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BC's Best Clam Chowder


jamiemaw
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Beautiful day but I couln't ignore that whiff of autumn in the air this afternoon.

A chance bowl of Le Point Blanc's finest clam chowder on a BC Ferry, followed by the antidote of same at Earls (good, fresh, cryovac-bagged from Alberta?) leads me to ask:

Who do you nominate for the province's best bowl, and why?

PS: By the way, they've changed the White Spot recipe. Gone: that vestigial corn starch sheen and the fishy undertones--now it's only as clammy as a fog.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Beautiful day but I couln't ignore that whiff of autumn in the air this afternoon.

A chance bowl of Le Point Blanc's finest clam chowder on a BC Ferry, followed by the antidote of same at Earls (good, fresh, cryovac-bagged from Alberta?) leads me to ask:

Who do you nominate for the province's best bowl, and why?

PS: By the way, they've changed the White Spot recipe. Gone: that vestigial corn starch sheen and the fishy undertones--now it's only as clammy as a fog.

Biking home across town tonight after work, fall is definitely in the air.

Two nominees. And yes, I am biased.

1. Fire & Water.

Former chef Keenliside seems big on a la minute, including his "chowder". Double smoked bacon, leeks, potatoes, savoury clams, stock and cream, simply sauteed and reduced is the best clam chowder I have had. Creme fraiche and crisp shallots were garnish. I have to say on a shift where I could not decide what to eat, that was my safest bet.

2. Chandler's seafood

Years ago, when I was a pup, I made thousands (millions?) of litres of this stuff. More the traditional flour thickened variety, and other seafood bits as well. The secret here, that makes it number two for me was the addition of a couple chef's spoons of dijon.

-- Matt.

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I nominate Rodney's Oyster Bar's clam chowders, served with some oyster crackers.  They have very hearty chowders and can be a meal in itself.

i gotta agree with Rodey's oyster bar. The fact that it's made to oder in front of you may have something to do with it, but still one of the best in my opinon

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I'll 3rd the claim to Rodney's Oyster bar. I also like the fact that the chowder is made in front of you. Great thread Jamie...it is glorious to eat chowder on these approaching Autumn days. Now if we only had those amazing leaf colour changes the Eastern seaboard gets :biggrin:

Stephen

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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I remember when I was eleven - I saw someone put a pat of butter in their White Spot clam chowder and I thought to myself -'what a gourmet!'

Is Rodney's chowder New England or Manhattan? I must admit that I like the red stuff more. To often, the cream style is so thick it looks and tastes like a clotted pudding.

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I remember when I was eleven - I saw someone put a pat of butter in their White Spot clam chowder and I thought to myself -'what a gourmet!'

Is Rodney's chowder New England or Manhattan?  I must admit that I like the red stuff more.  To often, the cream style is so thick it looks and tastes like a clotted pudding.

They do both styles of chowder.

Stephen

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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I'll 3rd the claim to Rodney's Oyster bar.  I also like the fact that the chowder is made in front of you. Great thread Jamie...it is glorious to eat chowder on these approaching Autumn days. Now if we only had those amazing leaf colour changes the Eastern seaboard gets :biggrin:

Stephen

Let's hope this is just the beginning of a long, warm and glorious Indigenous Persons' Summer, Stephen. I'm actually a big fan of coniferous evergreens-you don't have to clean up after them. Besides, I'd rather my tomatoes enjoy those amazing colour changes.

My Dad, from Montreal and the Eastern Townships says, at the age of 89, "Show me the postcard of the autumn leaves again. Now show me the picture of Uncle Keith with his snow shovel again. Thank you."

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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  • 2 months later...

Check, please.

I had a dreadful bowl of CC the other night and thought that I should share it with you, if for no other reason than to explain how some restaurants can get it so very, very wrong. Even those who--I believe quite mistakenly--think that they know better.

The first thing that I order at any restauarant is soup. It's a lead indicator of just how closely Chef is paying attention. In Vancouver restaurants it varies from the clean to the uncouth; for me, it's an instant barometer of how the whole kitchen's going.

