Chowderfest 2018: A Review
Sat., Feb. 3, 2018, was the 20th Annual Chowderfest. Every year, hundreds of Skidmore students, Saratoga locals and other Upstate New Yorkers flock to the streets downtown to sample various chowder samples for $1 each. Flavors ranged from the traditional New England clam chowder to the more unusual flavors of beer-infused or chicken poblano chowders.
The weather for this year’s Chowderfest was quite cold and windy, but did not stop people from arriving at the event early to have a head start in sampling. As the day went on, the lines grew longer, increasing the amount of waiting time per serving. Going early, or even taking advantage of opportunities to purchase chowder inside restaurants like Wheatfields or R+R Kitchen and Bar, helped mitigate chowder cravings faster and kept the cold at bay.
While most of the participants in Chowderfest go the traditional route by serving classic favorites such as New England Clam Chowder, it wouldn’t be much of a celebration of flavor if everyone served the same variations — however many of the traditional chowders did have some form of variation that kept their flavors unique, such as the chowder from Rising Sun Lodge No. 103 Free & Accepted Masons. These additions, like bacon or biscuits, showed that good flavor profiles can be achieved by improving on the classics.
While the more unusual chowders might cause people to stay away, they proved to successfully push the boundaries of creativity and flavor. One example was the Saratoga Courtyard by Marriot’s smoked buffalo chicken chowder with blue cheese mousse and chicken cracklings. The idea seemed unusual, but the flavors of buffalo chicken were not compromised by being served in soup form.
Surprisingly enough, not all food served at Chowderfest was chowder — leaving room for the presence of equally delicious sweets. Sweet Mimi’s at Phila Street served dessert chowder in the form of chocolate mousse. The rich flavors and thick texture of the dessert “chowder” were a nice way to end the festival, especially for those who needed to satisfy their sweet tooth.
This year, commemorative cookbooks that feature select chowder recipes from years past were sold in honor of the history of Chowderfest. These recipes served as a reminder of how far the festival has evolved in conjunction to the history of Saratoga Springs.
Having a variety of unique flavors is the mark of a good food festival, but the true indicator of how well-received the event is lies in the support of the people — Chowderfest 2018 had both. May it all continue to last in the years to come.