Summertime has me thinking about the beach foods I grew up with along the Rhode Island coast.  Lobster rolls, clam cakes, steamed little necks, and of course clam chowder.  At this moment I’m on line searching for the perfect clam chowder recipe for my 4th of July beach party.  Friends will be coming by to watch the fireworks, and the food theme will be strictly New England. 


Chowder is a sensitive issue for New Englanders.  Everyone has a favorite chowder house, and everyone is convinced there is only one “right” way to make clam chowder.  My personal favorite is the chowder at the Black Pearl, on Bannister’s Wharf in Newport Rhode Island.  The Black Pearl’s elegant Commodore Room serves a perfect New England clam chowder.  It’s chock full of fresh clams and creamy yellow with butter.  You can also enjoy executive chef, J. Daniel Knerr’s famous chowder at the Black Pearl’s Tavern, or al fresco at its Patio Bar, with its view of Newport Harbor and the comings and goings of Newport Society along Bannister’s Wharf.  The chowder is available on line too, which basically solves the problem of my first course for Saturday’s beach party.  Yes, it is canned soup, but it’s canned soup from an American Culinary Federation USA Chef of the Year, so I’ll take my chances and hide the cans before the guests arrive.



Chowder Prepared Lovingly By BLT Fish Shack 

If canned soup is not your cup of chowder, and if you simply can’t make it up to Newport this season for the fresh kind, fear not.  As a native New Englander I find this very hard to believe, but friends in New York tell me you can get an excellent bowl of clam chowder in The City.  My colleagues at Travels in Taste recommend the Grand Central Oyster Bar, a restaurant institution in (surprise, surprise) Grand Central Terminal. 


In New England, clam chowder is cream based.  You can get still New England style clam chowder at the Grand Central Oyster Bar.  But as they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do, and order your chowder Manhattan style.  Manhattan clam chowder is tomato based, and tends to have more of a kick to it than its more staid New England cousin.  You don’t have to be a commuter with time to kill before the 6:15 to Greenwich to dash in for a taste of the Oyster Bar’s famous chowder.  Even City dwellers with absolutely no interest in the Metro-North timetable will head down to the bowels of the terminal for a steaming hot bowl of the good stuff.  True, The Grand Central Oyster Bar doesn’t have a view of the yachts bobbing up and down in Newport Harbor, but their chowder comes with a full serving of all the hustle and bustle that makes New York one of the most energetic and exciting places on earth.  I’ll be heading up there myself a few weeks after my July 4th beach party, to give their chowder a try and do a comparison taste test of my own.



Does your favorite restaurant serve the perfect bowl of clam chowder?  Write in and let me know, and I’ll publish your suggestions in a future post on Travels in Taste. 

Bon Appétit

Rob Lubin