Sometimes you just have to spoil yourself….after some really busy days at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and a sold out Gloucester History sail aboard Schooner Ardelle, I felt I deserved a treat. It’s been months since I last had fried clams and working in the epicenter of “clam row” can be torture as I get to smell them all day long. I had enough, I decided I was actually going to eat lunch today and it is going to be those deep-fried golden morsels of deliciousness that I covet more than nearly anything else.
But from where?
The Village has my favorite fried clams, but I’ve already told you about them. World famous Woodman’s invented the things over a hundred years ago, but I don’t have the time to wait in line. Right across the street along the Essex River is C.K. Pearl, a relative newcomer to the Essex Causeway, but with roots in the local restaurant scene. My wife and I tried it out last year and we both enjoyed it so I figured why not call them and see what the market price was for an order of fried clams. At a little under $24 it was on par with the other restaurant prices so I ordered a lunch portion and took a stroll to pick them up.
Although the interior is very nice, and they have riverside seating outdoors, I’m on the clock, and besides…I think I got the best view in town! You know, I’ve worked here for over 10 years now and I’m still in awe of the fact that I get to eat such great food, invented down the street, and get to eat them on the site of a shipyard that launched thousands of wooden vessels for the Gloucester fishing fleet.
And how were the fried clams? Very, very good. I fried many an Essex clam in my early 20’s. The secret to a good fried clam in Essex is about the breading and careful frying in clean oil. The quality of the clam is not in question, so it’s the ratio of flour to cornmeal, the use of lard or vegetable oils and how often that oil is changed, that makes a difference.
There was something in the breading used by C.K. Pearl that I couldn’t put my finger on, but it made for a very tasty fried clam. Just to be sure I had Amanda, one of our tour guides and also a commercial clammer herself, try a couple. She agreed, they were very good and a tiny bit different, but in a good way. The only thing negative I have to say is their to-go boxes are too thick, if I didn’t open the box while walking back, the clams and fries would have gotten soggy from the steam. Then again I’m not sure how many take-out orders they get for clams.
There are a lot of things on C.K. Pearl’s menu I’m looking forward to trying on future visits, but it’s good to know that I have another excellent fried clam option just a stroll down the Essex Causeway.