How to Hold a Back-Yard Clambake Without Lifting a Finger


I was wearing a bib. He was not. The lobster claw in my hand went flying across our dining room table and dove to the floor. “Waiter,” I called. The dog came over instead, sniffed, and left. “Next time,” my unbibbed companion announced, “we’re doing this at a restaurant, a crowded restaurant near some significant body of water on a Sunday evening when we are hot and sticky and burned. And some big guy will come over with the bread and tell me he ain’t serving if I don’t wear the outfit. That’s what lobster is about.”

“You liked the clam chowder,” I said.

We both liked the clam chowder that New England Clambakes of Southern California had delivered. We both liked the coleslaw and the clam broth and the great heap of steamed mussels that vanished in about two minutes. We weren’t mad about the clams, though, rather tough little real steamers, yet they disappeared too. And it wasn’t the dog who ate them.

In fact, we even thought that the 1 1/4-pound full-fledged Atlantic lobsters were about as juicy and sweet as you can get here. Still, something was wrong: the milieu.


No Panache at Home

The unbibbed one sees gritty seaside restaurants in his lobster/clambake dreams. And I can’t get Rotary Club Cape Cod suppers with giant pits dug on the beach out of my mind. Dribbling seafood juice at home, a deux , lacks panache.

It’s not New England Clambakes of Southern California’s fault, even if its name is oxymoronic. The company delivers on time, sending everything promised--from the drawn butter and oyster crackers to the ripe slices of watermelon tucked into aluminum foil, baked rolls and the steadfast plastic lobster-printed bibs. And who else delivers lobster dinners to your home with the centerpiece flown into L.A. from its fleet of lobster boats?

Primarily geared to do full-scale parties, most prices are based on a 50-person guest list. The company does wrap parties, business outings, weddings and, since a children’s menu is available, probably lots of spoiled Hollywood kid’s birthdays--in short, festive, swarming events--with experienced bakemasters sent to prepare the banquet in situ .

Why Do It at All?

Now frankly, even though the clam chowder is the creamy, real thing and the portions are large and, as I mentioned before, the lobster’s quite succulent, I’m still not sure why you would want to order the Lobster/Clambake Dinner for Two for $59.95 (plus tax and tip to the driver) unless you’re the kind of person who refuses to wear party hats on Dec. 31 and wears bibs only in the privacy of your home.

Since my unbibbed sidekick wants lobsters and clams au restaurant, I checked on some prices around town. A couple of places offer a nearly identical “clambake” dinner, i.e., Maine lobster and steamed mussels and/or clams; several venues serve slight variants. Hymie’s Fish Market serves a clambake dinner for $22.95 per person. The clambake at Gladstone’s 4 Fish is $34.95 per person.

Of course, there is something terrific about having the cooked goods brought to your door, particularly if you loathe jamming tenaciously live lobsters into a pot. And if someone else could foot the bill for 50 of my closest friends (at $29.95 x 50 + tax and service charge), I’d happily call New England Clambakes of Southern California again.

New England Clambake of Southern California, 8306 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 811, Beverly Hills. Call (800) 635-3241. Full catering. Dinner for two: $59.95 plus tax and tip. Free delivery in most areas. Only cash or personal checks accepted.