Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Chowders

Clam Chowder,  and more specifically, New England Clam Chowder, since Manhattan is clam soup in my food lexicon, isn’t one of my favorite foods.  It isn’t even my favorite soup.  But I have had a favorite clam chowder for more than 20 years.  It served at Andria’s Seafood in Ventura, California.  Andria’s also happens to be home to the best Calamari I’ve ever had.  There is nothing like sitting outdoors, on a warm day, in the harbor eating calamari, while they wheel giant tubs of squid off the boats docked yards away into the fish market and restaurant.

Calamari at Andria's with a squid boat in the harbor.
I’ve had other “The Best Chowder” at many restaurants, beach food stands and even carts.  They’ve never been as good as Andria’s.  And Andria’s is always good.  When I lived in Ventura and ate there a few times a week, it was always good.  Now that I only visit every few years, it’s still always good.  It’s hard to explain why, in fact there might be  things I don’t like about it.  A good chowder cooks for a long time and thickens as it does.  Andria’s might be too thick.  I generally like rustic soups, big pieces of potatoes, carrots and most important big pieces of clams.  You won’t find any of that in Andria’s clam chowder, it’s almost more like gravy than soup.  What it might lack in texture or visual appeal, it more than makes up for in flavor.  The clam flavor is right up front, but isn’t overpowering.  It’s slightly smoky, slightly roasty with a hint of bay leaf.  It smells like the ocean, which is all around you while you eat it, and it’s “on the menu” 365 days a year and is exactly the same every single time.

Andria's Clam Chowder
I have a new chowder that I really love.  It’s served at Alcyone in Salem and I have it almost every Friday, which is the only day it’s available.  It’s exactly how I think a chowder should be and exactly how I make it myself.  Lot’s of big pieces of clam, smooth beautiful texture to the broth, and very fresh tasting.  I even found myself saying, several times, this might be as good as Andria’s.  I even allowed myself to think that maybe I just had a romantic notion of how good Andria’s chowder was.

Alcyone Clam Chowder
 Jeanne and I visited Ventura last weekend.  We were in Southern California for my sister Kati’s wedding.  It wasn’t time or distance clouding my memory or judgement.  The chowder and calamari were both absolutely amazing!  I was surprised to see that the chowder now comes in real bowl instead of styrofoam, and that calamari and chips now comes in a cute little boat shaped wire basket instead of a paper tray.  I was very glad the only changes were cosmetic, and that the food was still as good as it’s ever been.

I’m grateful to be able to eat the second best chowder I’ve ever had, once a week.  And very grateful that no matter how long I’ve been away, Andria’s never ever disappoints.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I love love love sushi.  If I could afford it, I think I could forsake all other foods for sushi.  I have no interest in making it myself.  I love watching it prepared and love social ritual of a sushi bar.  I love that I talked to Boz Scaggs at a sushi bar for 20 minutes and had no idea who he was.  A woman came up and asked for his autograph, and when she left he looked a little embarrassed.  I was too, and after a strange pause said, "ok, who are you?" He told me, I said, "cool" and we went back to our conversation.

Raw fish is strange.  I used to fish a lot before I started running.  I could catch a salmon, right out of the Pacific Ocean and clean it.  Fish as fresh as it could possibly be.  There is nothing in the world that could compel me to cut off a slab of meat and pop it in my my mouth.  And yet, I can eat raw fish in the middle of Kansas and not give it a second thought.

Submarine Roll from Fuji
Tempura Udon

...and my favorite shirt.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Chris Eats, and Why

Peach Muffin
 The only thing people ask me more than where I ran, was what food I’ve eaten, cooked and/or found lately.  I take pictures of a lot of things I cook, and/or order in restaurants.  And so, the other day I was reading a thread on Ultralist about why people blog and one of the many reasons runners gave for why they blog is some sense of accountability.  I’m not sure that’s why I blog about running but it would be a great reason to blog about cooking and eating.  See, I like the idea of supporting local products and restaurants, and I do a pretty good job of it, but I’d do a better job if I blogged about it.  I cook and eat pretty healthy, because of, or in spite of my calorie needs but I do a better job of this if I blogged about it.  And, I eat and cook everyday.  Big running events are only every so often and I can’t get excited about writing “5 mile loop with hills, 41 minutes, sure is tough getting used to running in the dark” which would have been yesterdays run entry if I cared to write it.  However, “Made a huge pot of chili last night and a pan of corn bread.  That’s the way to fight back at the first really cold night of the oncoming winter” with pictures is worth getting excited about.

Huge pot of chili.
...and corn bread.
 Then I started thinking about the others positives that could come from this.  I’m a photographer, that doesn’t own a camera.  Yeah, it’s as weird as it sounds and almost as complicated.  I think the camera in my iPhone is amazing.  But it has it’s limitations.  I actually have a really cool little Lumix point and shoot camera that I rarely use, but could.  If I get frustrated enough with pictures on my blog not doing my food justice, it might just motivate me to get a new camera like the Nikon D700.  Another positive, is I might finally dig in a bit and figure out the best app to use to post blogs from my iPhone.  I’ve looked into it a few times but my short attention span ran out before I reached a conclusion.  So, since I’m downloading last nights chili pictures from my iPhone anyway, I’ll grab a few of the Best Ofs, from the past year too!

Smoked tri tip with mango salsa and mango sangria.

Tomato Bisque and delicious Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Venti's
I don't remember what Jewelia called it, but it was beautiful and delicious, from Alcyone