– I grew up on the coast. We lived all over Oregon. But I’ve just been around
wild product my whole life. Growing up on salmon, trout,
a lot of ocean fish as well. When I started working in restaurants, even high level ones, I
was kind of disappointed in the quality of certain products. A lot of people just don’t
even know what the potential for these products are. (gentle classical music) (water bubbling) This is the butter clam. And we’re really trying to
showcase this ingredient because we think that it’s a
world class quality of clam. Hasn’t really caught on at all yet as far as food grade goes. You are able to dig them
in safer areas and stuff but it’s a tremendous amount
of work for a small yield. So any sort of harvest
that is going to have a really fruitful amount has
to be done by diver harvest. And the highest population
density of these clams exists in Tillamook Bay. Here in Tillamook Bay, they’re
native, high population, really delicious but just
haven’t really been in the market or haven’t been introduced to the market. So we’re trying to work
with fishermen like Brad and to help introduce these to other chefs and just popularize the ingredient. – We’ll probably get a few butter clams. But mainly I just want to
show you the ecosystem. I don’t know if you know much about clams and how they live on the substrate, but on the surface you
have the cockle clam, which can actually move
throughout the bay, they hop on their tongues. Below them you have the butter clam, about eight inches down. And then about a foot
to about two feet down, you have the horseneck clam. (wind whooshing) – I think the butter clam is
definitely one of the best eating clams in the world,
especially for eating raw, it’s so unique to this bay. They’re actually found from
Alaska to Northern California but these ones specifically
are just such a higher quality than any of the other ones that
we’ve had from other states or other areas because of the ecosystem that they’re found in. – When we go down there,
there’s probably ten generations of giant clams that
have bred and died off. So a lot of times you see shells. And people worry about the shells when actually it’s the opposite. The shells are the one
thing that’s keeping this the Mecca for clams on the West Coast. The number one issue I see with new divers is equalizing as they go
down, knowing that every inch is a different pressure
change and the first four feet is where most of the
pressure change happens. So learning to equalize, you
should always feel comfortable the whole way down. We’ve got about 65 pounds for ya. (belt rattling) If you don’t protect
your hands or your knees, you will shred through
your stuff in one day. Especially on a strong current because you’re trying
to hold your position and there’s so many clams, I’m talking, we got the shells but in the
shells you have thousands upon thousands of pounds
and all it takes is one knee or one shell fragment and
it’ll shred your gloves. – First time that we
ever went down and dived, yeah it’s definitely really nerveracking. To deal with different
tides, pretty murky, the current’s really strong. You’re constantly going in and out of these really dangerous
ranges for your ears and sinuses because of having to
equalize back and forth between the depths. Sport boats riding right
over the top of you while you’re diving. We wear 65 to 100 pound weight vest and it gets you right down to the bottom. The air tank is hooked up to a compressor on the boat, into hoses
instead of air tanks. Constantly getting tangled up. So yeah it was terrifying the first time, to be completely honest. (haunting music) (water gurgling) As far as what’s going through your mind, like one step down the ladder at a time and then you kind of like get comfortable and you just try to go as
slow as you can going down, ’cause you have to go down slowly. If you just go straight
down to the bottom, you blow your eardrums out. (gentle orchestral music) So once you get your
feet on the ocean floor, it’s definitely a very relieving feeling. ‘Cause it is like dropping into
a really fast moving river. The butter clam is six to ten inches down underneath the sand, so to
access those or any of the clams you basically brush, start
brushing away the sand and the shells to expose the clam. So you want a tide that’s
outgoing so that the current will take the sand away and then it creates visibility to see what’s left underneath. Once the sand clears,
you see millions of clams like a number that you
couldn’t even count. Just a really good feeling
to be able to see firsthand the health of the ecosystem
and the massive population of these clams and it
really makes you feel good about being able to harvest them and introduce them into as
a new item in the market. It’s rare to have an
opportunity to be that connected to the process of gathering your food. (water bubbling) As far as finding these clams, you can’t find them anywhere else. And that was great, it was
good to take you guys down. We’ll bring a bag up right now. (clams cracking) (upbeat classical music) Once you start eating them, you’re like how is this
not a thing that people eat in restaurants here? So we just learned
essentially by trial and error after deciding that we
wanted to work with these. The best ways to prepare them. – We shuck these clams live. We don’t do anything to them previous, they’re not steamed or
blanched or anything. So we get right in there. First muscle off and we just
follow the line of the shells so we don’t cut into the clam. We got right back the
other way along the skirt, kind of follow the line of
the shell once again here. Free that other adductor muscle. So there we have the clam. Remove the top shell and then, the adductors, we’re gonna come back on the other side, free
them from the base, just like an oyster. You can see those two
nice big adductor muscles, by far my favorite part
of the butter clam. It’s extremely firm and crunchy, it has the texture of
like a very fresh scallop. Really clean flavor. It’s the best part of
the clam for eating raw. This butter clam is a red meat clam and it has to do with the
ecosystem that they’re living in. And what they’re filtering,
what type of sand and rock and also what type of
microalgae that they’re eating. And that microalgae adds a
lot to the flavor of the clam. The next move here is to break down each piece of the clam. The adbuctor muscles will pop right out. Beautiful and they’re huge. So you’re already getting
two pieces of meat that are that big and
it’s a very small portion of the actual clam itself. The skirt of the clam is this next part. This is what helps seal the shell. So we just split that
into two different strips. So then for this next
part, we have the mantle. This is the stomach of the clam, which is not a part that
we use for eating raw. But this part all along the edge, is something that we do use, so we just basically follow that line where the color difference is and remove that. Last part that we remove
from the stomach of the clam is the siphon, what the clam uses to filter the water in and out. One tube pulls it in and it
processes through the stomach of the clam and all micro algae
and small different things that the clam can eat are
filtered through the stomach and then the pure bay
water is put back out. So they’re an extremely
important part of the bay because they filter everything. And we’re gonna serve them all the different edible
parts of this here. Our adductor, our clam skirt. Our mantle. And then last is the siphon. So as you can see this siphon
just looks exactly like a really tiny geoduck. Well I think we wanted to serve
them as natural as possible, in their natural form, minimalist garnish and in their own shells. So it sort of just kind of took place from trying to keep it
as original as possible. Kind of took its own form. The accompaniment for this clam
is a Ava Bruma winter melon from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon. As it’s an Italian variety of melon that it’s not grown in winter
but they call it winter melon because it’s a storage melon
and you use it in winter after it’s been sitting on
the shelf for several months. And so this juice is fermented liquid from the melon so it’s just you know, added two percent salt to the melon juice and then we let it ferment
at room temperature with kelp in it so it’s
like a kimchi basically but a white kimchi. And this rind is stored in brine. It does develop flavor over
time, nothing too assertive, it’s just more of a textural component. We really liken the flavor
of this clam to melon so that’s why we serve it with this, ’cause it just is a nice
accent to the flavor. Doesn’t compete with it, just elevates it. And it balances it as well. And more of that olive oil. It’s extremely dangerous
and it’s really hard work but it’s definitely worth it. (gentle piano music)