This ain't your grandma's clambake
-4 Snaps! Strongly recommended
In this age of veg-centric dining it’s great to find an old-school seafood community based eating event. A low country boil (aka tide water boil) is the South’s version of a New England clambake. Take some catch of the day shell fish, add sausage and corn on the cob, and boil it all in a pot of water spiked with Old Bay seasoning. After 10 minutes drain it and pour it all out on a table to share communally.
Locale Market in St Pete was having one and it sounded perfect, especially given the expertise of the kitchen staff there. Saturday evening's cool weather was just right for some warm food and the air at the market was filled with the distinct smell of Old Bay. Three pots steamed away as Locale Executive Chef Jeffrey Hileman and staff dropped in bushels full of fresh crustaceans, boxed them up, and handed them over to ticket holders.
Tickets were offered in advance ($14.99- price has gone up $2 since last year), with a choice of seating’s at 5:00, 6:00 or 7:00. Advanced purchasing was wise as they sold out the last of the 230 spots the morning of the event. For that price patrons got a premeasured basket full of seafood, corn and potatoes. It's a righteous amount of seafood for 15 bucks. My box had seven craw-fish, three jumbo Gulf shrimp, six 2 Docs clams and PEI mussels, three slices of alligator andouille sausage, and two new potatoes and corn halves each. The key to the ingredients is including items that can be boiled together for the same amount of time. It was spot on.
Those without a ticket could still order items by the pound à la carte. A lobster dinner was $20.00, clams $8, shrimp $10, mussels $7, craw-fish $10.
Service went remarkably fast at the 5:00 seating, but the 6:00 slot not so much. I think more people showed up for that time slot and the temporary kitchen couldn’t keep up. Folks in line were grumbling about how long they had to wait. The couple behind me said they attended the last boil and there were no delays. The bottle neck seemed to be confusion over the à la carte orders and the process of order fulfillment. In the rush I saw them throw away a food ticket before it was filled causing some frustration and further back up. I’d advise having another line for that service, but they didn’t ask me. All in all, I'd go back. I love the idea of community dining, the food itself was worth the wait, and I can’t easily drive to New England for a clam bake.
This was the third or fourth iteration of this event and Chef Hileman says they hope to offer it once a quarter. Watch for another one in the spring. If you go, think about choosing the earlier time slot and buy your ticket early!