Possibly because of the nice weather, Saratoga Chowderfest was slammed this year. (Event date was February 4, 2012.) There was a mile-long backup on the highway coming into town, no legal parking spaces anywhere near downtown (creating a ticket-writing field day for the local constabulary), and block-long lines for the $1 sample cups. Many venues sold out early, and they ran out of the t-shirts which were the reward for completing a ballot by sampling five cups and voting for your favorite.
Nonetheless, I managed to finish a good complement of tasting. I like this event because anybody can come up with a chowder recipe and customize it to fit the theme of their establishment. It’s also smart PR because chowder tasting patrons may be more likely to come back for a full meal.
Parting Glass, an Irish bar, had a chunk of lobster candied in Jamison’s and a crouton made with Bailey’s atop their chowder. Dango, a sports bar, had a “Buffalo” theme with red pepper in their chowder and a buffalo wing “spoon”. (My vote for best among those I tried.) Plum Dandy, a gelato place, had dessert chowder consisting of cake batter yogurt and mochi clams. Hattie’s, a southern fried chicken place, was distributing mardi gras beads along with its bourbon chicken chowder. And on.
It’s easy to produce a crowd favorite (though a bit expensive) by using a high pecentage of cream. The cream also serves to coat the stomach lining and provide endurance to many adventurers who chose to have a beer of glass or wine along with each taste. (With waits of 15 minutes and sometimes much longer, that’s a good amount of time to have a beer.)
I’ve been on a Thai food kick recently but was not tempted by any of the 3 Thai-ish restaurants in town because all seem to be serving sample sizes of their standard soups. Too bad, a cup of Thai mussel chowder made with coconut milk would have really hit the spot.