Knorr Great Chowder Cook-Off 2011 (and 1st Place-Winning Recipe for Crab and Brie Chowder!)

June 13, 2011 (Last Updated: March 31, 2020)
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a logo that says Knorr Great Chowder Cook-Off Celebrating 30 Years

Thirty years ago, Jack Booth founded Newport, Rhode Island’s Great Chowder Cook-Off, and the chowder (or chowda) loving world would never be the same. This annual event kicks off the summer with Newport Waterfront Events at the Newport Yachting Center, a venue that hosts fun comedy and music series all summer long, along with other special events such as the Newport Winefest, Newport Arts Festival, and Newport International Boat Show, among many others. For food-lovers, the Knorr Great Chowder Cook-Off is where it’s at. It is the original and longest-running chowder championship in the world, and serves up over 3,000 gallons of chowder each year.

someone with a ladle pouring samples of chowder into small plastic cups on a tray
Waterman Grille’s Tasso Ham and Scallop Chowder

While the event originally showcased clam chowders only, it has since expanded to include seafood chowders, and eventually creative chowders. In past years, competitors have traveled from as far as Alaska, Bermuda, and Ireland to share their chowders with the fanatics in attendance. When a particular chowder wins three times, that chowder enters the Hall of Fame and is then retired and can no longer compete.

a large white tent with tables and white chairs and some people milling around
VIP Hospitality Tent

The Newport Yachting Center’s marketing director Jocelyn Emory was kind enough to show us around the event space as the festival was kicking off this year on Saturday, June 4th. The layout was well-organized, although the tent that houses the creative chowders and many of the sponsors’ booths was exceptionally crowded when the event got into full swing. We were also escorted to a special VIP hospitality tent that had additional samples of food, including more substantial offerings like hot dogs, pasta salad, cold cuts, plenty of sweets from Sweet Street Desserts, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and free booze (and other drinks)! Outside of the VIP tent, food and drinks (with the exception of the chowder samples and some other drink samples) incur an additional charge. The VIP tent also had plenty of tables and comfortable seating, indoors and out, with incredible waterfront views. I was very pleased to have access to this area 😉

A group of people sitting outside in cushioned outdoor chairs
Outdoor seating area of VIP Hospitality Tent

This year there were 10 competitors in the clam chowder category, 4 in the seafood chowder category, and 4 competing for best creative chowder. 20 to 25 total competitors is pretty standard for the event. First, second, and third place winners are awarded in each category (and win monetary prizes and bragging rights!), as well as special awards for categories such as most spirited team, and best decorated booth. The event’s attendees, the “people,” are given sole responsibility to select the annual winners in the three main categories as well as most spirited team.

a group of cheerleaders in yellow tee shirts and black shorts with black pompoms
Bobette’s had actual cheerleaders!

I created a chowder spreadsheet before coming to the event, so I could take serious notes and look like a super nerd in front of everyone else having fun. That’s how I roll. I have lots of opinions on all of the chowders we tasted, both good and bad. I will not rehash every single thought I had… this isn’t Top Chef (though I’m convinced I should be a guest judge… at least once!), but I will happily share some of my favorites and least favorites.

a clear plastic cup of beer and a black plastic plate of desserts
Free beer and baked goods in the VIP Hospitality Tent

My favorites for the clam chowder category include Hotel Viking, which shared a chowder found on their regular menu. It featured applewood smoked bacon, and large rustic potato chunks. Their chowder had a mild sweetness that we enjoyed, but the bacon flavor was not overwhelming. We preferred their use of bacon to that of the Ocean Breeze Cafe, which to our dismay won third place and offered an overwhelmingly bacon-laden (and salty) chowder, which seemed to have more bacon than clams.

a large chafing dish of white clam chowder and a tray with small sample cups
Hotel Viking’s Chowder

Another favorite in that category was Bobette’s Take Out Bistro from Connecticut, which not only brought along a slew of cheerleaders, making them a shoo-in for the Most Spirited award, but included Sauternes (a French sweet wine) in their chowder, a secret ingredient which added a mysterious sweetness that we really enjoyed.

