I love soup.  I love the concept of various, delicious flavors in liquid form, and I love it in practice.  (I’m with Jerry when I agree that soup is, in and of itself, a meal.)  Like ice cream, it’s so damn versatile.  And with apologies to a truly memorable mushroom spinach at a favorite cafe, there’s no soup I love more than New England clam chow-DA (yes, you have to pronounce it with the Mayor Quimby accent).

When I was a kid, I would order chowder at any damn meal up on the Island, and rate ’em as the month faded; in fact, I still do (I think I once hit 42 cups for a month, which is a lot of chow-DA).  Even though all that cream ain’t good for the diet, I just can’t say no to tasting delicious little bits of clams and their many varieties.

Which is how I found myself at the 29th Annual Boston Harborfest Chowderfest yesterday afternoon.  (I also made last year’s…  but I didn’t have a blog last year.)  Held annually on July 5th outside City Hall, Chowderfest is one of those great American institutions in which Polo and Sox hat-clad Bostonians slurp chow-da and vote for the winner.  (There’s also a charming band, product placement, Naval recruiters–  it’s all very patriotic.  As long as you’re not lactose intolerant.)  So, without further ado, let’s rate the chow-das!

Chow-DA Fest 2010

There were seven competitive chowders yesterday, with one Hall of Fame classic on hand, The Chart House (once you win Chowderfest a certain number of times, you become the Candice Bergen of chowders: yes, we love you, but you’re ineligible).

The Chart House, HOF chow-da:  A solid, classic chowder.  Maybe a little too much bacon and salt (though most chowders have too much salt).  Yes still, a simple, on the money chowder, if not inventive–  it’s easy to see why it’s HOF.

And, for competitive chow-DAs:

Yankee Lobster Fish Market:  So-so.  A completely un-memorable chow-DA, in both good and bad ways.

Parker’s Restaurant, Omni Parker House Hotel:  One of the better ones on the afternoon, with a good consistency and well-browned potatoes.  Nothing fancy, but solid, mid-level chow-DA.

Farmer Brown’s:  A truly unique chowder, with tons of fresh, organic vegetables, less cream and a more brown-base-consistency.  I voted for this chowder last year, and while it’ll never be HOF classic chow-DA, it’s one of my favorites.

Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern:  Yuck.  A slog of potato stew that bore no resemblance to clam anything; a chow-DA of dissapointment.  Poor showing, Mr. Dooley.

Fish Pier:  Certainly the worst of the day.  A glue-y white paste that brought to mind my sister’s habit of drunkenly eating cold, condensed Campbell’s out of the tin in college (ugh), with very few clams and undercooked potatoes.  Huge disappointment.

Oceana:  Delicious.  My second-favorite chow-DA of the day, with a good consistency, not too much salt, browned potatoes.  Perfect with a dash of tabasco.

Anthem Kitchen + Bar:  Unbelievable chow-DA.  Best I’ve had in a long time.  Perfectly cooked vegetables and perfectly browned potatoes, with pieces of juicy clams and the right cream consistency (and we’ve tasted how hard it is to get the right).  Makes me want to visit the restaurant, ’cause I went back for more than a few samples of their chow-DA.

And now, drumroll in honor of Clark Griswold, the winners of the 29th Annual 2010 Boston Harborfest Chowderfest:

3rd place:  Yankee Lobster Fish Market –  Eh, really?  Really?

2nd place:  Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern –  Are you serious?  That potato, no clam slog?  I’d wallpaper with it.  are these fracking Bostonites sucking down too much Sam Adams Summer Ale?!  What’s going on?

1st place:  Anthem Kitchen + Bar –  Ah, thank the ghost of Ted Williams!  Order has been restored.  By far the best chow-DA has been recognized as the best chow-DA.  Good night, New England!

So there you go.  A wonderful Fourth of July, Americana tradition.  Next time you’re in Boston, check it out.  Oyster crackers provided, but bring your own chardonnay.

Oh, Norman Rockwell.


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