Swan Oyster Depot has a secret: If you ask nicely, owner Tommy Sancimino might make you an oyster stew that TV host Ben Sargent called "one of the best stews I've ever had."
SFoodie learned this because we've seen Tuesday's new episode of Hook, Line and Dinner, which airs at 7:30 p.m. on the Cooking Channel.
The 30-minute show's concept is that Sargent, a chef with an interesting background, rides around the country fishing for, cooking, and eating seafood. Even though SFoodie writes a three-digit check to Comcast every month, it's not enough to get the Cooking Channel, so we hadn't seen the show before.
But any time a food show features San Francisco, we're interested: We can laugh at it, learn something, or both.
Sargent starts off on our bad side. One of the first things he says is, "To me, California Dreaming means heading for the Frisco Bay." 1) We don't call it Frisco, and 2) You can't blame the Mamas and the Papas; we've drunkenly sung that song many times, and that lyric's not in there.
And it gets worse; He immediately goes to Drakes Bay for oysters. Dude, look at a map -- that's on the Pacific Ocean. It's not San Francisco, and it's not the San Francisco Bay. Do we come to your town and say, "We love New York, especially the Jersey shore"?
We thought he couldn't redeem himself, but then he started talking about oysters. He risks our further wrath with what seemed like a mild condemnation of ours: "Generally West Coast oysters are mild. But I like an oyster with a taste of the ocean." He calls Kumamotos "a starter oyster" because of their mildness. But we admit we agree, and he likes those Drakes Bay oysters from, you know, not San Francisco Bay. So we unfold our arms and take our hand off the DVD eject button.
Shortly afterward, he drops the bombshell about Swan Oyster Depot's secret oyster stew. We Googled "Swan Oyster Depot" and "oyster stew," and there are ZERO references anywhere on the Internet. How the hell, in a city with about 37 full-time food blogs, can some New York guy motorcycle in and get a tip like that right under our upturned noses? You bastard, we admire you.
The off-the-menu stew is based on Swan's clam chowder, which we have always loved. We see Sancimino making the chowder, throwing in clams, shrimp, crabmeat, and chopped prawns, and using milk but no cream to keep it from getting too thick. Then he tosses in a bunch of oysters, and we're drooling.
Sargent: "Are you going to hate us if people start asking for it?"
Sancimino: "They're not going to ask for it. They're not going to know what it is. I'll tell 'em you were never here."
Busted! We have a copy of this on DVD, Mr. Sancimino, and the next time we're in your Depot, which is never often enough, we want this stew. If you'll make it for a New Yorker who doesn't even know where San Francisco Bay is, you better make it for us.