A closeup of samples of chowder in cups with a yellow button on a notepad
Bobette’s Chowder

Our third favorite in the clam chowder category was Hemenway’s a Providence seafood institution. Their chowder was classic! Tender clams and a sweet onion flavor in this well-seasoned and silky creation made this one of our stand-out chowders of the day.

a black tray topped with small plastic cups filled with white chowder samples
Hemenway’s Chowder

Here are the winners of the clam chowder category. The first place winner, Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, featured a spicy chowder that we enjoyed, but thought was a bit too spicy to consume in normal quantities (ie more than a sampling). We enjoyed Stefano’s chowder a lot, and loved the mildly tangy flavor. The whole family was in attendance, pimping their 12-time Long Beach Island Chowderfest winning recipe 🙂

a booth of people giving out samples of chowder
Stefano’s Booth!

CLAM CHOWDER

  • 1st Place: Winner of $1000 and $1000 Winner’s Bonus courtesy of Seawatch International: Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder, Florida
  •  2nd Place: Winner of $750: Stefano’s Seafood, New Jersey
  •  3rd Place: Winner of $500: Ocean Breeze Café, Newport, RI
a woman posing with someone dressed up as a lighthouse

The seafood chowder category only had four competitors (as did the creative chowder category). The winner, Michael’s Seafood, was by far our least favorite of the four. This is its third year winning (which inducts it into the Hall of Fame), and I’m honestly shocked. My opinion is that their chowder was bland, tasted heavily of potatoes, and not of the ocean whatsoever. Our other friends who also attended the event agreed completely. The other three chowders were delicious, however.

a small cup of orange colored fish stew with a small piece of fish sticking out
Melville Grille’s Portuguese Fish Chowder

Selecting a favorite was a challenge. I loved the Portuguese Fish Chowder from Melville Grille. It boasted chorizo, shrimp, scallops, and cod, and was topped with a small piece of fried cod. It was very flavorful and had a lot of personality, as did those wielding cups of this unique chowder. I also enjoyed the simple Maine Shrimp and Mussel Chowder from Castle Hill Inn. Although it featured a thinner broth, the flavor of mussels shone through strongly, and along with fresh, plump mussels, and bites of shrimp, it had far more seafood flavor than the one at Michael’s. The Tasso Ham and Scallop rendition from Waterman Grille balanced the smokiness of the ham well with the scallops. It was also a touch spicy, and thin-brothed.

seashells and menus on a table
Waterman Grille’s table setup

SEAFOOD CHOWDER

  • 1st Place: Winner of $1000: Michael’s Seafood, North Carolina
  •  2nd Place: Winner of $750: Melville Grill, Portsmouth, RI
  •  3rd Place: Winner of $500: Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI
A group of people standing in a room with a tall vaulted white ceiling
The tent where the Creative Chowders and many vendors were set up

The creative chowder category featured our overall favorite of the entire event. Though I disagree with some of the other winners of the event, I’m thrilled to say in this category, the best chowder definitely came out on top! The Mooring stunned us with their incredibly innovative, unique, and flavorful Crab and Brie chowder. This chowder steals the show with its not-so-secret-ingredient, Brie. Who would have thought that a bit of this gooey cheese melted into a crab chowder would result in something so seductive?

