Tag Archives: Clam Chowder

ELLT Pic of the Day (#163)

We’ve done ribs and turkey burgers in the past, but on Thursday night for ELLT 2012 we’re having a fish-grill-clam-chowder feast

Stone Soup, Ipswich – clam chowder review

Stone Soup in Ipswich: good simple food, cash only, decent Sunday after-basketball lunch.

First Taste: so thin, so thin. This may be an example of sight displacing taste as the chowder looked so soupy and thin, all I could think of in the first taste was how un-creamy-chowder-like it was.

Fishy Substance: lots of clams, cooked right and fresh, and enough to last through the whole bowl. One sign of a chowder’s goodness is whether you’re still getting clams in the last few spoonful. This chowder was plenty well stocked.

Essential Extras: the potatoes were small and the chowder had no other special features (like bacon)…but…but there was some kind of seasoning, which I have had before in other clam chowders, that I couldn’t completely identify, but it made all the difference. By the end of the bowl, the initial surprise (unhappiness) with the lack of creaminess was replaced by an overwhelming sense of flavor.

Creamy Quality: None. This is one small step away from being clam soup.

What It’s Got: despite the lack of cream, bacon, celery, and substantial potatoes, Stone Soup’s chowder has tremendous taste and plenty of clams. Is that balance? No, but it does work.

Overall: I won’t ever go to Stone Soup for their clam chowder, in large part because Ipswich Clambake is almost across the street and has the best chowder I have tasted so far. But I will get the chowder when I do go to Stone Soup and certainly recommend it.

Rating: 3.25 Clams...the seasoning and clams keep it from being just average or even below, but the lack of cream and absence of anything else special keeps this from 3.5 or higher.

Loretta’s Newburyport – Clam Chowder Review

Loretta’s is one of Newburyport’s best little restaurants. Not as fancy as Mission Oak or Black Cow, but equally as adventurous in menu variation. Not as much of a bar scene as Agave or Port Tavern, but the perfect atmosphere for mid-week lunch. And since Loretta’s posts its daily specials on line, today I tried the clam chowder for the first time (after probably 20 meals there).

First Taste: clam and bacon on one spoonful — that is about as good as it can get

Fishy Substance: plenty of clams, cooked a little less than most chowders (maybe this was early in the day for the soup, as it was just a few minutes after noon). Nothing special and no grit, but fresh-tasting and abundant

Essential Extras: bacon bacon bacon bacon. Yes, some purists will say clam chowder should stand on its own without needing the magical power of bacon, but this clam chowder had a perfect balance of enough bacon and enough potatoes and enough spices and little extras to make it all work

Creamy Quality: Initially, the chowder seemed a little thin, but throughout the cup it tasted heavier and heavier, without being creamy…so, yes, a creamy chowder that wasn’t creamy, somehow

What It’s Got: tremendous balance between bacon and clams, plus a slight mustard-colored hue that made me initially think I was tasting mustard, although enough spoonfuls into it that sense went away. Something gives it a less-than-creamy-white-color (essence of bacon?) that helps it all come together

Overall: I check Loretta’s menu almost daily and probably get there twice a month, so I am disappointed that they don’t have clam chowder more often (disappointed like a gluttonous hog is disappointed when the trough is empty). When they have it again, I’ll be back. Easily one of the best chowders I have had.

Rating: 4.5 Clams...I am trying to decide what could make it better and perhaps the creaminess could come out just a bit more. And with respect for the purists, I’ll refrain from giving it a 4.85 since it does have bacon. But the bottom line is simple: this is the best clam chowder in Newburyport.

Tendercrop, Newbury, MA – clam chowder review

Tendercrop is a farm and farmstand along Rt 1A in Newbury and after a few years boycotting the place (long story), we’re back to going there for fresher vegetables and better (grass-fed) meat. And on Wednesday, I tried the clam chowder….

First Taste: heavy and peppery, which is not a bad thing

Fishy Substance: good clams and enough of them, but instead of grit (always good in small amounts), there was a piece of shell (never good…didn’t stop me from eating the rest, of course)

Essential Extras: the potatoes weren’t great, a little too mushy and bland…and if a potato is remarkably bland, it is really bad. The chowder also had some other indistinguishable extras…and being indistinguishable here is not good.

Creamy Quality: I kept thinking the chowder was too thick and chewy, but it never tasted too thick. If it makes any sense, it was thicker on the spoon than on the palate, which means they got the balance close to perfect.

What It’s Got: like The Old Salt, there was nothing special at all about this chowder. Basic, notable only for its creamy balance and a piece of shell.

Overall: Tendercrop undoubtedly gets a lot of touristy traffic, in addition to the die hard local loyalists. And I asked when I bought it whether it was made on site. This is a place that sells fresh everything, locally grown everything, from carrots to ground turkey to minestrone soup…but not their own chowder. The lovely lady at the counter said its the only soup they buy from a distributor (Shaheen, I think), adding that they don’t sell much seafood. Good point, but then why sell chowder? I think that goes back to Tendercrop’s location. I may have been the first local to buy chowder there in years. At least, I hope so, since Ipswich Clam Bake is so close by.

