Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chowdah Fest

There may be a blizzard outside, but my stomach is chock full of piping hot CHOWDAH! That's right, Monday night the Columbia Yacht Club held its first annual Chowdah Fest to raise funds for the Sea Scouts Youth Sailing Program, and Kate and I went there to cover the event.

I'd never been to the Columbia Yacht Club before, but the event was literally on a docked yacht on the lake near Randolph. We took public transportation to get there, but the closest we could get was State and Randolph. That meant that we had to walk a significant amount directly eastward toward the lake. The snow hadn't necessarily started on Monday night, but it was about as cold and windy as could be. By the time we got there, we were frozen solid and ready to dig in to some chowder. The event was divided into two rooms filled with chefs serving up their different spins on chowder. There were also a few drink vendors including Goose Island and Great Lakes Brewing interspersed among the chowder booths.

The Food
I figured it'd be best to show you some of the brightest spots of the evening.

The first chowder we tried was from The Drake Hotel's Cape Cod Room. It was runner-up for fan favorite, and there were no tricks to this guy. Heavy on the clams, well spiced, and just straight up classic was the style of this chowder that had been made the same way for years at The Drake.

After that we tried the chowder of Chef Julius Russell who used a gluten free mushroom broth and replaced the traditional potatoes with chickpeas.

Then we were blown away by the fan favorite chowder from Nana. This was actually an oyster chowder that was topped with a scrumptious fried oyster and had an awesome acidic kick from some preserved lemons.

Fox and Obel was next on our tour with one of my personal favorites. It had a hearty crouton, tons of clams, and a sinfully creamy base.

After heading upstairs we went straight to the Shaw's booth. This Chicago seafood king from Lettuce Entertain You  showed up big with a silky base and a very classic chowder.

One of my most anticipated bowls of the night was that from Guiseppe Tentori, the chef at Boka, who will soon be opening GT Fish and Oyster. The highlight of this one was a prosciutto powder that was dusted over the top to give the chowder an unmatched savory appeal.

With a little room left in our stomachs we went to what ended up being my favorite chowder of the night from Dirk's Fish. The broth had a very natural appeal, feeling almost as if you were drinking juices straight from the clams. It really warmed the bones.

I don't know how anyone wouldn't love this event. When it comes around next year make sure you get out to support the Sea Scouts Youth Sailing Program. I literally ate chowder until I could eat no more. At one point we were hoping the blizzard would start during the event. That way we'd be trapped on a boat with nothing but beer, bread, chowder, and some of the most interesting culinary minds in the city. Hopefully these pictures and descriptions will help keep you warm through the storm.


  1. I really wish we had been stranded. I don't have any chowder in my apartment right now.

  2. That looks like a fantastic event. Very interesting to hear your take on the Chowder from Guiseppe Tentori considering his new restaurant is opening soon.

    P. Channon

  3. What a fun event! Now I wish I had written about the chili cook-off I went to at Moonshine two months ago or so. So many great chilis from all over town! And all so different too!