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menton1

Providence Clam Chowder

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Being from NJ, we always had the Manhattan chowder (red) down here, and all the New England places made the creamy clam chowder. A friend who grew up in Providence has told me that in RI the clam chowder is also red. Is this still true? Is it the same as the Manhattan-type tomato based chowder? What are the best spots to get this chowder now, I will be going up to RI for a weekend soon. (For the Firewater shows). Thanks!

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Being from NJ, we always had the Manhattan chowder (red) down here, and all the New England places made the creamy clam chowder.  A friend who grew up in Providence has told me that in RI the clam chowder is also red.  Is this still true?  Is it the same as the Manhattan-type tomato based chowder?  What are the best spots to get this chowder now, I will be going up to RI for a weekend soon.  (For the Firewater shows).  Thanks!

Hmmmm ... while I'm not from Rhode Island, I spent a lot of my summers there as a kid, and my understanding was that Rhode Island style chowder was based on a thinner broth base than the cream/milk-based New England style, but did not contain any tomatoes. Here's a recipe for Rhode Island chowder from the Providence Journal--note the little introductory comment. Note also that they do give instructions at bottom to transform this into either New England or Manhattan style.

My favorite Rhode Island restaurant when I was a kid was Aunt Carrie's in Narragansett. I don't know if they're as good now as I remember, but I'm pretty sure they must still have chowder on their menu.

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Mizducky is right. Years ago I visited Newport and the clam chowder was neither red nor white. It was more of a clam broth base.

I was really disappointed (I adore New England-style, the creamier the better.) It was explained that this brothy version was Rhode Island-style.

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Since my friend spent his first 25 years of life in Providence, I'm sure that the clam chowder there IS red. Could a Providence native kindly address the question I posed? Thanks.


Edited by menton1 (log)

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I'll be happy to hear from any Providence natives too. (Chris Amerault (sp?), while not a native, does currently live there, but I suspect he's offline at the moment.)

While we're waiting, though ... here's another article from the Providence Journal that indicates that there's a certain amount of disagreement even amongst Rhode Island residents (including, presumably, Providence residents) on which color/style of chowder is in fact the most authentic, and glves a little more background on chowders in the state and in general. (Apparently I must have been hanging with those Rhode Islanders who swear by the no-tomatoes chowder as opposed to the with-tomatoes chowder...)

Just sayin' ... :smile:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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Mizducky is right.  Years ago I visited Newport and the clam chowder was neither red nor white.  It was more of a clam broth base.

I was really disappointed (I adore New England-style, the creamier the better.)  It was explained that this brothy version was Rhode Island-style.

I recently had some of this style for the first time at a clam shack type place in Connecticut, Umberti's Seafood in Stratford (click for photos) While I don't like it as much as the New England or Manhattan style, its an interesting variation.

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Good article mizducky! It sounds like there could be variations according to geography and ethnic groups, even in tiny Rhode Island. And of course, things change over time as well.

I'm pretty sure that the original clam chowders in New England were all without cream or tomato at some point. I can also imagine that while the clear broth type may have survived in parts of Rhode Island that were more "yankee" in character, the tomato version could have surfaced with Italian and Portuguese immigrants, especially in Providence.

I"ll try to dig up one of my New England cookbooks but I've always heard of Rhode Island chowder as being traditionally clear. Growing up in CT, it was always "red" for Manhattan clam chowder and 'clear", i.e. no milk or tomatoes for Rhode Island Clam Chowder. My father growing up in CT said this was the norm as well back then. I think it's probably more difficult nowadays to get the clear chowder b/c people want to enrich it with tomatoes or cream. Witness the article mizducky posted, the NE clam chowder wins in Rhode Island! I actually like the clear broth version quite a bit; although for me, all three versions have their virtues and proper time and place.

Can't help you on a restaurant rec though; it's been a few years since I've been in Providence.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Growing up in CT, it was always "red" for Manhattan clam chowder and 'clear", i.e. no milk or tomatoes for Rhode Island Clam Chowder. My father growing up in CT said this was the norm as well back then.

I wonder why Rhode Island style is even avaliable in Connecticut?

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Growing up in CT, it was always "red" for Manhattan clam chowder and 'clear", i.e. no milk or tomatoes for Rhode Island Clam Chowder. My father growing up in CT said this was the norm as well back then.

I wonder why Rhode Island style is even avaliable in Connecticut?

Not sure what you mean in your question... (unless I'm being dense and missing a joke!)

I've seen all chowder styles available in CT, but "New England" style is the most common, followed by Manhanttan and then Rhode Island.

Also, I grew in central CT and don't really know as well what is or would have been traditional re: chowders in, say far southern or eastern CT. Those areas could well be influenced more by their neighbors, namely, Rhode Island to the east and NY to the south.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Well, as I have been made understand, Clam Chowder preparations are highly regional. Manhattan Clam Chowder I know is avaliable as it also originates from New England and is the second most popular variation, but as I understand the Rhode Island stuff is not a common variation. I'm guessing that in Connecticut its prepared by Rhode Island transplants?

