Having now been downsized to a dynamic duo, Zany and I decide to drown our sorrows in chowder.
We return to the site of our recent crime, the Beacon Restaurant & Bar on 56th, where Mr. Pink continues to do a brisk lunch business of double hot dogs. This time, the occasion is Beacon’s annual “Chowder Fest” that starts at 6:30PM. Evening dining is kind of a new thing for us. It feels very grown up. So does eating indoors. At a table.
Inside, the Beacon looks like a Beach Boys single come to life. Our friend Katie from the Side Door is greeting guests and she’s decked out like Annette Funicello in one of those beach blanket movies. Okay, maybe more like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
Beach BabyWe get these neat little white paper hats to wear. A guy at another table has written “Everybody Loves Fish” on his paper hat. New Yorkers have turned out in droves, but there is not a Speedo in sight.
Katie has seated us at “the fun table” where we meet the guys from Brooklyn Brewery who have supplied the beverages for the evening. There is also a guy who calls himself “Chowder Mark.” He works in the art work and rides motor cycles.
After finding our seats, we push our way to the chowder bar. We have a choice of New England Clam Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Grilled Corn and Potato Chowder and Fulton Street Seafood Chowder. We politely request one of each.
We love the thick, chunky clam flavor of the New England Chowder and the sultry smokiness of the Fulton Street Seafood Chowder.
The staff is passing some spunky fried clam rolls. With these, we are at serious risk of spoiling our appetites.
Zany is getting into the spirit. I note that she has shed her street shoes and is now wearing flip flops. I ask her about her worst beach experience ever.
“When I got splinters on both feet on the boardwalk at Atlantic City and had to listen to my mother’s “I told you so” speech,” she says. “My best beach experience was discovering fried Oreos under the boardwalk at Atlantic City.”
You gotta love her.
Next we’re served an entire bed of oysters, clams and mussels, wood roasted and served in broth and on the half shell.
Within minutes, there are 25 or more empty shells scattered in front of us. We collect them in a beach pail. Zany takes a deep breath.
“And now for the rest of the dinner,” she says.
At this moment, we are joined by two Johns from Staten Island who took the scenic route and arrived late. They are from a bar in Staten Island called The Wild Goose Pub. John #1 has the title Head Goose on his card. John #2 doesn’t like most seafood. Is he at the right party?
“They come from Brooklyn, they come from Staten Island,” says Zany. “Chowder Fest is an International Affair.”
Chowder Mark and the Johns decide to engage in a variety of Fish Tales, like the hazards of eating goldfish and infamous shark attacks. Just as it’s all getting a little sordid, the fried chicken arrives at the table. Someone asks, “When was the last time you saw chicken in an ocean?”
“I did see a rooster in Key West,” says Zany. “That counts.”
What’s most important is that the chicken is crispy, spicy and delicious and John #2 has something to eat. “At Chowder Fest there are no rules,” notes John #1.
Chowder Mark and John #1 skillfully pitch in to hold the food as I take pictures. They could get work as hand models.
Zany and I speculate that Mad Me-Shell – who is now on the road to Chicago – is probably eating at some sorry Interstate rest stop.
Next comes the Lobster Invasion. “I think this could make me get over the Burger Truck,” says Zany who is nearly salivating.
“Do you think the lobster is local?” I ask.
“Define local,” says Zany. “If it was caught anywhere east of 56th Street, I consider it local.” She prepares to attack.
We stab our forks into succulent roasted lobster meat that is drenched in basil butter.
“It takes all five senses to experience Chowder Fest,” says John #1. He’s become the philosopher in our group.
We finish things off with about a dozen Whoopee Pies and chocolate chip cookies. The two Johns and Chowder Mark decide to call it a night. We suggest that the two Johns take the Staten Island Ferry home as it’s the most direct route.
Zany and I are pretty happy (although Zany would have liked to have seen Mr. Pink). We’ve made some new friends, and we’ve stuffed our faces. What could be better? Maybe a summer cookout on the beach? But, wait – we did that – and we didn’t even have to leave Manhattan!
The last thing I remember is a beach ball flying over our heads, and the sound of the Beach Boys drowning out the free-flowing Brooklyn Beer.
Poor Mad Me-Shell. She’s going to miss New York.
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved