BRING A LITTLE BIT OF NEW ENGLAND HOME
If you have lived in New England you know that driving to a seaside destination and enjoying a meal of lobster and corn defines summer. Throw in some clams and mussels and you really have a party.
My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We were married in Boston, MA and have many fond memories of our time in New England together. We thought it would be really fun to bring a little bit of New England to Manhattan.
This was not a simple party to prepare for but with some pre-planning and some great resources we pulled it off and managed to delight our friends with a unique and memorable afternoon/evening. It felt festive and special - exactly what we were going for.
Now anyone can enjoy this unique experience at home, and turn it into a really special event. Here's how...
First and foremost, The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market in Manhattan, gives you a great head start by compiling everything you need for the actual lobster boil with their Stovetop Clambake offering. You get lobsters, clams, mussels, clam juice, potatoes, corn, seaweed (very important for flavor and looks), clarified butter, crackers and even bibs plus a large once time use pot to cook it all in! If you live in Manhattan you can schedule free local delivery within 2 delivery windows, if you are farther, they ship via FedEx overnight with guaranteed delivery by noon so you can enjoy your feast the same day.
Alternatively, if you have a great local seafood source take The Lobster Place's list of ingredients and replicate it yourself!
You will still need to do some work to cook everything and you'll want to serve as soon as it is ready, so keep that in mind for timing and planning your day. You will need to unpack the Lobster Place's pot (this is where it really helps to have a huge sink), boil some water (we also threw in some white wine), then add everything back into the pot in the order specified in the instructions. It all then cooks for about 25 minutes and then it is ready for the table.
To get the full effect of this feast, line your table with a few layers of white butcher paper and then lay all of the contents of the pot (minus the liquid) out down the middle of the table as we did in the photo above. Start with seaweed, then cut open the bags of clams and mussels and use them to make a bed for the lobsters and corn. I promise you it will look amazing! And your guests will oh and ah and enjoy just pulling whatever they want from the middle of the table. It will really feel like a feast. We added some lemon wedges to the spread as well.
Now is a good time to talk about the entire table set up!
You should do as much as you can prior to your guests arriving. Start by putting out place settings so your table is inviting and ready to go as soon as the seafood and sides hit the table. We used our ever so versatile stackable plates which have the extra bonus of a slight edge which we knew would help contain any liquid on the plate instead of it dripping onto the table or our guests. I also bundle utensils together within a napkin and tied with some twine. Each one included a knife, fork, small spoon (for the baked beans we also served), a seafood cracker and a seafood pick. I recommend these red crackers and Laguiole seafood picks available at Williams Sonoma. There are also many other options at many price points, a quick search on Amazon will give you a lot of choices. We also had a pair of seafood scissors on the table to help open up lobster tails.
You will need somewhere to put empty shells. We used Compostable High Edge Wood Plates from Food52. They were perfect. The edge kept everything inside, yet their low profile didn't get in the way of anything and clean up was easy since we could just toss them in the trash. We put one in between every 2 people so everyone had access to at least one of them for their shells.
Think about what else you will be serving so you are sure to have the perfect vessels. Clarified butter is a must, ideally you want a little dish per person. Small ramekins are perfect for this, we went with these Omakase Small Sauce Dishes available at Bowery Kitchen Supply in Manhattan. They will ship if you cannot get there in person! We also purchased Omakase 3" Sauce Dishes to hold single servings of Boston Baked Beans. A little bit of an investment but each guest having their own little butter dish and bean dish was a nice touch, plus these dishes are so versatile that I am sure we will have many chances to use them again. As a bonus, they stack well so they are easy to store. I put them all on a tray, filled them in our kitchen and then brought the tray to the table where a friend helped me put one of each next to each place setting. A little planning ahead makes things like this easy when it comes time to execute.
I also made a double batch of these cheddar biscuits and served them in two 6" cast iron pans. They looked awesome in the pans and were easy to bring to the table and for guest to pass around. I filled 2 ramekins with honey butter to go along with them - the honey butter really puts the biscuits over the top! I plan to use the pans to make small portions of potatoes, crumbles, etc for our little family in the future. I always find it easier to splurge on items for parties if I know I will use them again!
Lemon wedges were important as well. We pre-cut wedges before guests arrived and put them in a bowl on the table covered with foil. By putting everything we could on the table prior it helped ensure nothing was forgotten at the last minute. After the seafood and corn was spread across the table I added the lemon wedges in various spots around the border to they were readily available to everyone and added to the beauty of the table.
And lastly, we had a couple large ramekins of Old Bay on the table with small spoons so anyone who wanted some could easily sprinkle some on their seafood or even corn.
Condiments and Sides
With all the effort on the main course, be sure to also have the perfect condiments and sides. We have mentioned most of them already but here's a summary.
This is butter with the milk solids removed. It is perfect for dipping seafood in, stores really well and has a higher smoke point than regular butter. You will get some if you get the kit from The Lobster Place. If not, be sure to pick some up at your local grocery store or make some yourself. Here's a how-to from Alton Brown. I recommend having one small container of butter per guest - there will be lots of double dipping.
Prepare lemon wedges for guests to squeeze onto their seafood if so desired.
Not traditional to New England but a very tasty (and easy) addition. Delicious on seafood and even corn on the cob. Have a small bowl or two on your table with spoons for anyone who wants some.
Boston Baked Beans
We wanted to bring in a little more Boston flare and decided to make a batch of Boston Baked Beans. It is something I have actually always wanted to try to make so this was the perfect opportunity, especially since they could be made the day before. We served them in small single serving bowls so everyone had their own portion and it didn't mix with the seafood that would inevitably take over their entire plate.
At this point, I suggest buying a dessert. You've done a lot and everyone will already be beyond impressed. We went with one of my all time favorite special occasion cakes, the Mille Crepe cake from Lady M. It is delicious and something I would never make on my own - a real treat. We are fortunate to have them locally but they ship if you want one at your next event and do not have one near you. Details on the Lady M site.
I also found some salt water taffy, lobster shaped gummies, chocolate lobsters and chocolate sand dollars to put out to enhance the theme and add to the dessert offering.
If you really want to make a dessert, I suggest either this Chocolate Pavlova which would be a nice light, fresh, chocolatey end. Or our Key Lime Pie which also tastes fresh, and the lime flavor would suit the end of a seafood meal very nicely.
That is what makes it all worth it!
Here's a summary of the items mentioned and links to purchase them.
- Lobster Boil/Clambake - The Lobster Place, Chelsea, New York, NY (they ship)
- Butcher paper - Amazon. I got a large roll as it was a good width and under $30. I figured the paper would come in handy for other parties, including play dates and art projects. You might be able to find a smaller roll somewhere locally if preferred.
- Stackable dinner dishes - MoMA
- Seafood picks - Williams Sonoma.
- Seafood crackers - Wiliams Sonoma. Love the red color.
- Seafood Scissors - Williams Sonoma. Good to have one pair around to help open up lobster tails. Would be great if you also ever serve crab.
- Small dishes for butter - Bowery Kitchen Supplies, New York, NY (they ship)
- Small dishes for baked beans - Bowery Kitchen Supplies, New York, NY (they ship)
- Disposable wooden high edge dishes for shells - Food52
- Cast Iron Skillet - Amazon
- Mille Crepes cake - Lady M, locations in Manhattan and LA (plus Singapore and Hong King internationally) (they ship)
There is always a lot to juggle when hosting a party. I like to have a detailed check list so I am sure to stay on track and well coordinated with my husband. If you'd like some insight in our planning process, here's a copy of our weekend plan/notes. I had a number of other lists prior to outline what needed to be ordered when, what needed to be purchased ahead of time (like the little dishes), etc. But I then consolidated everything to just the remaining details for our Saturday and Sunday prep.
• Avocado Rolls - ordered from the Lobster Place - Arriving 12-2 on Sunday.
• Shrimp Cocktail - make on Sunday
• Lobster Boil - 12 portions. Ordered from the Lobster Place - Arriving 12-2 on Sunday.
• Cheddar biscuits - make on Sunday just before boil is ready
• Baked beans - make on Sat
• Condiments: melted butter, old bay, lemons
• Asparagus Salad
• Crepe cake - 2 9” cakes. Ordered. Pick up on Sunday.
• Chocolates we brought back from Paris
• Lobster and sand dollar chocolates
• Champagne - 2 bottles. Buy on Sat. (For initial toast)
• White wine - 8 bottles. Buy on Sat. (Always buy more than you think you will need)
• Red wine - 8 bottles. Buy on Sat. (Always buy more than you think you will need)
• Whiskey for after dinner - Buy on Sat.
• Sam Adams (A little more Boston)
• Pitcher of water
• Make beans
• Make honey butter
• Clean house
• Make napkin sets
• Make favor bags
• Wash new wine glasses
• Set up drink area
• Set up dessert area
• Buy ice
• Clean and set up backyard and house
• Shop at Lobster Place (Shrimp, shrimp cocktail, clarified butter)
• Make shrimp cocktail
• Make asparagus salad
• Chill drinks
• Pick up cakes
• Lobster Place delivery - b/w 12 and 2pm
• Cook seafood - around 3:30pm, needs ~30mins
• Make biscuits to come out of the oven just as seafood is ready, serve in cast iron pans with honey butter
• Melt butter
• Put out condiments: lemon, old bay, melted butter
• 3:30pm Guests Arrive