poetry.”

And now, W.C. Fields: “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”

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2 thoughts on “The Sunday Table: June 26, 2011

  1. JIm says:

    As a boy born and raised in New Bedford and Mattapoisett respectively, I get a chuckle and cringe every time I hear a Chef or waiter in Chicago say “sca laps “. I immediately interject and say what ? and they keep saying it over and over , finally saying “Oh you mean “SCOLOPS ” !!!!!! [ My wife hates when I do it !! But i can’t resist correcting the weird neutral accents they have here in the midwest !!!

    1. deirdrereid says:

      I love that I still say “scollops” especially since I’ve lost so much of my southern MA accent. When I managed McCormick & Schmick’s in Reston VA, the executive chef, from the midwest, insisted that quahog was pronounced “qwahog” and not “cohog.” He was a good buddy but we had crazy arguments about it every time they appeared on our menu. I mean really, who the hell was he to argue with me, a native? But he did. I can’t remember if the argument was ever resolved. Qwahog, ha!

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