It seems that I am the last to find out that both Orson and Citizen Cake will be closing their doors in SF. As the Chef de Cuisine who opened the last reincarnation of Citizen Cake I find this disheartening. All that work! My team was talented, the recipes developed iconic, and it was a lot of fun. We put our hearts into it.

This goes to show how hard the restaurant business is. I am sure that Elizabeth Falkner will reinvent herself soon either as the next American Iron Chef or in another venue. She is a creative powerhouse. For more info visit the Sf Chronicle post.

I created this clam chowder for Chef E at her request and it quickly became a lunch time favorite. We both agreed that the clams should be whole and in the shell. The soup was made to order every time. And there is no flour or thickener in the broth – just clam stock, white wine, and cream.

Besides the usual clam chowder accoutrements: bacon, potatoes, celery, shallot, and onion I also added thin wedges of fennel, leeks, tarragon, and fried dill.

A good twist of freshly ground black pepper over the top and it’s off the passe and on its way to the table…


Citizen Cake Clam Chowder


  • 1/2 pound little neck clams, washed in cold water to remove sand if any
  • 1 long stalk celery, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 leek, white part only, diced
  • 3 small yukon gold potatoes or similar fingerling variety, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, shaved or sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, cut into 1/4-inch wedges,
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon, brunoised
  • 1 sprig of dill
  • 2 slices of Applewood thick-cut bacon, cooked and diced, reserve fat for frying dill
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup clam stock or sea juice of premium grade
  • 1/4–1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Twist of freshly ground black pepper
  • Croutons

Heat canola oil in a medium size skillet or sauté pan on high. (The skillet should be just big enough to fit all the clams in a single layer – no bigger) When it shimmers add onions, shallots, leeks, celery, bacon and potatoes. Toss to coat. Add clams and turn down heat to medium. Do not brown the mirepoix.

Cook vegetables until translucent, about 4 minutes, then de-glaze pan with white wine. Let alcohol burn off for 30 seconds and add clam stock to cover half way up clams. Add garlic and fennel wedges then cream and cook until potatoes are done and clams are opened. About 4-5 more minutes. Check seasoning – normally I don't need to add salt to this.

To fry dill for garnish: heat bacon grease on medium-high heat if there is at least 1/4-inch rendered and toss in the tops of dry sprigs of dill and stand back – it will splatter. The dill can also be fried in a deep fryer or canola oil. Remove dill after 30 seconds with a spatula and drain on paper towels. This can be made hours in advance.

Plate chowder in a shallow bowl with fried dill on top and tarragon sprinkled all around. Finish with freshly ground black pepper.