Arch Rock Fish
Growing up in the coastal Northeast, I spent the summers during my college years digging clams commercially. Wading around at low tide in chest deep water with a clam rake, I would keep moving until it felt like I was stepping up onto a slight mounding of the bottom, which was a bed of clams. I would work the area with my rake, sloshing the built-in basket until the mud had washed off and only clams remained. These were dumped into a bushel basket floating behind me in an inner tube, which was tied to my waist with some rope. Not a very elegant arrangement, but it was good money and my family got to eat a lot of clams. Like many New Englanders, I have very definite opinions on how clam chowder should be made.
I recently photographed a new addition to the restaurant scene in Santa Barbara, Arch Rock Fish, for Westways Magazine. The name derives from a natural arch found on the tip of Anacapa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel. Arriving before their main chef, Scott Leibfried, I photographed the interior of this elegant restaurant and while waiting for the main dishes to be prepared for our photo shoot, I was offered a bowl of clam chowder for lunch. It had that slightly salty scent of the sea with a smooth, creamy texture, lots of large pieces of clams and small chunks of potatoes. A high ratio of clams to potatoes is always the way I measure the quality of a chowder, and this one had the added bonus of smoked bacon. It was wonderful with a basket of crusty bread.
Scott was a pleasure to work with and the photo shoot went smoothly. My wife and I returned there recently to try out their Happy Hour menu. Everything was excellent, especially the quirky grilled cheese. Scott uses Stilton for the cheese and adds truffle honey. This was, luckily, not my Mom’s grilled cheese sandwich. If it hadn’t been for all the other dishes we wanted to try, we would have asked for a second order of the grilled cheese. Great Happy Hour!