There were a lot of bowls this weekend; Puppy Bowls, Super Bowls, and in Saratoga Springs, New York, many bowls of chowder. On the eve of Super Bowl LII, Saratoga hosted the 20th annual Chowderfest, and despite freezing temperatures, thousands filled the streets for one of the biggest Saratoga parties short of New Years Eve.
In it’s purest form, Chowderfest is a way to get people in the door of local stores and restaurants in Downtown Saratoga by serving up dollar samples of chowder. But that definition doesn’t really do Chowderfest justice because the event is so much more than that.
First of all, Chowderfest isn’t just a few restaurants serving up samples of their classic New England Clam. This year there were 80 participants, offering takes on chowder only the most imaginative chefs can whip up and execute flawlessly. Like what you ask? Just to name a few, there was the Sweet Potato Tots & Sticky Bacon Saranac Brunch Chowder, Drunken Beef Steak and Cheese Chowder, Oysters Rockefeller Chowder, Spicy Crab and Corn Chowder, and Chocolate Mousse Chowder.
Chowderfest is in fact about the delicious soup, but it’s also a huge party. Crowds fill the street just after noon and remain there until late in the day. Although the temperature danced around 20 degrees the entire afternoon, the streets remained busy and bustling. Drink specials, music, and a reason to day drink, make Chowderfest a celebration.
There are many events around the Capital Region that try to emulate the magic of Chowderfest. Just a few weeks ago, Schenectady hosted Soup Stroll, that showcased the Electric City’s finest restaurants and pubs. In the fall, Troy hosts their own Chowderfest. Although similar in concept, and perhaps both newer and smaller in size, neither City’s event come close to the magic that Saratoga’s Chowderfest has.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the best part events like these are getting to try a little taste of everything. I tried 10 chowders, and I’d have to say 9 out 10 were a hit. My personal favorite? A classic New England Clam Chowder with a cheddar biscuit from Wheatfields. In close second was a spicy crab and corn chowder from Forno Bistro and the spicy chorizo chowder from Cantina. The spiked apple cider at Farmers Hardware wasn’t too bad either!
If you take anything away from this post, I’d like it to be these 3 things.
- Chowderfest is fun, you should go at least once in your life.
- Chowderfest is cold, wear layers, you’re going to need them.
- Chowderfest is good, when else do you get the chance to try a bunch of new things for just $1?
Once a year, we fill the streets, and our bellies, with tasty chowders from across Saratoga. For whatever reason you go, whether it’s for the food, or the party, or to support local business, it’ll be a great time no matter what.
What’s the best chowder you’ve ever had? Let me know in the comments and as always, follow along on Instagram.