Rating: 2.2 Clams...it gets an extra .2 for being so close by and reliable, if really necessary. Wait, I take that back….just 2 Clams, which is pretty low for a place so close to the water. Wait, knock it down another .5 for not even being homemade. Final Rating 1.5 Clams

Ipswich Clambake Revisited

We stopped by Ipswich Clambake today for some vacation-time chowder. Just like in April, the chowder got high marks from everyone (Eric and Tara Shimp, plus me).

First taste — I got some grit in the initial bite (always a good thing) and noticed a sweetness that hadn’t been there before.

Fishy substance — plenty of fresh clams, perfectly cooked.

Essential extras — the potatoes were perfectly done, just the right cooked-ness. The chowder had maybe enough pepper (could use a little), but nothing else.

Creamy quality — here we had some disagreement. Tara noted that too much creaminess makes it taste like flour, where I thought it could use a bit more creaminess…overall, well-balanced.

What it’s got — like before, an exceptionally well-balanced chowdah, with enough of everything, and extra extra clams.

Overall — this still rates as one of the top three chowders, and maybe a little extra credit for having a sweetness that wasn’t there before.

Rating: Eric gave it just below a 4, while Tara and I went with 4.5, so the final score is roughly 4.312.

Clam Chowder Review: Bob Lobster, Newbury

The day after the Bruins win the Stanley Cup seems like a good day to get some clam chowder…just a great celebration for New England kind of day. And with Bob Lobster so close, it was time to revisit the one-time mecca of clam chowder…

First Taste: a fishy-ness, a briny-ness, a deep immediate taste of the ocean. No question from the first spoonful that this is loaded with clams.

Fishy Substance: good, fresh clams and plenty of them. No extras, no special little join-the-party fish, just tasty clams (with a little grit, which is a good thing).

Essential Extras: the potatoes have just the right firmness – solid, without being raw and undercooked. There was no bacon, but the celery was perfect – enough to taste, but not too much. The pepper was good – no extra needed….ok, maybe a little extra needed (but that’s the Polack in me).

Creamy Quality: Bob Lobster consistently has the creaminess right, if maybe slightly sliding towards soup. Because the chowder is so well-balanced overall, I can’t fault it for being slightly-ever-so-slightly soupy.

What It’s Got: Balance. And heft. Some clam chowders leave you ready for a meal, but Bob Lobster’s – for lunch, at least – is enough. And a salty ocean taste that hits you on the first spoonful and then really thunders through when you get to the bottom of the bowl. That ocean sense-smell-taste sets it apart.

Overall: My soul suffered a near-fatal blow when I learned Bob Lobster doesn’t make their own chowder, but instead brings it in from the Boston Chowder Company. I confirmed that today and asked why they don’t make their own. The counter clerk had no good explanation, but I remain convinced something about the ocean air all around Bob Lobster and maybe the vats they keep the chowder in give it an extra something. It is, despite its semi-factory origins, a very good chowder. I just wish they made it themselves.

Rating: 4 Clams...Booby Orr’s number, which seems just right today.

Chowder Review: Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, DC

I had the pleasure of drinks and dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill with three East Luray Liars and was talked into getting the clam chowder, violating my long-held rule of never ordering seafood unless I have been near the water that day (and, yes, the Potomac, if I had seen it that day, would have counted). As it happens, I may have violated the rule in spirit, but in reality, not so much.

First Taste – perfect balance of creaminess and soupiness and incredible large delicious chunks of bacon, real bacon, fresh bacon.

Fishy substance – um, no. Tasted like clam chowder and smelt like clam chowder, but was almost completely lacking in actual clams, or fake clams, or any kind of seafood at all.

Essential extras – the bacon stood out, both on the first few spoons and then throughout. Crisp, but not overcooked, and certainly not small or skimpy. The potatoes were also perfect, that right amount of cooked-ness where they maintain some solidity without tasting underdone. A complete lack of pepper, though. None, not even a hint.

Creamy quality – perfect. Dead solid perfect. Hefty like a chowder but not thick as glue. Simply perfect.

What it’s got – well, no clams. But great bacon and good creaminess, which made it delicious, but kind of masquerading as a clam chowder. I only had a bowl, so its possible I simply got unlucky. But two other Liars noticed a lack of clams.

Overall – I love Old Ebbitt. Love the Corner Bar. Enjoyed the back bar where we sat for dinner. I have had many memorable drinks there and some plain-old-mid-week-mid-afternoon beers there. And I’ll order the chowder again, but I won’t bother to bring my fishing gear.

Rating: 3 Guinness (not clams)…great chowder, great bacon, great taste, just missing the clams.