Even though the fried clam may have been “invented” in Essex MA at Woodman’s, it was perfected up the road apiece in Ipswich at The Clam Box. (And with that statement, I enter the ongoing debate over just who – Woodman’s, The Clam Box or Farnham’s has the best fried clams on the North Shore.) Fried clams are one of the mainstays of my culinary world – I don’t indulge often but limit myself so that the experience always remains fresh. And when I get fried clams on my mind, I head to The Clam Box. One last visit before winter set in was in order. And the clock was ticking – The Clam Box closes for the season on Nov. 25th. So on a warm sunny day, we made our way north for the season’s final feast of one of New England’s best regional foods. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy and the follow-up nor’easter, there was a surcharge on all clam items. It didn’t deter us – The Clam Box serves local Ipswich clams that are worth the extra money. Unfortunately, there were no “big bellies” to be had – the ne plus ultra for the aficionado. (An aside: the clam strip – sans bellies – is a salient marker in the degradation that American food culture underwent in the 20th century.) In addition for my fondness for fried clams, I’m also a fool for good onion rings and those at The Clam Box are among the best – the thickness of the ring and the batter both just right. My meal was all that I’d hoped for – the clams succulent, the rings delicately crisp. All winter, I’ll be anticipating the re-opening of The Clam Box in the spring.