Table of Contents Forums Dictionary Recommended Reading Marketplace Giftshop What I Ate Deals Michael's Blog
Latest Post on Michael's Blog: Fall Television Season 2014 Grid
Off Topic

Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off 2006

by Michael Chu
Normal view
Next »
« Prev
Last week, over fifty restaurants and amateur teams competed in the Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off. For twenty-four years, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has hosted this fun (but insanely crowded) event. Tina and I showed up a few minutes after noon - just in time to participate in the public tasting.

The schedule for the day was pretty straight forward. At 10:00am, the competitors get their ingredients prepared and equipment setup. The competition officially begins at 11:00am when cooking begins. The competitors have until 1:00pm to cook. At 1:00pm, public tasting begins and the competitors must be ready to serve up their chowder. During the next couple hours, the competitors are called up by section number to provide samples for official judging. Then at 3:30pm, the final winners are announced.

For the general public, just show up before 1:00pm and purchase a tasting kit for $7. (Kits continue to be sold until 2:45pm, so it's okay to be late.) The kit consists of five tasting tickets (which are just red raffle tickets), one small paper cup, one spoon, and one napkin. Each purchased kit gives you the opportunity to taste five chowders. Five doesn't sound like much, especially since there are over fifty chowders to try, but you'd be surprised how full you feel after five samples...

Tina and I picked up our tasting kits and set off to try ten different chowders. The crowd was so dense that we were lucky to get from one booth to another without spilling chowder all over ourselves. I also gave up trying to come up with a good strategy for selecting which chowders we'd taste. In fact, the lines for getting the chowder samples were a bit nebulous (with the end of one line blending right into the exit of the previous line), so you never really knew which booth you were waiting for.


We actually didn't really like most of the chowders we tasted. It must be difficult to cook well when you're outside with portable burners and humungous aluminum vats filled with chowder ingredients. Several of the chowders I tasted had quite a bit too much salt. In fact, I had a headache for several hours after the event (probably a combination of the high salt intake, the bright sunshine, having to push and dodge around so many people, and enduring insanely loud repeated clanging of pots) and had to keep drinking water well into the evening.

The best New England style chowder (which the competition calls Boston style chowder) that we tasted was from Severino's Bar & Grill (located in the Best Western Seacliff Inn in Aptos, California). I felt it tasted a bit floury, but unlike the other New England Chowders, it didn't taste weird (many were quite sweet and had strange herby flavors) or insanely salty. Severino's competed as "Charlie and the Chowder Factory" complete with a Gene Wilder Willy Wonka look-a-like.




Our favorite Manhattan style chowder was from the Seascape Resort in Watsonville, California.



The official winners this year were:
  • Manhattan style
    • Best Individual - Manhattan Mama (Kathy Cooper) from Sacramento, California
    • Best Restuarant - Severino's Bar & Grill from Aptos, California
  • Boston style
    • Best Individual - Mom's Clam Diggers (Salome Ponce) from Aptos, California
    • Best Restuarant - Severino's Bar & Grill from Aptos, California
  • People's Choice Award - Chowder Slugs from Santa Cruz, California

The most annoying team at the Cook Off was the Bearded Clams from Capitola, California. I didn't get a chance to taste their chowder, but they kept taking turns banging on their pots and using noise makers. I'm pretty sure my headache started when I was waiting in line nearby and had an empty 10 gallon aluminum pot banged loudly with a large metal ladle over and over and over.

If you like clam chowder and can make it out to California during winter, make sure you stop by the Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off. If you can't, at least try making my clam chowder.


Next »
« Prev
Written by Michael Chu
Published on March 04, 2006 at 11:55 AM
4 comments on Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off 2006:(Post a comment)

On March 07, 2006 at 05:24 PM, Lonna (guest) said...
Subject: Clam Chowder
The BEST Boston Clam Chowder I've ever tasted was at Mr. Lucky's Bar & Grill in Walnut Creek, California! It's absolutely PERFECT!


On March 07, 2006 at 05:41 PM, zippthorne (guest) said...
Hi, I live near boston, what's "boston clam chowder?"


On November 07, 2006 at 08:50 PM, WISH I WAS AN ENGINEER (guest) said...
Subject: WANT TO START A COOK OFF TOO
I noticed my hometown could realy use a community event like a clam chowwder cook off or a salom bbq cook off... just wonder if anyone has any suggestions on how to start organizing one?
I am concerned about how people enter to competition, hopefully proceeds go for a charity, and supply of ingredients for each contestant and enough for population of tourists and locals...?

any help out there? :unsure:


On November 07, 2006 at 11:54 PM, eltonyo said...
Subject: Re: WANT TO START A COOK OFF TOO
WISH I WAS AN ENGINEER wrote:
I noticed my hometown could realy use a community event like a clam chowwder cook off or a salom bbq cook off... just wonder if anyone has any suggestions on how to start organizing one?
I am concerned about how people enter to competition, hopefully proceeds go for a charity, and supply of ingredients for each contestant and enough for population of tourists and locals...?

any help out there? :unsure:


i totally agree!

lets put down our swords for once... and sow some great recipes!

as an engineer... i crave efficiency.

why can't we celebrate the bounty of foods given to us... rather than bounty up the foods with political agenda's?

cooking... it is the only thing that separates us from the so-called "animals", in a scientific sense.

why not take advantage... and expand our frontal lobes?

About CfE Contact User Agreement FAQ's In the Press Write for CfE