The quahog and the grape — a unique pairing
On Route 1A in Westerly, a short drive from the Atlantic Ocean, Joe and Gail Sharry tend to the grapes that they turn into wine.
Across the Connecticut border, just 6 miles away, Sharon Clachrie mixes the ingredients for one of her big sellers: stuffed clams.
This weekend, the wines of Langworthy Farm Winery and the stuffies of Seafood Etc. will come together in what some would consider an unlikely pairing.
Stuffies on the Deck is a popular annual event at Langworthy hosted by the Sharrys, who planted their first vines in the spring of 2002 and opened the winery to the public three years later.
Relaxing on the deck overlooking the vineyard, guests can try a stuffed clam - regular, Italian or seafood - and some of Langworthy's 11 wines, which include Misquamicut Merlot, Rhody Riesling, Shelter Harbor Chardonnay, Pequot Pinot Noir and Westerly White.
Stuffed quahogs - more commonly called "stuffies" by the locals - are a New England summer staple consisting of a bread crumb and minced clam mixture that is baked and served on the half shell. In Stonington, Portuguese immigrants added linguica or chorizo.
Wine is probably more often served alongside lobster, shrimp or scallops than the pedestrian quahog, but the Sharrys say they go very well together.
A good pairing, they say, would be an Italian stuffie with Westerly White, a subtle blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes; or the Watch Hill Merlot, which has a hint of vanilla and cherry that balances the spiciness of the hot sausage.
Seafood Etc. in Pawcatuck makes four varieties: regular, Italian, Portuguese and seafood. All start with quahogs from Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
The Italian features hot sausage, red and green peppers, onions, garlic, hot sauce, Cajun spices, clam juice from both the clam and bottle, paprika and coarse bread crumbs from Vocatura Bakery in Norwich. Seafood Etc., which also has a store in Norwich, created the Italian stuffie so they could participate in the city's Taste of Italy.
The seafood stuffie substitutes crackers for the bread crumbs and includes shrimp, scallops and imitation crabmeat.
Seafood Etc. serves the stuffies on scallop shells that they buy because it's too time consuming to clean the clam shells. Put them in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes, add the juice of a lemon or a shot of hot sauce and dig in.
Or grab a glass of wine and leave the cooking to Langworthy and Seafood Etc.
What is a quahog?
The quahog is a hard-shell clam, not to be confused with the soft-shell clams used for steamers. The quahog, or chowder clam, is used in chowders, clamcakes and stuffies. Littlenecks and cherrystones are smaller hard-shell clams that might be found in a raw bar or used to make clams casino.
Quahog comes from the Narragansett Indian name "poquauhock." The Narragansetts used quahog shells to make beads that they used as wampum.
The open ocean is too salty for quahogs, which prefer estuaries like Narragansett Bay, according to Rhode Island Sea Grant, which points out that Rhode Island supplies a quarter of the nation's total annual commercial quahog catch.
The quahog has achieved legendary status in the Ocean State, where, in 1987, it was named the official state shell. Cartoonist Don Bousquet has published such books as "Beware of the Quahog," "Revenge of the Quahog" and "Quahog State of Mind." The TV show "Family Guy" is set in the fictional town of Quahog, R.I.
IF YOU GO
What: Stuffies on the Deck
When: June 22 and 23, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Langworthy Farm Winery, Route 1A, Westerly
Cost: Two stuffies for $5 with a tasting or glass of wine; additional stuffies $2.50 each.
More information: www.langworthyfarm.com
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