After barely nudging double digits for weeks, the weather warmed up for today’s Saratoga Chowderfest and chowder lovers showed up en masse. (Although I think the crowds are a bit down from previous years, perhaps because locals have lost the habit of leaving their houses.)
This is an event with multiple agendas. There are charities raising money for their causes and restaurants that are essentially promoting their own cuisine. (Some do both, like Javier’s which served a light but excellent monkfish chowder with a coconut milk base from a Red Cross ambulance in its courtyard.) And some like to buy the votes of tasters with huge amounts of cream or lavish ingredients, like chicken wings (Django’s) or a crab claw (Druthers) used as “spoons”, while others make a serious attempt to showcase the work of their chefs.
Biggest disappointment: Plum Dandy was not serving its yogurt “chowder” this year. Shortest line: the Destination Saratoga booth serving a generous portion of pulled pork. (Destination Saratoga is a group promoting the idea of a large casino in Saratoga, which the majority of citizens opposed on a ballot measure.)
Best of the seven I tried: a classic chowder from the American Academy of Chefs, with lots of clam chunks and a topping of crumbled bacon from regional favorite Oscar’s Smokehouse. Oddly, it was one of the shorter lines; festival goers in general tend to pile in lines like Muscovites, on the principle that if people are waiting then it must be good.
If you happen to be in the area and can find a parking spot, Saratoga Chowderfest continues till 4 pm today.