Well, lets start with the basics…first you need CLAMS! This might sound obvious, but I recently went to a local eatery, ordered a bowl of clam chowder and was shocked there were no actual clams in it. So for the record, no matter what you think you want to call it, if your soup has no clams, it’s not Clam Chowder!
And while there is a hot debate on what really does make any soup qualify as a clam chowder, we seem to all agree that there must also be a broth and some form of potato. From those three ingredients on, I’ll call it the chowder trinity, there doesn’t seem to be much agreeing on anything else.
Of course, the most popular styles of chowder most of us recognize as New England Style (White) and Manhattan (Red), but did you know that Rhode Island (clear broth) and Long Island (kind of a New England and Manhattan had a baby/swirl type of chowder) also vie in the hearts of Americans for their favorite chowder? I have also heard tale of a Cape Hatteras Style Clam Chowder that is neither creamy, nor “tomatoey” (yes, I know that’s not a word) in it’s base. Alas, I have yet to travel to the Outer Banks and try this one myself. I’ve also had a friend argue his point on a delicious VEGAN clam chowder, again, no clams, not a clam chowder in my never to be humble opinion.
So where do I ring in on the great chowder debate? Those of you who know me, may have guessed by now. At the risk of sounding like a broken culinary record, as for clam chowders, I’ve left my heart in San Francisco!
What makes San Francisco Clam Chowder different? At first blush you might mistake it for New England Clam Chowder, except for the subtle differences, it’s less thick and creamy for one. It’s a white chowder, but the creamy base is loaded with a lot more clam juice which makes it thinner and gives it is distinctive color and ohhh so clammy taste. Often hidden in a mix of fresh herbs and celery is a hint of fennel. YUM! But most importantly, the MAJOR difference, the thing you can’t get anywhere else in the world, it is served in a warm fresh (made that day) genuine San Francisco Sourdough bowl. Yep you got it! Made with the original “mother starter” you just can’t beat the real thing. Tearing the bowl apart to eat the last bits of your clam chowder soaked into the bread on a windy San Francisco Summer day with the Bay breeze in your hair and the seals barking….That’s what makes a great clam chowder for me!
What about you? You will have your chance to have your say on the great chowder debate as The Chowder Festival returns to Flagler Avenue this year after a year long hiatus as the Flagler Avenue Chowder Challenge, Sunday, January 26th from Noon to 6pm along Flagler Avenue. Make sure to grab your tickets in advance as this event always sells out at: http://nsbchowder2020.eventbrite.com
I look forward to seeing you there and tasting great chowders with you!
Food For Thought…