Can I get some crackers with that?
When the call came a few months back asking if I’d like to judge a professional clam chowder cook-off, it took me about three seconds to respond. You see, I consider clam chowder to be its own food group. In fact, in college I survived — literally — on the stuff at Dan & Louis Oyster Bar in downtown Portland. For $1.50, I could keep a steady stream of oyster crackers flowing into a terrine of steaming bisque and be satisfied for an entire day.
So, when I found myself in Florence on the central Oregon coast, seated at the judging table of the Professional Chowder Cook-Off, I was ready. There were 11 chowders to judge, brought out in flights of four, four, and three. I checked the viscosity of the first one: perfect. Then I took a bite: heaven.