Last month on our way out to Bodega town to give Chef Malicki’s new gig a whirl,
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/764482 , I spotted a string of sandwich boards promoting “Smoked Clam Chowder” along the highway shoulder. The next weekend, I had a chance to investigate with house guest in tow on our way to the coast to buy live Dungeness crabs. My plan was to serve an easy dinner of steamed crabs, salad and a clam chowder taste-off.
This final sign board touting the smoked clam chowder resides in front of the Bodega Country Store.
The small deli inside the general store offers a pretty extensive menu including several soups and breakfast. Even more impressive considering the minimalist cooking facilities, just a counter with a microwave, toaster oven and a steam table for keeping the soups warm. My friend dubbed the owner “MacGyver” for his ability to crank out food with only this equipment. Some raised dough was being cut into lengths the width of the toaster oven tray to bake bread stick twists. I watched the owner cooking diced potatoes with dill in the microwave, then combine them with the other ingredients to make a batch of chowder.
Quite generous with samples, I had the chance to try the chicken vegetable with rice soup and the vegan miso, sea vegetable and enoki soup. The chicken vegetable soup was quite nice, but I found the vegan one too lean and lacking dimension.
The smoked clam chowder includes canned smoked clams and fresh clams in a milky base. The smoked clams are a stand-in for bacon and lend a brinier, fishier taste than fresh clams alone. No flour is used for thickening, just the starch that comes from the potatoes, making this chowder suitable for non-carnivore, gluten-free diets. I liked the brothy, light weight and the herby accent from the dill.
Later at home, I had my guests taste Bodega Country Store’s smoked clam chowder versus Spud Point’s clam chowder. S had not tried either and started with the smoked one, commenting “nice, that’s good”. J had her first taste of Spud Point’s version and said, “yum, that’s delicious”.
We liked the smoked chowder and I’d buy it again, but it’s hard to top Spud Point. This batch from Spud Point was thicker than it has been in the past, which took it down a notch for me, but it was also more concentrated in flavor so maybe the end of a pot that had been simmering too long. Savory with garlic, intensely clammy, and complicated with Italian herbs and a shot of cayenne, Spud Point won this taste-off handily.
That said, I'll certainly try more from the Bodega Country Store, and I'm more than curious about the Cuban pork special on the dinner menu. This would also be a great place to pick up food to take to the beach. With Chef Malicki cooking across the street at the Casino and discovering "MacGyver" here, the tiny hamlet of Bodega has become a dining destination.
Clam Chowder Duel: Valley Ford Market vs. Sonoma Coast Fish Bank
February 25, National Clam Chowder Day
Spud Point Crab Company
1860 Westshore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923
Bodega Country Store
17190 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA