Wine and food... few things in life are as enjoyable to me as wine and food. I love those two things because they've been the centerpiece of society since the Roman Empire. When you get to travel to places where wine and food are part of the local culture, it's even better. Boston is a great city for many things related to wine and food. Boston has some of the best seafood around, especially clam chowder. There's also a number of great breweries who are doing cool things with beer and food pairings. I was on a mission to find the best cup of chowder after an inspiring moment in the Willamette Valley where I had Salmon Chowder with bacon in it. So I headed from Boston towards Cape Cod in search of the best example of what good chowder should be. The criteria for the best cup was a sliding scale but based loosely on the quality of ingredients, balance of flavor and amount of stuff in there. I stopped in Plymouth, Mass. and sampled a few offerings from the local restaurants. Since I work for a Napa winery famous for Sauvignon Blanc, I'm always on the lookout for a good pairing to go with our Sauvie B. Clam chowder can be a good pairing if it's done right. Here's what I discovered:
Contender #1 - Woods
Right on the dock in Plymouth, Mass. is Woods. Half seafood market, half restaurant. I ordered a cup of their chowder and it was creamy, but didn't have very much in it. In fact, I don't have much to say about it other than that. The cream base was good but it could've had more stuff in it. The clams were kind of rubbery.
Contender #2 - Lobster Hut
Lobster Hut was down the street from Woods, located on the water. The Lobster Hut clam chowder had more ingredients in it, yet had the same cream texture as Woods'. It wasn't too bad for a family diner setting. Potatoes were just right and the clams were softer and not as rubbery as the Woods' chowder.
Contender #3 - CabbyShack
Cabbyshack is the kind of place you walk into and expect to see waiters wearing flair. They come over and offer to start you off with Chicken Cluckers® or the Cabbyshack-tacular Margarita. Think Senor Frogs but in the Northeast. When my cup of clam chowder came, it was loaded with all sorts of ingredients.... In fact, too many ingredients. It was no longer a Chowder, but rather a "Crowder"—all the stuff was crammed into the cup. You'd think more is more, but in this case too many potatoes, clams, etc. caused the texture of the actual chowder to be too thick. It was almost so thick that it resembled spackle. Sadly, out of the first 3 contenders, this one was the best.
Contender #4 - Legal Seafood
My winning clam chowder is the cup from Legal Seafood. If you take all the best parts of the previous 3 contenders, you have Legal Seafood Clam Chowder. The cream base was just the right thickness without being overwhelming, there was just the right amount of high quality ingredients. Rumor has it the White House serves this clam chowder and I can see why. This is the best clam chowder I had in Mass.