Home > Events and Festivals, Food > For The Love of Chowder

For The Love of Chowder

October 13, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments
Definition of “Chowder” according to Google:
noun: chowder; plural noun: chowders
  1. a rich soup typically containing fish, clams, or corn with potatoes and onions

Cup of chowder, anyone? As I happen to live in the area of the United States called New England, the soup, most often known as New England Clam Chowder, can be seen on the menu of many restaurants. In most of the cases, it is called Clam Chowder, as it contains clams; two most popular versions are called New England Clam Chowder (milk/heavy cream based) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (red tomato based).

As Chowder is a type of soup, the question might be “what makes Chowder different from the Soup”. This is why I started this blog post with the definition of Chowder, which is a very good one. I would, however, make one small improvement, based on this interesting article – the chowder should have small chunks of [clams, vegetables, etc], which would perfectly distinguish it from the “cream of” soups , such as Cream of Asparagus, for instance. So the better definition of Chowder can be “a rich soup typically containing small chunks of fish, clams, or corn with potatoes and onions”.

Blue skies at the Chowder Fest

Anyway, why all of a sudden studious exercise in the “science” of soups? On Sunday, I attended 7th annual Chowder Festival, which took place at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut. It was really a Chowder deep immersion – 39 competitors from 12 different states brought their best Chowder offerings to be sampled during 4 hours. There were lots of other things to try – juices, Dunkin Donuts munchkins, Cabot cheese, The Farmer’s Cow ice cream – in the other words, lots of fun for all ages.

The competition was conducted in 4 different categories – Classic New England Clam Chowder, Traditional Chowder, Creative Chowder and Soup/Bisque. Focusing just on clam chowders, it appears that there are 4 of them (surprised?). The Classic New England is the chowder which is white in color because of the use of heavy cream or milk. Traditional Chowder includes two different types – Manhattan, which is tomato based, and Rhode Island, which is “clear”.  Rhode Island clam chowder is something I discovered earlier this year for the first time – it simply looks like a thick, rich soup with clams etc, but without milk or tomatoes. At the Chowder Fest I learned that there is a newly popular style – Long Island Clam Chowder, which also can be called “half and half” – it is a mix of Traditional New England with Manhattan. There was one chowder of that type at the festival, served by Parallel Post from Trumbull, Connecticut – it was very tasty.

As I mentioned, 39 chowders and soups were presented at the competition. I didn’t try all 39 (wonder if someone did), but I did try at least 30. Just to explain how competition works: as you enter through the gates, you are given a ballot and a pencil. The ballot contains the list of all the chowders present at the festival – as you taste, if you happen to like the chowder, you give it a rating from 7 up to 10. The ballots are tabulated later on, and voila – the champion and two runner ups are declared in each category.

ChowderFest Ballot

[bad] picture of my ballot

It seems that Festival’s organization is quite efficient – the winners are already announced, right on the next day. Care to guess from what state was the winner of the Chowder Fest 2015 in the Traditional New England Chowder category? Pike Place from (drum roll, please) Seattle, Washington. This was not the first time they are crowned as “Chowder Champions”  – their whole counter was covered with the 1st place medals:

I tasted Pike Place chowder and it was one of my top favorites, with “just enough” of everything – I’m glad to see that this was crowd’s opinion too. If you are interested, here you can find the list of all winners, current and the past.

I’m glad that I was able to attend the event – learned something new and tasted lots of delicious chowders. I plan to make it my annual tradition from now on – and may be you should join too? I have to finish with the question though – do you like clam chowder? If you do, what is your favorite style? Don’t be shy here… Cheers!

  1. October 13, 2015 at 12:41 am

    How fun! A twist on the chili cook-offs we get here 🙂 I like classic New England.

    • talkavino
      October 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Yes – it should be similar to the Chili cook-offs. Definitely fun!

  2. October 13, 2015 at 2:34 am

    Very interesting exposé on chowders. I am not very familiar with them and need to make one. How about a glass of Meursault with a New England Clam Chowder? 🙂

    • talkavino
      October 14, 2015 at 9:19 am

      You should definitely try – clam chowders are very tasty if done right.
      With the soup, I very rarely think of wine pairings. Mersault might work, but I would probably rather go to Chablis. This pairing is not straightforward – there might be multiple ingredients there (e.g., smoked bacon, herbs), which would have a great impact, so it all depends on what will be in the chowder. If you will make one, let me know how you will like it.

      • October 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        I will definitely write about it on the blog.
        It would be of great help if you could specify a bit more what made the winner the best chowder. I found on the Pike Place website that the ingredients are “Chopped Ocean Clams, Bacon, Potatoes, Celery, Onion, Thyme, White Pepper, Clam Stock, Half-and-Half, Butter, Flour.”

        • talkavino
          October 15, 2015 at 9:32 pm

          I guess it is the same as in good wine – balance. It had just enough smokiness, just enough salt, enough herbs, properly diced vegetables – while chowder is might sound simplistic, that balance of all elements is not easy to achieve – and they managed to do it.

        • October 17, 2015 at 3:01 am

          Thanks. The clams are in my fridge, so my first attempt of chowder is in the making 🙂

        • November 7, 2015 at 1:58 pm

          Here is my take at New England Clam Chowder that was inspired by this post. Thanks for the inspiration, Anatoli!

  3. October 13, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I see a 9.5 – was there a 10 on your ballot? Love this festival idea.

    • talkavino
      October 14, 2015 at 8:07 am

      sorry, just a bad picture of the ballot before it was deposited into the box. I gave three 10 ratings – one of them was for the Classic Chowder winner, Pike Place.

      • October 14, 2015 at 9:03 am

        Nice. Good to know! If it’s like a chili cookoff, I don’t think I’d ever rate any a 10 !

  4. October 14, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    This sounds like a very fun event, Anatoli, and I could have learned one or two things about chowders. Stefano adores the New England one and asked me to learn how to make it a million times!

    • talkavino
      October 15, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      This was definitely fun, my friend. May be next year you will be able to attend… Meanwhile, I will see if I can find a good recipe for you.

  5. October 14, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Oh yum, what a fabulous event to have attended Anatoli! Great to understand more about the different styles of chowder available. I think the creamy New England style is the one for me! 😉

    • talkavino
      October 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      This was definitely fun, Margot, and a little bit of learning – which makes it double fun 🙂

  1. November 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm
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