Spring is a season of color, warmth and renewal. In terms of food, spring marks the onset of picnics, barbecues and farmer’s markets. More importantly though, the spring reintroduces us to the long-craved presence of fresh food. The winter deprives us of freshness in our daily diets, and thus the spring is truly a breath of fresh air for our stomachs. While fruits and vegetables are typically under the spotlight for foodies during the spring, other culinary bright spots tend to fly under the radar. Personally, although I adore many seasonal delights, I am partial to fresh seafood. While many varieties of fish are available year-round, seafood reaches the apex of its freshness during the spring.
In order to take advantage of this seasonal perk, my family and I embarked on a journey to Stowe’s Seafood in West Haven, Connecticut (http://www.stowesseafood.com/menu). Stowe’s is an old-fashioned joint that has been slinging fresh fish to hungry patrons for generations. The interior of Stowe’s resembles that of a pirate ship. After entering the shack-like structure of Stowe’s, you are greeted by a slew of nautical knick-knacks and buccaneer-themed tchotchkes. The floor is scattered with miscellaneous wooden oars and steering wheels, and the walls are adorned with carved coconut heads and tattered maps. To top it all off, there is a wooden sculpture of a hook-handed, sword-wielding pirate near the door, and the tables are decorated with the classic skull-and-crossbones.
After admiring the unique atmosphere of Stowe’s, we made our way to “the crow’s nest” of the restaurant, so to speak. The ordering counter at Stowe’s, is nestled comfortably beside a rinky dink freezer case lined with a vast seafood selection. As we “oh’ed and ah’ed” at the beautiful array of fish, we formulated our order. Our culinary blueprint consisted of a Haddock Boat, a Fresh Clams Boat, a Shrimp Boat and Onion Rings.
Wondering what a seafood “boat” is? Let me tell you. Built in a red and white checkered, thick paper container, a seafood “boat” consists of a steaming tangle of French fries, and a jumble of fried seafood. Additionally, the seafood “boat” is served alongside fresh cole slaw, a lemon wedge and a cup of creamy tartar sauce.
Personally, I ordered the Fresh Clams Boat but if I were to do it again, I would definitely have gotten the Shrimp Boat. The Shrimp Boat was made up of plump, juicy shrimp encased in crisp, golden-brown batter, served over a nest of perfectly salted fries. While the concept of fried fish and French fries is not one that is overly complex, it is one that’s difficulty is often underestimated. Luckily for us, Stowe’s perfectly executed the classic seafood preparation.
The fresh clams were cloaked in the same glassy batter-shells as the shrimp, but the sheer juiciness and meatiness of clams was unparalleled by any other fish that we sampled. The clams were tender and sweet, the ideal flavors and textures to encounter when eating seafood. While the mind may drift to thoughts of rubber-like clam strips, the robust fresh clams at Stowe’s were essentially the opposite.
The Haddock Boat was magnificent. Initially, I wasn’t incredibly excited to trudge through a heavy batch of oily fish and chips, but after my first bite of haddock those worries dissipated. The haddock’s flesh was steamy and buttery, and its delicate, crispy coating complemented the succulent fish nicely. Contrary to my expectations, the haddock was actually was quite light and airy in texture, as well as mouth-feel.
In order to get a break from the abundance of starch we had consumed thus far, we ordered a boat of Onion Rings. The crumbly rings were stacked to towering heights, to the point that they had far eclipsed the edge of the container. The onions were thinly sliced and not excessively battered, providing the ideal ratio between crust and vegetable.
Overall my trip to Stowe’s was the perfect way to welcome in the spring. The atmosphere was one of a kind, the food was superb and the experience was unforgettable. I would give ZZZZ – 4 Z’s – Awesome!