A delicious hint of the sea without having to leave home
by Ari Weinzweig
While we’ve never really called them out as a headline act, scallops are actually one of the most steadily popular dinners at the Roadhouse—they’re one of those dishes that people come back for over and over again, quietly but consistently eating, enjoying, and remarking about how much better these scallops are than what they’re used to finding. In fact, one of my favorite, long-time, regular customers said with a smile a few months ago, “You guys have ruined me for scallops. I mean, I love scallops. And I travel all over the country and order them. But now, everywhere I go, I just think about how much better they are at the Roadhouse!”
One of the big, if little discussed, “secrets” to scallop quality is that most commercial versions these days are chemically treated to help them retain—in some cases even gain—moisture. Much as water-added-ham has become the commercial norm (reducing costs, prices and flavor across the board), treated scallops are what most people have been served. By contrast we only offer what are known in the trade as “dry-pack” scallops—no treating allowed. And we work with a long-time supplier—M.F. Foley out of Boston—to bring only the top of the catch, the freshest scallops we can get. “First and foremost,” the Foley folks say, “we don’t want to be bigger, we want to be better. Our scallops are never soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate because this standard industry practice destroys the natural flavor and texture of the scallop. People think we’re a bit crazy about our buying.” If they are crazy at Foley, it’s only in the same quality-committed way we are here. Their scallops are moister, more delicate, more delicious, more “of the sea”, you might say, than any other scallops around.
While you can order scallops at the Roadhouse any way you like, personally I go for ‘em done in a hot sauté pan, so that they outside gets slightly caramelized and seared just a touch. The meat in the middle is still really moist and tender, and they taste of the sea.
Next time you visit, ask for a little Roadhouse surf and turf—scallops topped with a bit of eastern Carolina pulled pork! The richness and smokiness of the pork (14 hours on the pit, sauced with a two-year-old, oak-barrel-aged organic cider vinegar from Quebec) set gently atop each of the scallops with their fresh-from-the Atlantic flavor.