My younger daughter, A-2 and I snuck out of the rain and into Joe Fortes last weekend. The weather was blustery; Maws aussi. A-2 has a clever palate. We ate some fibrous, seemingly farmed prawns (tongue Thai-ed?). So obviously held captive in a chill-locker, they tasted like posture-challenged condo salesmen in Orlon suits. On the other hand, though, the red sauce was almost as provocative as Dr. Art Hister.

Well nearly.

Then came the bowl of the most turgid, depressing bowl of clam chowder that I've not-quite-eaten in many years. Library paste: The roux was not browned off (although we soon became so with each disbelieving, uncandescent bite). The skin was so thick that the Sedin sisters could have scored a hat trick. And I believe that might have been a bell pepper (the Kelly Bundy of the entire pepper universe) that ensnared my Zamboni.

The bread was also weak and poor, the butter whipped and piped into miniature ramekins--a sure sign that you're eating in the wrong exurb.

The chopped clams in our congealing soup almost tasted canned, but with the greatest respect to them, they were the only clammy thing in this unholy admixture.

Except for the damp handshake of our laconic barman. When we suggested that Chef might want to review his roux, he mumbled that he'd 'mention it to him'. Then he slapped the tab: 2X2 beers, prawns, soup: $50 +.

This is my report.

[PS: Interestingly (for me at least), we'd had a much better bowl of CC the night before right around the corner at Earls. If you know the provenance of Earls' soups (made in Alberta, plasma-bagged, chill-shipped) you might be rather surprised. Relatively, we judged it much fresher and livelier, even snappy. With a Posturepedic-like mattress of their foccacia it expressed little desire to simply lie back and think about England.] Research continues.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Then came the bowl of the most turgid, depressing bowl of clam chowder that I've not-quite-eaten in many years. Library paste: The roux was not browned off (although we soon became so with each disbelieving, uncandescent bite). The skin was so thick that the Sedin sisters could have scored a hat trick. And I believe that might have been a bell pepper (the Kelly Bundy of the entire pepper universe) that ensnared my Zamboni.

That is the best bad discription of a soup I have ever read :laugh:

steve

they maybe used a Zamboni to make it

maybe sisco made it

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Check, please.

...

Then came the bowl of the most turgid, depressing bowl of clam chowder that I've not-quite-eaten in many years. Library paste: The roux was not browned off (although we soon became so with each disbelieving, uncandescent bite). The skin was so thick that the Sedin sisters could have scored a hat trick. And I believe that might have been a bell pepper (the Kelly Bundy of the entire pepper universe) that ensnared my Zamboni.

The bread was also weak and poor, the butter whipped and piped into miniature ramekins--a sure sign that you're eating in the wrong exurb.

The chopped clams in our congealing soup almost tasted canned, but with the greatest respect to them, they were the only clammy thing in this unholy admixture.

Except for the damp handshake of our laconic barman. When we suggested that Chef might want to review his roux, he mumbled that he'd 'mention it to him'. Then he slapped the tab: 2X2 beers, prawns, soup: $50 +.

...

An indifferent clam chowder is one of the saddest things...especially for cream-based versions.

That said, your experience gloriously exceeds indifference!

Is the default clam chowder in BC, "New England Style" ie with cream and/or milk? Does the dish have older roots in BC or is it a more recent import? Someone mentioned some tomato-based versions above. Are there any clear clam chowder versions? Are pilot crackers usually served with the soup?

(For another clam chowder discussion see the recent one on Rhode Island versions and Providence, RI versions here.. It's a seriuos topic for New Englanders!)

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Is the default clam chowder in BC, "New England Style" ie with cream and/or milk?  Does the dish have older roots in BC or is it a more recent import? Someone mentioned some tomato-based versions above.  Are there any clear clam chowder versions?  Are pilot crackers usually served with the soup?

(For another clam chowder discussion see the recent one on Rhode Island versions and Providence, RI versions here..  It's a seriuos topic for New Englanders!)

We're Equal Opportunity chowderheads, ludja; there really is no default style locally.

