News and Reviews: Clout & About

Clout & About

Sun, Sea and Sam's Chowder House

July 9, 2011
by Anna del Rosario

We pay a premium to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Real estate is probably one of the most expensive in the US because you have almost perfect weather all year round, and the proximity to sand, sea and snow is no more than a couple hours, depending on where you live.

Lucky me, I live 10 miles from Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean; it’s a straight shot down the hill. So, having the luxury of an extended vacation from work, I get up late on a glorious weekday morning, look out my window and call Clive, an old British buddy of mine who has exchanged his corporate suit for a fishing vest in Half Moon Bay, California. I’ve made this exact call to Clive exactly a year ago: “Hey Clive! Run out of your house and grab us a patio table at Sam’s Chowder House. If it’s full, just grab a bunch of  adirondack chairs so we can have lunch oceanfront and get a tan at the same time! Oh-wait- I’m assuming you’re free?”  (Well, of course I knew he’d be free!)

Sam's Chowder House
Sam's Chowder House, Half Moon Bay, CA

Lunch outing at Sam's Chowder House
A Lunch Outing on a Whim...with Clive

Sam’s Chowder House gets written about mostly for their killer lobster roll which is actually pretty darn good, and if you haven’t had it yet, you’re missing one of Half Moon Bay’s treasures. The creation of executive chef Lewis Rossman, the dish is one of the Top Five Best Sandwiches in the USA which is no easy feat, considering you’ve got 50 states to choose from, and a sandwich available in probably every corner. Lewis, native of Philadelphia, has traveled to the Mediterranean and brought his experiences in Greece, Turkey and Italy to his kitchens at Acquerello (Ten best Italian Restaurants in the USA while he was their chef de cuisine); Cetrella (Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants for 3 years in a row, with a Lewis as the executive chef), and now to Sam’s. It just recently won 31 Best Seafood Restaurant and #1 Best Waterfront Dining in San Francisco’s Best of the Bay List 2011.

Lewis Rossman, Executive Chef and Co-owner of Sam's Chowder House
Lewis Rossman, Executive Chef and co-owner of Sam's Chowder House

Having had the lobster roll before, my goal was this time around was to sample other menu items and see if they were ‘list-worthy’. Lewis did not disappoint.

clam chowder, mahi mahi sandwich, shrimp scampi, gumbo with crab

From left to right, top to bottom:

CLAM CHOWDER – I can honestly say this was the best I’ve had - and I’ve had a lot to compare to. Not heavy on the flour to thicken the clam broth nor overloaded with potatoes, the chowder was light and savory; the perfect blend of clams, potatoes, bacon, onions and thyme. Definitely worth naming a whole restaurant after.

GRILLED MAHI-MAHI SANDWICH – We had two versions: One with a toasted bun and one without (for me, the no-carb queen). Served with a pepperonata atop, the fish was grilled so it had a slight crisp on the edges while maintaining its moisture in the center. I would have preferred my pepperonata on the side to keep the freshness of the fish highlighted, but my sister loved the combination of the mixed peppers sauteed on olive oil mixed with the Mahi-Mahi as a sandwich.

SHRIMP SCAMPI – YAY!!! Finally a scampi made the way it should be: simple, fresh and clean. And no cream!! I almost jumped out of my chair to kiss him for making a pure, perfect scampi. (Lewis is kinda cute. Actually, he’s gorgeous and this would have been a good excuse to give him a hug and a kiss. However, the scampi was exactly how I like it, so I would have kissed him if he was a frog.) Scampi should be made with just the right touch of garlic (not the whole field), cooked in butter, white wine, and fresh herbs heighten the flavors and that’s it. And that’s exactly what we got. The prawns he used were taken off the fire at the precise time to keep it plump and perfect.

NEW ORLEANS STYLE GUMBO – Topped with dungeness crab, this dish was mm-mmm-mmm!!! The andouille sausage in the gumbo gives it just the right amount of zing. This is a one-dish meal, and when enjoyed with a cool beer, what’s not to like!?

cheesecake with blackberry cream and slice of key lime pie

CHEESE CAKE with BLACKBERRY CREAM: Light and fluffy, Sam’s cheese cake was divine! Layered on top of an oreo cookie crust and drizzled with fresh blackberry sauce, this pie was decadent and delicious and sinful. The contrast between the bitter chocolate of the oreo cookie, the hint of sweetness of the cheese cake and the tartness of the sauce made it an interesting and delightful intersection of flavors and textures.

KEY LIME PIE: All I can say about Sam’s Key Lime Pie is, “Kill me now!” Now, THIS was a home run, and worth topping any best-dessert lists. Silence followed our first bite. Almost like we needed to pay homage and bow our heads to this masterpiece. Then, all I could muster was “Holy C**p…that’s good!” To which, my lunch companions including Clive, replied with something similarly descriptive. It was unanimous: this was the key lime pie to end all key lime pies. And an EXCELLENT way to end our fabulous, ocean front meal.

Sam's Chowder House specials board
Sam's Chowder House - Good Stuff!

Sam’s has something for everyone: a live band in the afternoons playing in the patio and $1 dollar Oysters on Tuesdays; not to mention crayons and a coloring menu for kids (mine was 17 and still took home her work of art). But the best thing about Sam’s on a summer day is that everyone there is happy. The food is great, the chef is cute, the wait staff is friendly, the view is unparalleled and it’s easy to get to. Oh – and the key lime pie is a killer.

So what are you waiting for!??

Photography by Lulu del Rosario, fototeqnika