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Well, as I have been made understand, Clam Chowder preparations are highly regional. Manhattan Clam Chowder I know is avaliable as it also originates from New England and is the second most popular variation, but as I understand the Rhode Island stuff is not a common variation. I'm guessing that in Connecticut its prepared by Rhode Island transplants?

My understanding is the same as your re: the relative popularity of the chowders--including that Rhode Island chowder is by far less common in states other than Rhode Island. I don't even know how popular or widely distributed it is in Rhode Island nowadays; just rather, that the name "Rhode Island chowder" signifies, or used to, in some circles, the clear version. I'm sure we'll have some comments from Rhode Island people re: the current distribution.

I have a "long history" with Rhode Island chowder as the clear chowder is a favorite of my Dad's. So for the last forty years he will always look on a menu at a place with chowder to see if they have, "Rhode Island" chowder. (He was also stationed in Newport for part of his military service so maybe he picked up the habit there). According to my recollections, we did run into offerings occasionally in CT (as you did!). We also went to Rhode Island a lot to the beaches in the summer.


Edited by ludja (log)

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From a Rhode Island Import...

Yes, the classic Rhode Island chowder is a broth based, with little or no tomatoes. Howver, most places in RI offer the creamy white stuff. The other is harder to find. For such a small state, there are amazing variations on a traditional food from one community to another. Rhode Island johnny cakes have a west bay version and an east bay version (one is thick batter, one is thin)...a good resource for the best chowder in RI- all varieties- would be the winners list from the Newport Chowder cook off. It's an annual event, and I'll see if I can dig up a source.

KV

Edited for link

Here's the link for this year's winners...in an interesting twist, there is no category for "Rhode ISland Chowder"!

http://www.newportfestivals.com/Chowder_Cook_Off/


Edited by OwnReward (log)

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I've always thought RI chowder was a lighter broth than classic NE cream based..maybe a little milk. I had a good version atthe Clarke Cook House in Newport.

Curious, I checked Legal Seafoods website. They offer their traditional cream based clam or fish chowder and also a Rhode Island chowder..which is tomato based. That would support the last post about different regions offering different versions.

On the subject of RI food, I've had fried calamari with cherry peppers mixed in...called RI style..tasty.

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Here's what Jasper White has to say about it in 50 Chowders.

Rhode Island Clear Clam Chowder

When you order chowder in a Rhode Island restaurant, you may get a creamy chowder, a red chowder or a clear chowder. Although you would think our smallest state might have a consensus on clam chowder, it doesn't. Even jonnycakes, which are unique to Rhode Island, are made in two versions: thick or thin, depending on the cook. Nevertheless, clear chowder made without milk or tomatoes (like the earliest chowders from the 1700s) can still be found in Rhode Island restaurants, and many old-timers claim that it is the true Rhode Island chowder.

Since my wife, Nancy, is from Rhode Island, we spend a good amount of time down there, and I have sampled the local clear chowder many times. It is always served with a small pitcher of warm milk on the side, but I rarely add it. When I make clear chowder, I strive to make it so good in its own right that no one will add the warm milk, which I do serve in deference to custom. This chowder is like a chowder anatomy lesson. You can see all the parts floating in the broth: clams, bacon, potatoes, onions, celery, and herbs. In my zeal to make the tastiest clear chowder, I add a generous dose of fresh herbs as well as bacon, fennel seeds, and a squeeze of lemon. Certain dyed-in-the-wool Yankees sneer at the idea of lemon in chowder, but I have found lemon in several New England chowder recipes that are far older than they are.

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menton1, your friend is full of shite. Jasper White, on the other hand, is right as rain -- as usual.

And it's Water Fire, fyi. :wink:

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menton1, your friend is full of shite. Jasper White, on the other hand, is right as rain -- as usual.

And it's Water Fire, fyi. :wink:

Pretty strong stuff, Chris, considering you don't know my friend. I couldn't believe that my friend made up the Red Chowder story, nor did I think that for the 25 years he lived there he imagined it.

It seems that the New England Egullet has not been what I had hoped in this matter. I have called the Providence Journal and spoke to a lovely person in the Lifestyle/Food department ("Amy"). She told me that the Red Chowder in Providence is known as "Rocky Point Chowder" and differs from the Manhattan style in that there is no thyme and no onions, but does have paprika and tomatoes. It is still quite popular throughout Providence and can be found at numerous restaurants, although not all of them. Since the gentrification and re-birth of the downtown area, she says, the chowders available now vary from the clear, the creamy, the Rocky Point style, and even sometimes the Manhattan style. But the Rocky Point style was the dominant chowder in Providence in the 70s and earlier.

I suppose that it was more important to you to correct the FireWater-WaterFire issue, than get the facts right about the chowders!!

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Thanks for sharing the new information on the Rocky Point Chowder,. menton1. It sounds like an interesting variation with the paprika. I wonder if that has any Porutguese roots; it would be interesting to understand more about it's history. People may even have had this type of chowder in Providence and just assumed it was Manhattan, and probably some restaurants do serve the latter.