My own preference is for the tomato and clam juice based (so-called Manhattan) style, although I've also sampled some delicious white chowders where the roux had been properly cooked and the vegetables were fresh and lively. Smoked tomatoes deliver an interesting twist, as can fennel. I've also sampled a delicious curried model during this research. Traditional--no; delicous--yes.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Relatively, we judged it much fresher and livelier, even snappy. With a Posturepedic-like mattress of their foccacia it expressed little desire to simply lie back and think about England.]

:blink: I have never compared foccacia to a mattress before. It's so incredibly unrelated yet for some reason I know exactly what you are getting at. Lord that scares me. Good imagery! Thanks for the little review!

I am really enjoying this thread as I :wub: clam chowder and am really excited to hear of places I havn't visited yet that offer good clam chowder.

To put it in perspective, my universe of blam [edit] clam [/edit] chowder till I was around 15 was on the 'Queen' to Vancouver Island and back. :raz:

Edited by fud (log)

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I love the Whitespot/BC Ferries Clam Chowder, and you're right it has gotten better again lately.

By the way Jamie, I too recently ate at Joe Fortes and not only was the meal terrible, the prices were outrageous, in fact I was at Gotham's a few days later and item for item Joe Fortes was more expensive. I had the Halibut Cheeks at Joe Fortes, can't remeber if it was a special or a regular item. Not only was it almost inedible, but I felt ripped off as there were only a few cheeks and the rest was little pieces of regular halibut.

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Is the default clam chowder in BC, "New England Style" ie with cream and/or milk?  Does the dish have older roots in BC or is it a more recent import? Someone mentioned some tomato-based versions above.  Are there any clear clam chowder versions?  Are pilot crackers usually served with the soup?

(For another clam chowder discussion see the recent one on Rhode Island versions and Providence, RI versions here..  It's a seriuos topic for New Englanders!)

The only clam chowders I've encountered in dining establishments in BC has been either the cream based or tomato based versions, although my experience is limited to northern BC and am not sure if they serve it anywhere in the Lower Mainland.

My preference is the clear clam chowder versions :wub: which I've only experienced in the confines of my own kitchen (and of course my Mom's back in New Brunswick from whom I got the recipe). My inlaws also love this version and are ecstatic when I make it and extend an invite for them to come by and help me eat it.

A truly destitute man is not one without riches, but the poor wretch who has never partaken of lobster. - anonymous
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For a quick bowl of chowder on the North Shore you can do worse than Screaming Mimi's in Lonsdale Quay. They make it in front of you, you get the choice of Manhatten or Boston, and it's cheap.

Paul B

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There are some restaurant owners who handle criticism by writing letters to me or to the editor, spilling spleen and vitriol across the page. One went to the trouble of stalking us. The police went in at 8pm on a Friday night; being Greek, they dressed him down in front of his wife, the real decision-maker in the family. Others handle it with grumpy phone calls.

But few will acknowledge that they’re at fault, or that something’s broken: if you want to see denial up close, find the closest scorned chef.

Real professionals react though, and effect positive changes. Such was the case this past week with Joe Fortes and its proprietor, Bud Kanke, whom I’ve known for many years as he built his restaurant empire, and then sold many of the assets such as Mulvaney’s and The Cannery. Now he's concentrated on operations at Joe’s, one of the top grossing and most profitable restaurants in Canada, and has made his managers, Darren and Frenchy, his partners.

Last week I reported on this thread (see above post no. TK) about a lamentable bowl of New England style clam chowder that I tried to eat there. On Thursday night though, I found myself back at the restaurant to judge—with Colleen Christie, John Bishop and Murray Bancroft—the annual Slurp and Swirl Oyster Shuck-Off.

I entered the restaurant with a little trepidation, thinking that an oyster shiv might soon be visited upon my own bi-valves.

Such was not the case. An affable Bud Kanke awaited me at the stroke of six, and, while not exactly thanking me (He said “I understand we were eGulleted this week"), said that the recipe had been revisited at a chef/management staff meeting and that improvements had already been made.

Executive chef Scott Pratico escorted me into the kitchen and then ladled the new and improved version from a bain marie. Thickened with potato instead of flour, it carried the essence of the sea. Later, during the judging, and in addition to other courses, Chef made another point with a bowl of seafood chowder, Manhattan-style, that was even better. In fact it was outstanding—everyone at the table looked up after the first spoonful, and John Bishop and I agreed it was a superior bowl.

Commendations to the Joe Fortes crew for reacting quickly and decisively. And thanks to you, winegeek, for getting the ball rolling.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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^ Wow, when a restaurant handles a situation like that in the manner that it totally increases my respect for them. I was initially considering giving Joe Fortes a pass when looking for soup but now I am interested in trying this newly tweaked recipe.

That is a great way to take feedback from a forum like eGullet and turn it into a good thing. :laugh:

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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Such was not the case. An affable Bud Kanke awaited me at the stroke of six, and, while not exactly thanking me (He said “I understand we were eGulleted this week"), said that the recipe had been revisited at a chef/management staff meeting and that improvements had already been made.

Executive chef Scott Pratico escorted me into the kitchen and then ladled the new and improved version from a bain marie. Thickened with potato instead of flour, it carried the essence of the sea. Later, during the judging, and in addition to other courses, Chef made another point with a bowl of seafood chowder, Manhattan-style, that was even better. In fact it was outstanding—everyone at the table looked up after the first spoonful, and John Bishop and I agreed it was a superior bowl.

Commendations to the Joe Fortes crew for reacting quickly and decisively. And thanks to you, winegeek, for getting the ball rolling.

Very impressive improvement, wow! However, I've got to wonder about couple of other things.........

The bread was also weak and poor, the butter whipped and piped into miniature ramekins--a sure sign that you're eating in the wrong exurb.

Except for the damp handshake of our laconic barman. When we suggested that Chef might want to review his roux, he mumbled that he'd 'mention it to him'. Then he slapped the tab: 2X2 beers, prawns, soup: $50 +.

I hope that your comments have instigated more than just a review of revision of the chowders. Seems like someone who should have been on the ball, overseeing all that is important to a well run operation; seeking feedback and acting accordingly failed miserably. Hopefully, it wasn't just the lower echelon that was chastised.

"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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They've done quite a thorough ops review, Cayenne, polling and interviewing many guests. And thay have resently joined Ocean Wise. But perhaps they didn't dig quite deeply enough. I mentioned to Scott the outstanding BC spot prawns that I'd had at Nu the day before--he's looking into a consistent supply line. As for the bread, that's pretty easy in Vancouver these days: a great baguette works in a seafood/chop house, served, of course with those charmingly retro ice-cold pats of good butter. Limit 10 per customer.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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They've done quite a thorough ops review, Cayenne, polling and interviewing many guests. And thay have resently joined Ocean Wise. But perhaps they didn't dig quite deeply enough. I mentioned to Scott the outstanding BC spot prawns that I'd had at Nu the day before--he's looking into a consistent supply line. As for the bread, that's pretty easy in Vancouver these days: a great baguette works in a seafood/chop house, served, of course with those charmingly retro ice-cold pats of good butter. Limit 10 per customer.

I think Darren Gates might have been in New York running the Marathon the day that you were in. Not much escapes his watchful eye. Bud Kanke is a seasoned vet of the Vancouver restaurant scene and a critisism would get action from a man like that, not a poor reaction. He keeps his hand in the operation and has probably gently reminded the chef of the importance of the things that he might take for granted, like a sous chef being able to make a good batch of chowder ( with the right amount of salt to suit the taste buds of one James D. Maw ).

All is right with the world again.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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and now you can go enjoy that clam chowder at lunch for $2.95 a bowl (yes, $2.95!!) all week as Joes celebrates their 20th anniversay with 1985 prices. Also a 3 coarse dinner table d'hote for $19.85.

Yes, a shameless plug it is but what a great deal. See menu HERE.

Edited by winegeek (log)

Derek

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