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Get your Happy Ending at The Wharf
August 12, 2012
We have guests in town for the weekend. They visit us for just about every booze fueled holiday and celebration that the city of Tampa hosts and Eric, being half Chinese has partied hard enough to expose his Asian flush for each and every one of them. We’ve stumbled down Bayshore blvd for Gasparilla and donned costumes for Guavaween. Four visits to Tampa and not one of them has seen the white sandy beaches of our Gulf Coast so this weekend we’ve planned a trip to the beach. You don’t sail guests through uncharted waters so this is no time for culinary exploration. The sailing is always smooth at the Wharf in Pass-a-Grille which is why it’s one of my favorite dives in all of the Tampa Bay area.
You can get peel and eat shrimp anywhere so don’t waste your time. There are four things you must have when you go to the wharf:
- Lobster bites – massive chunks of lobster tail meat dusted in seasoned flour, flash fried and served with drawn butter. There are few things that get me going more than pretty much just about anything wrapped in bacon but if you have the cojones to deep fry a food and serve it with clarified butter then you’re all right in my book!
- Blue Crab Claws – too many people find blue crabs to be a novelty. The idea of a traditional crab boil is fun. Crabs, Red Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, and Sausage, all boiled up together in a vat of Old Bay seasoned steaming liquid. What with the cracking, hammering and picking of tasty morsels of lump, back fin and claw meat – it sounds glorious right? Conceptually yes, but not if you’re hungry. Let’s face it; the reality is that serving a whole steamed blue crab is the equivalent of Tom Sawyer convincing his buddies that white washing a fence is fun. It’s a tease and a dirty deception. There is a reason why many of the crab processing plants throughout the country employ illegal illegals. It’s because no one else wants to do the damn work. At the wharf you can avoid all the things you hate about eating blue crab and enjoy them for what they were meant: succulent shell less lumps of claw meat warmed by the bath of white wine, butter, garlic and parsley sauce in which they swim.
- Ipswich Clams – this item wouldn’t have made my list several years ago but a lot has changed in my life since then. On August 4th, 2012 I will marry the love of my life who we all know affectionately as “Meatball.” My first visit to the Wharf was pre-Meatball and I must admit that it was one of those “bachelor types” of days. It was a long day of basking (boozing) in the Florida sunshine at Caddy’s on the beach after a haze of shots and buckets of beer. Let’s just say there were only 2 good things that came from the decisions made on that day: I was introduced to the Wharf and I didn’t catch anything that couldn’t be cured. How did we get here again? Oh yeah, Clams! Well I didn’t have the Ipswich Clams during my first visit but fast forward several years and thanks to Michelle I’ve gained a whole new appreciation. Ipswich is a small coastal town just south of the Maine border in Massachusetts. Legend suggests that these soft shelled relatives to their harder cousin, the quahog were first harvested from the mud flat, battered and fried in lard by local restaurateur, Lawrence Wood in the town of Ipswich. But that was a long time ago and with many classics, the colloquial name remains but the product varies: Champagne, Coney, Boston Cream, Key Lime, Buffalo Wings, and California Roll to name a few. The only relevant example of the aforementioned is Champagne because like grapes, clams are grown in the ground and their flavor is ultimately influenced by the soil so it is for that reason that the only sparkling wine worthy of the name Champagne is actually that which is grown in the Champagne region of France. The same goes for Ipswich Clams (with less anal French regulation of course). I don’t know if the Wharf’s clams are actually from Ipswich but as long as they come from the muddy tidal flats of the north east, they will burst with the boldly pungent and silky smooth texture akin to clams from the region. Let me clarify this subject and move on before I lose you. An Ipswich Clam is no deep fried clam strip. When you order the Ipswich Clams you’re ordering the massage with a happy ending. These clams include the fully belly. They are lightly coated in seasoned flour, flash fried and served with cocktail and tarter sauces. If you’re not an adventurous eater then don’t waste you’re time. The Meatball Chronicles are about adventures – most are social but this one will definitely be culinary.
- Draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a frosty mug. So what if the blue ribbon was won several hundred years ago. Its American owned and American brewed and if you don’t enjoy it then you’re probably a communist.
Speaking of communist, my half-Asian counterpart also ordered the buffalo shrimp, oysters Diane and conch fritters, all of which were amazing. I don’t even know why the Wharf has entrees. Meatball and I have never made it past the appetizer menu and on our first date to the Wharf we almost didn’t make it out together. We’ve never had a fight but she nearly broke up with me that day. It’s a story for another day or comment on the post below and we’ll keep the story going!