Hosting a Clambake


“I think some people try to make it fancy, but I say embrace the messiness of it all,” said caterer Lauren Lombardi, owner of Lombardi’s Love Lane Market in Mattituck. She typically rolls out some butcher paper on the table for an easy clean-up and dumps the bake right down the middle. “Honestly, you might as well get the bibs, too,” she added. Noah Schwartz, chef, and co-owner of Noah’s in Greenport, also choose this approach for a more homey and casual feel. “I definitely always like the really rustic style where you just bring out a bucket and kind of dump it on the table,” he said.

Time it right 

Kaufer Grace & Grit suggests steaming or boiling all the different kinds of seafood in different pots to make the cook times easier and then finishing certain ingredients on the grill for extra flavor. “That way I know when stuff is going to be done,” he said. “If you utilize multiple vessels and a grill, you’re really in control.”

Amp up the flavor 

Just because a clambake is casual doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Lombardi suggests boosting the flavors of the ocean by throwing in seaweed with the cooking liquid. “You can usually get it from your fishmonger,” she said. “That really brings out the saltiness of the ocean, like the essence of it all.” Schwartz will add andouille sausage with the seafood and corn “so it’s a little more of a Spanish style flavor with some smoked paprika” and drawn butter and clam stock on the side for dipping.

Elevate the bake 

If you are looking to fancify a clambake, these experts have some suggestions. Use galvanized buckets for individual servings. “Everyone can have their own plated bowl that’s more composed with a little towel, lemon, and lobster cracker,” Lombardi said. “It looks beautiful, it’s colorful, it has all the mixture, everyone has a little bit of everything.” Kaufer will still plate things family-style but brings in fun garnishes like banana leaves to lay it all out on and colorful flowers to dress it up. Schwartz suggests setting everything out on a large oval platter and “arrange it so that everything is a little bit separate so that people can see what they want.”

Don’t overthink the bar 

Now is not the time to stock the outdoor bar with a dozen different types of liquor and mixers. (If you’re noticing a theme, it’s to keep it simple.) “Here’s where I would definitely lean into the casualness of it,” Kaufer said. “The two best things with a clambake are ice-cold beer and white wine.” Schwartz goes with local Alberiños and rosés, “really nice seafood wines because they have a nice crisp acidity.” We like the Jamesport Vineyard Albariño and Sannino Vineyard Bianca Dolce Rosé.