Thursday, August 14, 2008
Let me back up. We went to the beach today, as is our wont on 100+-degree days. Today, by some twist of full moon Twilight Zone disturbia, it took us about three hours to make the 80 mile drive to Seaside, or the "Coney Island of the Oregon Coast", as I like to call it. When we crested the bluffs that overlook the mouth of the mighty Columbia and crossed Youngs Bay to make our way south from Astoria, we were met with cold, gray fog. Uncharacteristically optimistic, I mused that it was suddenly perfect weather for clam chowder. And clam chowder we sought.
But not before I got my sweet tooth on.
This store also boasts the largest selection of specialty sodas in the Universe, for better or worse. I love root beer ever so much, but many of these ones were too sweet and lacked the crisp sassafras bite. Did you know that while the root of Sassafras spp. is used for flavoring the beverage (hence, "root" beer), the ground, dried leaves are used to make filé, which is used as an alternative to roux for thickening gumbo.
Candy apples and chocolate-covered twinkies. Is there any better anti-depressant? This kid was so cute, pink cheeked and eager to please. He gave me a free sample of rocky road fudge (my favorite) after I asked if I could photograph him for my blog. If I were 15 years younger I would have such a huge crush on him. Teenagers having summer jobs in candy stores is a good vibe.
The friendly beach town is also the source of many nightmares. Creepy/unintentionally hilarious window displays are pretty much par for the course. The richly-embroidered hats were for sale in the Freedom Sportswear store. This store also had giant, fluorescent yellow sweatshirts that said the oddly specific "Seaside, OR Summer 2008", or just had a silk-screened image of the holy crucifix. Flo yellow is not Jesus' color. He's more of an autumn, really.
Anyways, so we did end up getting some chowder and crab cakes at the Happy Clam.
After tasting samples of the clam and seafood chowders, I opted for the tangier seafood chowder, which included bay shrimp, chopped scallops and cod, in addition to clams (not sure if they were razor or littleneck). The waitress insisted there was no cheese in the soup, but there was definitely something about this chowder. Beer? Mustard powder? It tasted like a good cheddar and beer soup with seafood. The clam chowder was passable - nothing wrong with it, but not stellar.
This photo is a testament to the power of a well-composed shot. Not that I'm bragging. But this this is a handsome-looking plate of food, right? You're drooling a little, I can see it from here. Unfortunately, looks are all it has going for it. The "crab cakes" were a complete travesty, a bastardization of a perfect food, and a disrespect to my Cancer brethren. The insult was that crab had been overworked and diluted with far too much breading. The injury was that the cakes were left for dead in a deep fryer until they turned to leaden pucks of MDF.
The food was really the least of the Happy Clam's worries, though. When you come in, you first notice that the only people here are the two staff and one very young woman (probably the daughter of the waitress?) with her infant in a stroller. The walls are mostly bare, except for some sad-looking paint-by-numbers of broken boats and moorage, a neon Pabst sign and some fake houseplants. There are flies smacking into each other and the window. You just get the sense that this place is poor.
It did, however, provide us with a seat, a view, a beer and some chowder, without having to wait for a table. If you're interested, their menu's (sic) are available at their unsurprisingly design-challenged website, which actually does a much better job of summarizing the Happy Clam experience than any snarky blog post from an uppity city bitch .
The Happy Clam
21 N. Columbia