My talented blog friend, Donna at Retirement Reflections, has teamed up with Deb at Widow Badass to invite all of us to a monthly virtual dinner party. The goal is to spread meal inspirations and share dishes that we have recently enjoyed. Breakfast, lunch, appetizers, dinner, dining in, dining out… all ideas are welcome.
Each spring, my husband Matt and I host a Chowda’ and Sweet Treat Cook Off at the Sayville Yacht Club, a community of sailors and beach bums. Over the years, the events evolved from guest judges tasting three types of clam chowder, Manhattan, New England, and “Free Style” and a table of homemade desserts to having all the guest vote for their favorite chowder.
Cooks prepared their chowder at home and bring it in a crock-pot so that it stays warm during the afternoon. I ask for people to let me know what they are bringing so I could gauge the amount of appetizer I prepare while everyone sips and slurps chowder and samples the sweet treats. I usually have a cheese tray out and cold salmon gravlax, which has become a staple for this event.
Inevitably, the calls trickle in and I get anxious there would not be enough chowder for everyone. If there are no leftovers, someone would go home hungry (my personal mantra). I bought the biggest salmon filet I could find and two of Costco’s over-served sleeves of chocolate chip cookies. Matt and I make a pot of chowder each. I go with my Grandma’s Manhattan Clam Chowder, but Matt searches the internet for a new chowder experience.
This year, the ninth, Chowda’ and Sweet Treat Cook Off, Matt found the New York Times Rhode Island Clam Chowder recipe. Rhode Island chowder features a clear base as opposed to the northern cousin’s creamy New England base or the savory tomato broth in Manhattan Clam Chowder.
Clams are part of our heritage on the south shore of Long Island. The clamming industry was a way of life for generations and supported families. As a kid, my friends, sisters and I dug clams with our feet and little scratch rakes. We would collect enough for a raw snack or a feast. Matt earned his college tuition “donkey raking” during the summer. Unfortunately, the bays were over harvested, mismanaged, and fell victim to environmental issues—all to write about at another time.
We ordered clams, steamed, chopped, and simmered. The house smelled heavenly. Seven pots showed up, plus our two. The dessert table filled up quickly. A friendly crowd gathered, sip, slurped, sampled the chowder and treats and frequented the bar. We counted the tallies. Matt’s Rhode Island Clam Chowder tied for first favorite. We also counted two deserts in a tie.
Applause, applause, trophy hats, picture snaps and another SYC Chowda’ and Sweet Treat Cook Off is in the books.
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