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Hum Plate Roundup

The call of sunny climates



Mussel Bound

Put away your clam diggers — domoic acid has put the local clam digging party on hold and mid-calf pants are hard to pull off anyway. But this is not to say shellfish is off the table. In fact, let's take a moment to appreciate the other mollusks that are so often overshadowed by our glamorous local oysters. (Oh, don't pout, oysters — you have a whole festival so sit down a minute.)

Our county runneth over with chowder. Not all of it is good. (Psst, cooks: If you can stand a spoon in it, ease up.) On the other hand, Salt Fish House (761 Eighth St., Arcata) has a solid entry with thick bacon and tender clams that is luxuriously creamy ($9). You would not be in the least bit deprived ordering it for dinner with a salad.

But look outside at the weather. The days of chunky fisherman sweaters before nightfall are behind us for now. (Maybe forever — we're apparently leaning in on climate change these days.) Drop a layer and ask for the curry mussels ($14). The enamel bowl is splashed over with a light red Thai-style curry sauce, chopped cilantro and fresh jalapeño slices. Swipe up extra coconut-rich sauce with the grill-striped bread (ask for it lightly done if you mind a dark char). As for the mussels themselves, they are steamed to a lush plumpness and are full of briny, earthy flavor. That's a luxury, too.

The Upside Down

In the 1950s and 1960s, sweeping into a dining room or a backyard barbecue with a cinched waist and pineapple upside down cake for company was the height of suburban hostessing. The magazine clippings and index cards bearing recipes for America's own version of tart tartine could have built a land bridge to Hawaii. But after a couple of decades, the maraschino-studded cake fell on hard times, considered as tacky as the tiki torches stashed in the back of the garage. I blame burnout on fake luaus and widespread use of box cake mix, both of which are the worst unless you are under 6 years old.

Like many mid-century marvels — teak tables, movie musicals — it's making a comeback. (Note to food magazines: I see you trying to bring back aspic and that's a hard no.) The bundt version at Polynesian-style barbecue joint Sammy's BBQ (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) makes a solid case for the return of the pineapple upside down cake ($3.50). The homemade yellow cake, whipped up by the family matriarch, is firm, eggy and dotted with chunks of fruit. The top has the requisite rings of pineapple and the sticky, caramelized brown sugar. Those of you scowling at the maraschino cherries, I would like to remind you that throughout childhood you guzzled Shirley Temples for the cherries floating therein and fought with siblings over possession of the sole gleaming cherry atop a shared banana split. Let yourself enjoy it. If you're too full from ribs and kalua pork, order a piece to go. You've got a comeback in you, too.

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