Executive Chef Rob DeLuise informed us that this recipe is a new creation and not on their regular menu. It was created specifically for this event. We hope they will offer it as a special at some point (and invite us to enjoy a whole bowl of it), but in lieu of that he has offered to share the recipe with Mission Food Adventure’s readers! Consider yourself super lucky!! This chowder will change your life, so please make it STAT! Find the recipe at the end of this post. Thanks again, Chef DeLuise!

two small cups of white chowder on a notepad used as a tray
The Mooring’s Crab and Brie Chowder

Before we get to the recipe, one more thing I just don’t get. Probably our least favorite chowder of the day, the Lobster, Pepper Bacon, Corn, and Cilantro Chowder (sounds delicious, doesn’t it?) from Trio won third place in the event. Although the description and scent were alluring, this chowder was inedibley salty. Perhaps we sampled from a bad batch, but regardless, serving something THAT salty at an event like this did not deserve an award. We had to throw ours away.

A group of people walking around outside
The main area where the Clam Chowder contestants were set up

CREATIVE CHOWDER

  • 1st Place: Winner of $1000: The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar, Newport, RI
  •  2nd Place: Winner of $750: 22 Bowens, Newport, RI
  •  3rd Place: Winner of $500: Trio, Narragansett, RI
a view of boats in the water near a dock

Thank you so much to the wonderful folks at Newport Waterfront Events for allowing Mission Food Adventure to take part in the festivities! I loved touring the venue and trying all of the fun and unique chowders. Participating and especially winning awards at this incredible Chowder Cook-Off has brought fame and prestige to so many great restaurants that may have been unknown otherwise to the greater public.

This is a wonderful event that brings “Chowdaheads” together to eat chowda, drink, and be merry. I hope if you live near any of the participating restaurants that you will stop by and give them your support! And if life allows it, please consider attending next year’s event! Newport is one of my favorite places in the world, and this event certainly showcases the incredible love of seafood that makes the Ocean State so proud of its shoreline.

A woman posing by a boat at a dock
two small cups of white chowder on a notepad used as a tray

The Mooring’s Crab and Brie Chowder

Victoria
An award-winning recipe for crab and brie chowder from The Mooring in Newport, RI.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 1 gallon (about 8 to 10 servings)
Calories 799 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, separated
  • 4 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 oz South Shore Seasoning
  • 8 oz Spanish onions 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 oz celery 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 oz red bell peppers 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 oz granulated sugar white
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 7 1/4 cups lobster stock
  • 1/2 cup sherry wine
  • 1 oz crab base
  • 1 quart (32 oz) heavy cream, 36% milk fat
  • 12 oz French Brie rind removed
  • 2 1/2 lbs Rock crab meat
  • Sweet smoked paprika as needed for garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large sauté pan melt 4 oz (1 stick) butter and mix in flour until incorporated. Cook on low flame until it starts to look like wet sand and gives off a nutty smell. Remove from heat and save. This is your roux.
  • In a large sauté pan add South Shore Seasoning and place on high heat. Stir seasoning for about 2 minutes until it is lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and save.
  • In a large stock pot melt remaining 4 oz (1 stick) butter and add onions. Sauté onions until translucent, then add celery and red peppers. Sauté for 1 minute and fold in the roux, toasted South Shore Seasoning, and sugar. Heat for 1 minute then add white wine. Stir and mix ingredients together, starting to dissolve roux.
  • Add lobster stock, sherry, and crab base. Stir to incorporate well. Let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • In a separate pot add heavy cream and Brie, heating until Brie is melted and whisked together, and then add to large pot. Mix well.
  • Remove from heat and fold in crab meat. Serve garnished with smoked paprika.

Notes & Nutrition

Servings 8.0 * calories 999 * Total Fat 79 g * Saturated Fat 38 g * Monounsaturated Fat 6 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 289 mg * Sodium 3045 mg * Potassium 240 mg * Total Carbohydrate 29 g * Dietary Fiber 1 g * Sugars 18 g * Protein 30 g
Servings 10.0 * calories 799 * Total Fat 63 g * Saturated Fat 30 g * Monounsaturated Fat 4 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 231 mg * Sodium 2436 mg * Potassium 192 mg * Total Carbohydrate 23 g * Dietary Fiber 1 g * Sugars 14 g * Protein 24 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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