The first annual Best of the West Chowderfest was held today at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and thankfully it was not publicized very well so it wasn’t mobbed.
If you paid for admission to the aquarium, you got to taste all the different chowders for free.
The Factory Gastrobar – This was my favorite chowder of the group. It tasted very fresh and was made with Spanish cod, roasted red peppers and chorizo. A little creamy and a little spicy; and served with toasted shaved almonds for added texture.
Parkers Lighthouse – This was my second favorite. It was deconstructed chowder, so it wasn’t really chowder at all, but rather a plate with salmon and bacon, with potato foam and a sweet garlic syrup over the top. This was served with the ingredients distinctly identifiable, but as you mixed them together, the sweetness of the garlic syrup blended with the salty bacon, and this just worked.
Primal Academy – This chowder was a real treat. It was made with halibut, and had Dungeness crab on top. It also had some greens in there for texture. This was my third favorite.
Café Scuba – While this wasn’t my favorite, it was a good take on traditional New England (white) clam chowder. Café Scuba is right there in the Aquarium, and the chef was there at the table. She explained you can order it in a regular bowl or in a sourdough bread bowl.
Gladstone’s – They had two chowders at this table. The first was fresh (raw) oyster chowder which supposedly had hatch chiles in it. But I couldn’t taste the hatch chiles. I liked the fresh oyster, though. The second was salmon, dill and asparagus chowder. This was actually quite tasty, with crisp salmon skin on top.
Renaissance Long Beach – This was mussel chowder, and we got a nice piece of fresh raw mussel in each taste cup. It wasn’t bad, but was a little salty. They don’t actually serve this at the restaurant.
King’s Seafood – The focus of this booth was the notion that farmed salmon is better than wild salmon, ostensibly because of environmental concerns. And they served salmon chowder, with a large piece of quite tasty (presumably farmed) salmon in there. For me, it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between farmed and wild, especially in chowder.
Kavika’s – This was albacore chowder that was supposed to be Cajun style. But I couldn’t taste any Cajun influence.
Chelsea Chowder House – This chowder tasted like a bowl of fresh fish, as it should. It wasn’t modified or flavored. I went back for seconds of this one.
The Chowderfest was part of Sustainable Seafood Day. I also learned that they have a benefit in October called Sea Fare, when they serve sustainable seafood at a nice event to benefit the Aquarium. I plan to go to that, and also look out for next year's Chowderfest.