Did you get an idea whether this was still served in many restaurants from you contact, and if so, what restaurant to try for a good version?

This is all more evidence of what Jasper White pointed out as the great and complex variabliity in chowder types in R.I and even, perhaps in Providence.

With respect to being surprised at Chris' response, people may have been slightly taken aback by some of your comments earlier in which it seemed you completely dismissed what people said out of hand. (I was surprised at the tone of some of your posts, but decided to just let it go as miscommunication). Some people posting were from R.I., one was a noted N.E. cookbook author and others were folks who had lived in or near R.I. and thought they had something to offer. I'm glad you persisted and got some information on an apparent Providence chowder variant from a certain time period, and that you shared it with us, but I think it would also have been nice on your part to acknowledge the variety of interesting and related information that arose in this thread. AFterall, in my opinon, people took the time to post in a sincere and thoughtful manner.

To me, this has been a very interesting and successful thread.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Here is a recipe for RI clam chowder.  The paprika and the tomatoes would surely make it a red color. 

http://www.pagesintime.com/ri/seafood.html

...

There is quite a goodly amount of paprika in the recipe; I am reallly curious to try this.

The rest of the site looks like it has some other interesting R.I. recipes as well, including Portuguese. (Just turn off the music to prevent going insane!)

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(Just turn off the music to prevent going insane!)

good solid advice :biggrin:

Mrs 9 kept asking wtf.

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menton1, your friend is full of shite. Jasper White, on the other hand, is right as rain -- as usual.

And it's Water Fire, fyi. :wink:

Pretty strong stuff, Chris, considering you don't know my friend. I couldn't believe that my friend made up the Red Chowder story, nor did I think that for the 25 years he lived there he imagined it.

Here is the statement to which I referred strongly:

Since my friend spent his first 25 years of life in Providence, I'm sure that the clam chowder there IS red.  Could a Providence native kindly address the question I posed?  Thanks.

Whatever your conviction, the clam chowder here simply is not definitively red. Jasper White -- as I said up-thread -- is right, as he is concerning most things New England:

When you order chowder in a Rhode Island restaurant, you may get a creamy chowder, a red chowder or a clear chowder.

Your source at the Providence Journal merely confirmed what White said -- with some additional and useful detail, for which I am grateful!

Finally, as for details:

I suppose that it was more important to you to correct the FireWater-WaterFire issue, than get the facts right about the chowders!!

Well, accuracy concerning both seemed useful.

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A little more to add to this discussion:

I still could not believe that my friend "imagined" this red chowder when he grew up in Providence.

The Legal SeaFoods Menu today offers "Rhode Island Red Chowder"

http://shop.legalseafoods.com/index.cfm/pk.../list/cid/10118

Cooks Recipes offers a specific recipe for Rhode Island Red Chowder:

http://www.cooksrecipes.com/soup/rhode-isl...der-recipe.html

And a phone call to Johnson & Wales Cooking University resulted in a conversation with a "Mr. Kelly", a RI native, who said that up until about 10 years ago, RI Red was THE chowder of choice in the Providence Metro area. The demise of the Rocky Point beach area and the development of condos there that closed the clam shacks sparked the end of the red dominance, but it is still a major player in the Providence scene. He said the red chowder is "as native to RI as Johnnycakes and New York Weiners." (??)

Wanted to set the record straight.

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And a phone call to Johnson & Wales Cooking University resulted in a conversation with a "Mr. Kelly", a RI native, who said that up until about 10 years ago, RI Red was THE chowder of choice in the Providence Metro area.  The demise of the Rocky Point beach area and the development of condos there that closed the clam shacks sparked the end of the red dominance, but it is still a major player in the Providence scene.  He said the red chowder is "as native to RI as Johnnycakes and New York Weiners."  (??) 

Wanted to set the record straight.

Gee, with the Warwick beaches, Connimicut, and Rocky Point frequently the target for water quality concerns, I wonder how the the chowder *really* got to be red :wacko: . Maybe the clams were injured to start...

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Gee, with the Warwick beaches, Connimicut, and Rocky Point frequently the target for water quality concerns, I wonder how the the chowder *really* got to be red :wacko: .  Maybe the clams were injured to start...

That's certainly not as much of an anomaly as "New York Weiners" being only available in Rhode Island!!

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And a phone call to Johnson & Wales Cooking University resulted in a conversation with a "Mr. Kelly", a RI native, who said that up until about 10 years ago, RI Red was THE chowder of choice in the Providence Metro area.  The demise of the Rocky Point beach area and the development of condos there that closed the clam shacks sparked the end of the red dominance, but it is still a major player in the Providence scene.  He said the red chowder is "as native to RI as Johnnycakes and New York Weiners."  (??) 

Wanted to set the record straight.

Johnnycakes were made and eaten in R.I. long before the white man arrived there.

With all due respect to "Mr. Kelly," New York System Weiners date to the 1930's - hardly native!

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