It's crustaceans for a cause as a legion of lobsters and clams prepare to give up the good life Sept. 13 at the Second Annual Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center Lobster Clambake.

Marrying East Coast-style culinary traditions with West Coast-style fundraising festivity, Wente Vineyards plays host and provides the libations and Sam's Chowder House, of Half Moon Bay, lights the fire and caters the creatures. Local band KJ All Stars will perform, and items donated by individuals, corporate sponsors and local businesses will raise funds during silent and live auctions to support the arts center. The event begins at 5 p.m. at the 130-year-old family-owned winery on Arroyo Road in Livermore.

Sean Bradford stands in line with lobster on his plate at the 2013 LVPAC Clambake held at Wente Vineyards.
Sean Bradford stands in line with lobster on his plate at the 2013 LVPAC Clambake held at Wente Vineyards.

Last year's debut fundraiser netted 530 attendees, who admirably consumed 530 lobsters and raised $120,000 for the LVPAC.

"This year it is more critical than ever for the Lobster Clambake and other fundraising efforts to be a success," said LVPAC Board Vice President and Event Chair Denise Watkins in a news release. With $3 million of the total amount needed to resolve the Bankhead Theater's debt accounted for, Watkins said, "(We) must secure about $300,000 more by mid-September to reach our immediate goal."

Fourth generation winegrower Phil Wente said his family's support for the Bankhead is, like good wine and great food, a natural pairing.


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"We've been fortunate to run a business in Livermore for 130 years. All of the vibrant elements of the community are vital to us. The arts bring together families and are an essential part of the transformation of downtown Livermore into a dynamic center," he said in an interview.

His advice for pairing wine with shellfish is equally explicit.

"Lobster and shellfish; you need a classic pairing of a full-bodied, rich chardonnay to balance the butter people will be dipping into," he said. "Clams have a spicy sauce, so for that, you need a crisper sauvignon whose acidic edge refreshes the palate."

Because experience has taught him there are more people who prefer chardonnay than sauvignon, regardless of what they are consuming, Wente said having adequate supplies of their Morning Fog Chardonnay was crucial. "With a big crowd, you can't run out of everybody's preferred wine," he said.

Wente's instructions for how to eat a lobster were less sophisticated but succinct.

"I'm not from Maine, so I'm not an expert, but my first instinct is to grab hold of it with your hands, crack it open, bite it and enjoy," he said.

Guests and expected local dignitaries (Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, among others) will have an opportunity to munch on mussels, andouille sausage, red potatoes, corn, coleslaw and fresh berry cobbler while perusing the items for auction. Highlights include a suite with catering for 18 guests at Elton John's Oct. 2 San Jose SAP Center concert; eight tickets for the annual Bridge School concert at Shoreline Amphitheater Oct. 25-26 in Mountain View; and a dinner for six in the caves at Wente Vineyards. The Tri-Valley Conservancy pulls out all the stops with a complete Livermore expedition featuring a pistachio orchard tour, olive oil tasting and tutorial, guided wine lesson in the barrel room of a local winery, sampling of tapas and locally-produced wine and gifts.

Nancy Mueller, LVPAC's marketing director, notes the Bankhead and Bothwell are home to nine resident performing arts companies and represent more than 40 studio artists and cultural arts instructors. A full list of upcoming performances, lectures, exhibits, classes and workshops is available online at www.mylvpac.com.

Individual tickets to the LVPAC Lobster Clambake are $150 per person and can be bought through the Bankhead Theater box office at www.bankheadtheater.org.