By: Mary Stanley
Photo: GENE MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE (click photo to enlarge)
Sandwich’s own Marshland Restaurant made its national television debut on the Food Network during an episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Hometown Favorites.”
During the show, Marshland was one of several restaurants from across the country that was spotlighted by celebrity chefs.
For Marshland, it was celebrity chef, Jeffery A. (Duff) Goldman, host of the Food Network’s show “Ace Of Cakes,” who sang the praises of Marshland’s stuffed quahog.
Part-owner of the restaurant, Kim P. Babiarz, received a call in August from producers of the show asking if they could film fellow part-owner and chef Martin B. Finch making his quahog stuffing. According to Ms. Babiarz, the producers sent out surveys to their celebrity chefs asking about the best food they ever tasted, and Chef Goldman of “Ace of Cakes” cited the stuffed quahogs at Marshland Restaurant as his choice.
“We never even knew he had come in here,” Ms. Babiarz said.
Chef Goldman had spent some time growing up in Sandwich. For this particular edition of “The Best I Ever Ate,” the celebrity chefs were asked to go to their hometowns to pick a favorite menu item.
“Isn’t it great that he remembers where he came from,” said Ms. Babiarz.
A film crew of four came into the Route 6A restaurant in September and spent three hours filming Mr. Finch steaming the quahogs, making the stuffing, and then stuffing the shells.
“They had me in the kitchen shooting for about three hours,” he said.
At one point, he said, the crew decided they wanted a close-up of him stirring the stuffing so they attached a small camera to a spoon that he used to stir the mixture. While preparing the stuffing, he explained the ingredients he was using.
Although Mr. Finch has been cooking at the restaurant for nearly 10 years, this was his first time cooking in front of a camera.
“I was a little nervous and, from time to time, I would look directly into the camera. But once I started concentrating on the food and the cooking, I was fine,” he said.
Mr. Finch is credited with coming up with the recipe. “He’s the creative one,” said Ms. Babiarz.
Mr. Finch said when he and his partners, Ms. Babiarz and Henry L. (Skip) Cooke Jr., took ownership of the restaurant nine years ago, he spent a few weeks perfecting the stuffing for the quahogs.
His recipe includes cracker crumbs, clams, the clam broth, and linguica. “We get the linguica from a company in New Bedford. I’m very choosy,” Mr. Finch said.
He said he adjusted the recipe several times before coming up with just the right ingredients and measurement of spices. “In the end, I decided to use Ritz crackers instead of breadcrumbs. They have a more buttery flavor,” he said.
He estimates that he prepares a batch of a dozen of the quahogs every other day. They are used as part of the restaurant’s baked seafood platter, as well as for appetizers.
Now that his quahogs have reached famed status, Mr. Finch said he is hoping that this will not be the last time that the Food Network shows up at Marshland.
“Maybe we’ll see them back in the summer for our strawberry shortcake,” he said.
As for becoming a celebrity chef, himself, Mr. Finch said he prefers the anonymity of staying in Marshland’s kitchen.
“I like to stay behind the scenes. That was a little out-of-the-box for me,” he said.