Last Saturday, I was one of eight tasters to judge the Famous Clam Chowder Contest that kicked-off Montauk’s 32nd Annual Fall Festival, hosted by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce. This competition is as fierce as the thousands of chowder lovers who lined-up—with commemorative mugs in hand—an hour before the 24 anonymous local restaurants started ladling more than 4,000 cups of their best New England and Manhattan chowders. It was a perfectly brisk autumn day and nothing is better to warm the heart and soul than sampling two-dozen Long Island clam chowdas!
Actually, it would have been a feat to properly judge all the chowders, so we were split into two groups; I was assigned to the Manhattan-style. A number was inscribed on the many cups of chowder placed in front of us; we had no idea which restaurants were in the competition.
I was fortunate enough to sit next to Silvia Lehrer, a culinary professional/teacher, avid practitioner of locavorism and the author of Savoring the Hamptons, a beautiful cookbook featuring everything delicious about the North and South forks. I figured if there is anyone who knew a thing or two about chowder it would be Silvia.
The chowder was flowing as we sipped, slurped, chomped and judged each chowder on appearance, body, balance of ingredients and depth of flavor. There were many varieties of this tomato-based chowder: spicy and chunky; clammy and briny; bacony and tomatoey; herby and brothy. John’s Pancake House (we knew it as #17) encompassed all of these flavors beautifully and placed first in the Manhattan category. Who would have ever thunk that a pancake house could win? And the winners are:
Manhattan Clam Chowder
1st: John’s Pancake House
3rd: Inlet Seafood
New England Clam Chowder
1st: Sole East
2nd: Gosman’s Restaurant
Tied for 3rd: Gurney’s and Tre Bella
I was so inspired by all the competitors that I made my own clam chowder, trying to replicate John’s Pancake House winning recipe purely on its memorable taste.
Visit outeastfoodie for the recipe.