Sunday, June 19, 2005

I'll never clam up about this win!

Who would have thought that a couple of larrikin Aussies (Benjamin Christie and I) could fly into Rhode Island and Newport's 24th Annual Schweppes Clam Chowder cook-off and walk away with a 2nd place in the creative chowder category? Sure. We brought with us some Wildfire spice to add those delectable pungent notes and of course, a goodly amount of Oz lemon for the aromatics.

These ingredients took the clams, clam juice, bacon, potato and cream to new heights of taste and generated hundreds of compliments on the day, followed by emails for weeks as to how our chowder should have taken first place.

For anyone wanting to compete in this chowder competition or any of the others held around the world, there's a strategy to recognise in order to have any hope of winning: Because it is the publc who votes for the grading, you have to get your chowder samples out to as many of the attendees as possible. This means not just handing out tastings over your stall table but serving the 7 and 8 deep mass of 'chowderheads' but getting out amongst it and attacking the multitudes from all sides with tray service. Your judges have to taste to adjudicate.

There's another clue to a prize too. Be the furthest travelled. It seems that the Newport pilgrimage was too daunting for anyone further away than Sydney so we picked up that prize as well.

Anyway. We apparently worked miracles in pulling off 2nd place in the chowder grading as New Englanders are rightly chauvinistic about their regional culinary specialty. I think it urked a few locals to lose, judging by the low scoring red (Manhattan) chowders and next to no scored meat soup which was entered as a means of avoiding the manufacture and service of the vast volumes of soup we tackled - 140 gallons of it! That's 532 litres, give or take some for evaporation. We were certainly chuffed in taking out our award and look forward to next year when we will cook .... on second thoughts, I think we'll keep our winning recipe for 2006 a secret for at least a short while.

To tell you about the rest of our Rhode Island visit I'd need to remind you that the US is the home of hospitality and our hosts wined and dined us until we were approaching blimp dimensions. One highlight was a brunch at the spectacular, Castle Inn function centre which sits on a grassy ridge over-looking the Sydney-harbour-like waters of Newport.

We'd seen this majestic venue from the sea a few days before from on-board the Andirondeck, a 50 foot yacht which we sailed for a few hours before sun-down.

I'd like to thank Rich Hopkins and his energetic, charming and endearing wife, Ania for their hard work and friendship and 'Hutch' Hutchinson for his guided tour of the homes of the rich and famous (as well as those poor souls who had to donate their estates to the State in lieu of paying the taxes on them) and then on to the pubs and restaurants which make Newport the place to visit in their summertime. I know I'll be heading there again come the cold wintery days of a Sydney June.

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Aussies Battle Yanks Over Chowder