We missed the Saratoga Springs Chowderfest last year, but not a chance would we miss the annual event — and highlight of the Saratoga Winterfest — two years in a row. As with Chowderfest ’04, Brindisi’s was a clear standout from the crowd this year, again offering the lobster-crab corn chowder. The line was at least 10 minutes long down Broadway.
In order for one’s vote to count, one must sample chowder from at least five participating restaurants. I’d guess at least 30 to 40 restaurants around downtown and on the outskirts of town participate. Jen and I sampled chowder from five places.
Without further adieu. here are our results (on a scale of 1 to 5 Ms, as in, “MMM, this chowder is good!”), photos, and tasting notes for Saratoga Chowderfest ’06:
- Brindisi’s (MMMMM)
The fresh chunks of lobster and crab strike again. It’s hard for any establishment to compete when the seafood is this good and this fresh. Perfect level of spiciness.
- Putnam Market (MMMM)
This traditional New England style clam chowder with potato chunks was a close second place to Brindisi’s. Rich in thyme — almost too thymey — Putnam’s chowder was a pleasant consistency, not too thick and not too thin. Very flavorful and a strong finish (taste-wise and contest-wise).
- Sperry’s (MMM)
Our first chowder of the day, this Mahattan-style pancetta, corn, and potato chowder got the day started off right. We hadn’t tasted Sperry’s chowder in 2004, but I’m glad we did this year. It was sufficiently spicy and set the standards for the day high.
- 43 Phila (MM 1/2)
A crab Manhattan chowder, it was unusually thick, but overall pretty darn good. Nice texture with a solid level of spiciness, this chowder leaves a latent heat/aftertaste. The aroma was fantastic and reflected its peppery qualities.
- Lanci’s (1/2 M)
Jen and I are both good eaters. On the Vassar Ski Team, I was fondly known as The Garbage Disposal since I was happy to eat anyone else’s leftovers. So for either of us not to finish our food is saying a lot. Lanci’s poor entry in this year’s chowderfest was barely a chowder. It was a lentil sausage soup lacking in flavor. There were chunks of shrimp thrown in, and that was its saving grace. While blowing on my spoon to cool down one bite, a shrimp chunk became airborn and flew into Jen’s purse. Lanci’s will have to do much better than this watery, brothy soup if it wants to have a chance next year.
Here’s wishing Brindisi’s luck in yet another victory!