32nd Annual Clam Chowder Cook Off & Festival, Santa Cruz CA
What a beautiful day for August’s first visit to Santa Cruz, and what an event! We went to the Boardwalk not for rides, games, or carnival food, but the clam chowder cook off. Over 70 contestants, divided between “individual” and “professional,” vied for the categories of best Boston, best Manhattan, most original, most tasted, and people’s choice.
We got there after the crews had already been cooking for an hour, but in plenty of time for the opening bell. It was interesting to walk and see who was competing, what they were offering, and observe their cooking methods.
We bought plenty of tasting kits to be sure to try as many of the chowders as possible, walking up and down the whole Boardwalk to find all the tents. There was definitely a small representation of the Manhattan Red style, which is seasoned very much like minestrone. We tried every one that we found, but preferred the more traditional white Boston. Our three favorite were from Serritella’s, Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery, and Savory & Sweet Catering. None of them won in any of the categories, which was a true shame because they were simply amazing. Official esults are posted here.
Guiding us through the Boardwalk among the throngs of people were the smells of chowder and bacon (you have to admit, bacon is one of the strongest food smells). Sampling every available chowder was fun in and of itself, and so was meeting friendly competitors and fellow tasters. For those with families or otherwise larger groups, there are plenty of games, rides, and carnival food to keep everyone happy and occupied. Overheard whispers revealed that this year was bigger than last year, so if we were to come back for the 33rd annual, we know to be prepared for even more people to meet and chowder to taste.