More than 20,000 people attended the eighth annual Chowderfest on Sunday, October 12, from 12–4 pm. A total of 17 local organizations attended the event, offering a wide variety of original thick soups to chowder-goers. Additionally, each submission required at least one ingredient from a local farm. These groups competed against each other for more than eight awards, which were given at the end of the event. Tickets were sold at a booth for $1 each, which could then be traded for a four ounce cup of chowder at any of the venue’s booths.
The judges for the event were Executive Chef of Sodexo Campus Services at RPI Jackie Baldwin, Times Union writer Steve Barnes, and Bill Dowd, a veteran newspaper editor and writer in the field of spirits, wine, and food.
Many tents were meticulously decorated with each group’s logo, paraphernalia, and chowder ingredients. Other attending vendors were also selling food and drinks ranging from churros and popcorn to alcoholic beverages.
I walked over to the event from my house and was surprised by the event’s attendance. The lines for the tickets extended from the waterfront all the way to Psychedelicatessen, totaling more than three blocks. However, the wait was no longer than 15 minutes, much quicker than expected. As I walked to the first booth, I was greeted by live music, a crowd of people, and the smell of rich, thick chowda.
Ethan Sclarsky ’16 stated, “Chowderfest was a really fun and surprisingly large event. It was a good way to get a taste of local food in Troy.”
The first chowder I sampled was Sweet Sue’s Southeast Asian inspired Thai Tom Kha chowder. More of a soup than a chowder, it contained potatoes, cilantro, and beans spouts, in what I tasted was a coconut milk and lemongrass-based stock. This entry was original, vegan, and gluten free, setting it apart from the other milk-based concoctions. I am partial to spicy foods, so this lands a solid second place in the chowders I tasted during Chowderfest.
Next, I tried the Nantucket Boat Chowder and Fall Harvest Pilgrim Chowder of Jack’s Oyster House. The boat chowder featured a wonderful blend of lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters, monk fish, potatoes, and leeks in a savory lobster stock. I loved this one. It was rich, creamy, and packed a salty seafood punch. When asked about the chowder, Nick Seguljic ’17 said, “The boat chowder was one of my favorite chowders, packing a lot of flavor into a small package.” It’s no wonder that this chowder won best seafood chowder and third best overall. The Fall Harvest Pilgrim Chowder contained sweet corn, potatoes, leeks, fennel, sweet sausage, and a pancetta crouton, with a potato-based stock. This fall-stylized soup reminded me of an upscale cream of potato soup, comforting me with its rich, salty texture. Though not as high on my list, the judges rated this chowder first place overall.
Speaking of fall traditions, Broadway Cafe offered its Oktoberfest chowder, containing a pretzel drizzled with mustard, and a stock of cheese, bratwurst, and beer. Andy Kakkaramadam ’16 commented, “You wouldn’t think that a pretzel would be a good choice in a chowder, but the flavoring complemented the strong mustard taste, along with the cheesy soup.”
The Mallozzi’s came back this year with their four-time winning chowder, Autumn Pear Chowder. Consisting of a bacon-butter base, it also includes potatoes and pears alongside a variety of spices and vegetables. I have to say, this blend of spices packs a powerful punch, making it my favorite chowder out of the ones I sampled that day.
The waterfront was a wonderful venue for the event, allowing tasters to enjoy their chowders by the river. I’m looking forward to next year’s Chowderfest, and if you didn’t make it to this year’s, put it in your schedule! The event was a fantastic way to chow down some chowder, while getting a taste of what the area has to offer.