Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Insult to Clam Chowder

My dad was a born and raised New Englander. A fan of all food stuffs New England, I would say he wasn't exactly your most sophisticated or adventurous eater, but he certainly would treasure the fine art of cooking and consuming great chowder, clam cakes, stuffies, grape nut pudding, among other delectable edibles native to this region. Unfortunately, on occasion, in spite of his ravenous appetite, which he luckily passed along to yours truly, his face would turn to utter disgust and bitter disappointment. Then he would say, "Look at this swill." 
So in his own words, "Look at this swill."
It really pisses me off when people f*ck up clam chowder. And when a restaurant in this region screws it up, they usually go big, and then go home, as in close up shop. Can you imagine being a local restaurant on the North Shore of Massachusetts, situated only steps from the harbor, serving up something that looks like this?
It was so thick that the resemblance to glue should be illegal. That's right: so gooey that the mounded cup of chowder actually formed a stable little muffin top above the actual cup. A single spoonful only confirmed the disgusting texture and overly flour or corn starch thickened gloop set before me. Perhaps it was canned chowder as it had that kind of pasty look that would "sssshhhhwwwwiiiiirrrrppp" out of the can. Maybe the chef has a clear affinity for the texture of room temperature canned gravy. Needless to say, I couldn't believe what I had seen today. Sure, I've had horrible clam chowders before, but usually in places where you kind of let it go. Like California for instance. What are they supposed to know about New England clam chowder, so therefore you quell your gag reflex eat a few spoonfuls and then nod politely at the person who brought you to the restaurant hoping to have discovered a place serving up authentic clam chowder. But this? This was shameful... a crime against anyone who loves this very local treasure.
One more look at the
chowder abomination
I'm not going to disclose the name of the restaurant, because if they continue to serve up cuisine like this, I'm figuring that they're not going to be in business for all that much longer, especially since they're a fairly young restaurant to begin with. However, as we strolled in for lunch, I will say that the bigger half and I were the only two people in there that were in fact not working there. A dozen or so servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff, all except one looking to be of college age or younger, roamed around the restaurant sort of psyched to be there and joking around. When the soup did arrive, it appeared steaming hot, but no, it was just nuked... given a single twirl in the micro-nuker. The single spoonful I did choke down was only warm, and that's being overly generous.
The other items we had for lunch were mediocre at best and not worth the calories at worst. But I think our server knew how bad the chowder was. Perhaps it was intended for a tourist palate? That's kind of insulting to the tourists. Lessons to be learned: don't serve overly thickened chowder. Let the clam flavor come through. Creamy is good, gluey is bad.

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