Greenport’s annual Maritime Festival attracts more than 20,000 people each year. At this year’s event at the end of September, it seemed that most of them were all on line at once to get into the tent to taste and cast their votes in the chowder contest.
The Chowder Contest. Who wouldn’t want bragging rights for an entire year? Who wouldn’t want to taste their own concoction with the serene knowledge that their combination of clams, stock, vegetables and cream (optional) was the most preferred on the entire North Fork?
This year seven chefs were up to the challenge. They cooked away the night before and then hauled portable propane burners and stockpots the size of wine barrels to the parking lot of the Chase bank for the contest, which is sponsored by Albertson’s Realty.
This year’s contest, however, would be different. For one, there was a judging panel of local foodies headed up by chef John Ross, in addition to the traditional popular vote. The chowder did not have to be made with clams and an actual Chowder Cup would be awarded to the winner, along with $250 in prize money.
Joining the competition was habitual winner Claudio’s, which usually goes home with best New England clam chowder. But this year they threw a curve and entered a specialty of their southern chef, Chris Coleman, Louisiana crab and corn chowder. It was spicy.
The absence of Claudio’s New England left Charlie Manwaring of the Southold Fish Market kicking himself, because this year he decided not to go up against Claudio’s and brought a lobster bisque and Manhattan clam chowder instead of his creamy New England.
Townsend Manor Inn did bring New England clam chowder, and it paid off. Owner Scott Gonzales and team won the popular vote and took home a plaque.
Tweed’s in Riverhead brought what they called “good ground chowder,” a soup, owner Dee Muma says, that’s been upgraded for modern life. The Portly Grape brought lobster and corn chowder, which Mike Leigey says has 57 ingredients, including brandy and sherry. Noah Schwartz, chef owner of Noah’s in Greenport, cooked up what he calls Long Island clam chowder made with local hard clams and Latham’s white potatoes.
But the guy who went off the reservation by serving a local striped bass chowder with corn and pumpkin took home the trophy for best in show. “Even if you’re from Manhattan,” says chef Tom Schaudel of A Mano in Mattituck, “you’ll like this chowder.”