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LAKE GEORGE -- Asian clams could be what's for dinner; if they taste any good, that is.

Several area restaurateurs said this week they'd give the invasive nickle-sized bivalve that now inhabits Lake George's southern basin a try, and potentially a place on their menus.

"If it's good, I'd serve it," said Brian Brunetto, owner of Brunetto's Restaurant in northern Lake George. "I'd need a free taste test."

The Asian clam, which is being characterized by environmentalists as the greatest invasive threat to Lake George's ecosystem yet found, is a common base ingredient in Asian soups, chowders and broths.

They can also be pan-seared and served over noodles.

Danny Chang, head chef at the Mikado Restaurant in Glens Falls, said he has cooked dishes featuring the clams in Japan, but hasn't prepared the freshwater unsegmented invertebrate for Americans.

The clam is especially popular in Korea, where it is the primary ingredient in "jaecheopguk," or hangover soup.

"It makes an excellent broth," Chang said . "I'd have to see and taste the ones in Lake George first."

But the diminutive size of the fecund, hermaphroditic mollusk, and the practical challenges of collecting them could pose some problems.

"I'd try anything once," Peter Smith, owner of the East Cove Restaurant in Lake George, said of putting the clam on the menu. "How the hell would you catch them, though?"

After efforts to eradicate the invasive Asian carp in the Mississippi River failed and the species overtook the ecosystem and decimated indigenous populations, restaurants throughout the affected swath added the large-bodied fish to the menu.

While largely reviled for its effect on Mississippi fisheries, the carp has proven itself a viable food item for Midwestern eateries.

The plans of the Lake George Early Response Task Force, a coalition of environmental groups and government officials, to eradicate the Asian clam -- also called golden clams -- in Lake George in one fell swoop have hit a snag as the project's price appears greater than expected, and closing the financial gap is taking valuable time.

Without a saving grace within the next week, task force members have said the project's scope could be significantly scaled back.

Some area officials have quipped recently that the estimated 100,000 clams in Lake George's southern basin could provide a unique marketing opportunity for brave culinarians.

Commercial endeavors on state land typically require extensive Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency permitting and review processes.

"People in the Northeast are harder to change than in other parts of the country," Smith added. "Are the clams even any good? I have no idea."


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