3,200 Gallons of Chowder on LBI

Who makes NJ's best chowder? Come taste (and vote) at the 27th annual Chowderfest.

Chowderfest, 2014. Photo: Ryan Morrill

Long Beach Island’s 27th annual Chowderfest will be held this weekend, October 3 and 4, rain or shine. To compete in Sunday’s Chowder Cook-Off Classic, 20 popular New Jersey eateries will each bring 160 gallons of chowder to be tasted (and voted on) by an expected 13,000 visitors.

That’s 3,200 gallons of chowder to be ladled out.

The event will be held at the Taylor Avenue ballfield at the corner of Ninth Street and Taylor Avenue in Beach Haven. There will be live music and a food court.

The festival begins Saturday with a Merchants Mart from 10 am to 5 pm featuring more than 60 vendors selling a wide variety of goods. Saturday admission is free.

On Sunday, for the unlimited chowder tastings, admission is $25 per adult, $10 for each child ages 4 to 12.

Each ticket comes with one red token (for voting on traditional tomato-based Manhattan clam chowders), one white token (for voting on traditional creamy New England clam chowders) and for the first time, one blue token (for voting on this year’s new category, Creative Seafood Chowders, such as gumbo and bisque.)

After sipping and slurping samples from all the competitors, participants will visit the voting booth to drop their tokens into the buckets of their favorites. A team of CPAs will add up the tokens cast into each competitor’s bucket and announce the winners.

For tickets and more info visit chowderfest.com


New England Chowder

Buckalew’s Restaurant and Tavern
101 North Bay Avenue & Centre Street
Beach Haven NJ 08008

Chicken or the Egg
207 North Bay Avenue
Beach Haven NJ 08008

Country Kettle Chowda
Bay Village
830 North Bay Avenue
Beach Haven NJ 08008

Howard’s Restaurant
33rd Street & Long Beach Boulevard
Beach Haven Gardens NJ 08008

La Bamba Mexican Restaurant
3200 Long Beach Boulevard
Brant Beach NJ 08008

Mud City Crab House Seafood Grill & Market
1185 E Bay Avenue
Manahawkin NJ 08050
(609) 978-3660

Pinzimino Trattoria
8701 Long Beach Boulevard
Long Beach Township NJ 08008
(609) 492-8700

Sea Oaks Country Club
99 Golf View Drive
Little Egg Harbor NJ 08087
(609) 296-2656

TGI Friday’s
601 Washington Avenue
Mahahawkin NJ 08050

712 Long Beach Boulevard
Surf City NJ 08008

Manhattan Chowder

Black Whale Bar & Fish House
100 North Pennsylvania Avenue
Beach Haven NJ 08008

Lefty’s Tavern
547 North Main Street
Barnegat NJ 08005

Shore Fire Grille
34 South Main Street
Barnegat NJ 08005

Stefano’s Restaurant
1814 Long Beach Boulevard
North Beach Haven NJ 08008

Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club
401 South New York Road
Galloway NJ 08205


Creative Seafood Chowder

Biggy’s Beach Grill
1301 Long Beach Boulevard
North Beach Haven NJ 08008

Blue Water Cafe
11th Street & Long Beach Boulevard
Haven Beach NJ 08008

Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis
261 Country Club Boulevard
Little Egg Harbor NJ 08087

La Bamba Mexican Restaurant
3200 Long Beach Boulevard
Brant Beach NJ 08008

Southern Smoke Foods
Cajun & Caribbean BBQ

The first recorded chowder recipe appeared as a poem in the Boston Evening Post in 1751:

“First lay some Onions to keep the Pork from burning,
Because in Chouder there can be no turning.
Then lay some Pork in Slices very thin,
Thus you in Chouder always must begin.”



Today a basic chowder recipe starts with a water-based stock made by simmering fish bones and shellfish shells to extract their flavor.

Adding chunks of fish or seafood is obvious, but don’t do it too soon so you don’t overcook the tender fish and shellfish. The firmer the fish, the smaller the pieces should be cut. The thick flesh of monkfish or swordfish can be diced into one- or two-inch squares. Salmon, striped bass and halibut require a three- or four-inch cut. Flaky cod, haddock and hake need no cutting–the filets will break up as they cook.

Salt pork, a fatty staple in Colonial cooking, particularly in the lean winter months, is now often replaced with crisp bacon.

Potatoes have replaced the sailor’s hardtack biscuits that once thickened chowders. Potatoes make for a lighter textured stew. Use a potato with a medium starch content, such as Yukon Gold. Cook the diced spuds vigorously at first to release the starch, which serves as a thickener. Then reduce to a slow simmer until the potato chunks are soft yet just firm enough to hold together in the bowl.

Onions play a key role in almost every chowder. Large, firm, yellow Spanish onions, diced uniformly, provide a rich, subtly sweet underpinning for the subtle flavors of the fish.

Many chowders call for the fresh-picked taste of native corn. At this time of year, large yellow or bi-color ears are still available and can easily be stripped with a sharp knife, using the back of the blade to squeeze out all the flavorful ‘milk’ from the bare cob.

New England-style chowders are finished with milk or cream; Manhattan-style chowders call for whole plum tomatoes packed in juice. After draining off and reserving the liquid, the tomatoes can be diced and returned to their packing juices before being added to the pot.

Herbs and spices were an integral part of that first chowder recipe, which called for “Parsley, Sweet-Marjoram, Savory and Thyme.”  Chefs use a variety of seasonings. Dried spices work best when sautéed with the fat and the onions and then simmered. Fresh herbs can be tossed in at the end of cooking for a colorful and flavorful garnish.

The chefs at Chowderfest might want to keep in mind the conclusion of that 250 year-old poem:

“For by repeating o’re the Same again,
You may make Chouder for a thousand Men.”

Or maybe even 13,000 men, women and children.

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