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Best Clam CHOWDER

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Mr. Cookie Oct 10, 2006 11:40 PM

I'm a complete sucker for clam chowder. Whenever I see it on a restaurant menu, I order it. If McDonald's had it, I would eat at McDonald's constantly.

It should be thick but not gluteny, full of large pieces of fresh clams. It should have firm chunks of potatoes, not ones that dissolve on your tongue. And maybe a sprinkling of fresh herbs -- tarragon, chives...

Here in L.A., Providence has a great version. What other restaurants serve great clam chowder, and what makes it so good?

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  1. monku RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 10, 2006 11:47 PM

    Someone will inevitably ask you white or red?

    5 Replies
    1. re: monku
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      Mr. Cookie RE: monku Oct 10, 2006 11:48 PM

      Good question. White, always white. Red is just the Manhattanized version of the real thing, as far as I'm concerned.

      1. re: monku
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        calabasas_trafalgar RE: monku Oct 11, 2006 04:12 PM

        Red. Always red. Original Fish Company in Los Alamitos.

        I don't understand why anyoe would ever eat white.

        1. re: calabasas_trafalgar
          Dommy RE: calabasas_trafalgar Oct 11, 2006 05:18 PM

          Actually, me and my New England SO really enjoyed OFC's white chowder... very nice... :)

          --Dommy!

          1. re: Dommy
            c
            calabasas_trafalgar RE: Dommy Oct 11, 2006 06:09 PM

            I might even be willing to try it at OFC if the red wasn't so damn good!

            1. re: Dommy
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              FED RE: Dommy Oct 11, 2006 10:12 PM

              could you explain this to me? i tried it once because friends raved about it but i REALLY did not like it. it was sweet. not sweet like ocean sweet, but sweet like someone put sugar in it. is this typical?

        2. p
          pinkpetra RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 10, 2006 11:54 PM

          TAIX has really really great White CHowder that they ONLY serve on Fridays. Makes me think of New England. Enjoy.

          1. jcwla RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 12:06 AM

            White.

            Sort of the inverse of the old line about "We only serve white wine when we run out of red, and we've never run out of red."

            Anyway -- the Grill.

            1. s
              socal boy RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 04:48 AM

              Water Grill has a good version. Its white with baby clams. Not thick and cloying. Very nice.

              6 Replies
              1. re: socal boy
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                epop RE: socal boy Oct 11, 2006 05:15 AM

                2nd this one

                1. re: epop
                  ipsedixit RE: epop Oct 11, 2006 05:04 PM

                  I really disagree.

                  While I cherish Water Grill as one of my favorite restaurants in LA (and not just for seafood), I find their clam chowder very lacking.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
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                    Babette RE: ipsedixit Oct 11, 2006 06:28 PM

                    3rd Water Grill, especially if Mr. Cookie likes the chowda at Providence. Didn't their version evolve from the original at Water Grill?

                    1. re: Babette
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                      Mr. Cookie RE: Babette Oct 11, 2006 06:47 PM

                      I assume it did, it seems very similar to me. Last time I had it at the WG, it was pretty good, altho perhaps too much bacon flavor.

                    2. re: ipsedixit
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                      bijoux16 RE: ipsedixit Oct 11, 2006 08:46 PM

                      I'm not a fan of their clam chowder either. it's just a bit too watery for my personal taste.. the flavors are good but the texture is just... not right.

                  2. re: socal boy
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                    Dave and Stuff RE: socal boy Oct 11, 2006 10:01 PM

                    I was horribly disappointed with the clam chowder at Water Grill. My favorite is at the Getty Center Cafeteria.

                  3. brekkie_fan RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 05:16 AM

                    I'm from the bay area, and the Boudin chain over in Metro Pointe (Costa Mesa, next to South Coast *and* now inside South Coast Plaza) is the way to go for me. Throw it in the sourdough bread bowl, and it's home. Memories of scraping the inside of the bread bowl coated with the thick stuff are the best.

                    For some high class chowda, Providence is the way to go....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: brekkie_fan
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                      Mr. Cookie RE: brekkie_fan Oct 11, 2006 06:49 PM

                      I've had the Boudin clam chowder. It's been a while, but as I recall it trends a little toward the gluteny. Still, I'd rate it decent, in an everyday sort of way.

                    2. g
                      globalgourmet RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 07:27 AM

                      Water Grill. Superb.

                      1. m
                        mc michael RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 07:34 AM

                        Taix or HMS Bounty.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mc michael
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                          Dave and Stuff RE: mc michael Oct 11, 2006 10:03 PM

                          Actually, I had forgotten about HMS Bounty until you wrote it...I used to LOVE the food and the room. I guess a couple of years ago, the 90-year-old bartender, Bobby, passed away...I haven't been back since.

                        2. o
                          Ollie RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 03:44 PM

                          Beleive it or not, Charthouse has "Award Winning" New England Style Clam Chowder. It's hard to find great clam chowderhere in L.A. But this stuff is the closest I've had to the C.C. of San Francisco's Fishermans Wharf, or even better I.M.H.O. Monterey Bay!

                          1. a
                            Adsvino RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 03:57 PM

                            Someone one said Phillipe's had the best, though I haven't tried it.

                            1. ipsedixit RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 05:05 PM

                              This is going to sound weird, but I like the chowder at BRENT'S.

                              www.brentsdeli.com

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit
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                                frank828 RE: ipsedixit Oct 11, 2006 06:32 PM

                                mine's worse...i like the salty goodness from claim jumpers

                                1. re: frank828
                                  ipsedixit RE: frank828 Oct 11, 2006 06:58 PM

                                  Now that you mention chains, I really like the clam chowder at Souplantation ...

                              2. ozzygee RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 06:31 PM

                                I like the chowder at Fisherman's Outlet Seafood in downtown LA.

                                Not much in terms of an eating experience, but then I always get their stuff to go.

                                1. j
                                  jackattack RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 09:32 PM

                                  Taix Restaurant on Fridays

                                  1. j
                                    Jesdamala RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 09:42 PM

                                    Very rich, very fabulous is the clam chowder at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach. They sell it from their website...

                                    http://www.splashcafe.com

                                    I wish someone could figure out how to duplicate this. They will never give out their secret!

                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: Jesdamala
                                      pleasurepalate RE: Jesdamala Oct 11, 2006 09:48 PM

                                      I'm so with you there. I just tried the clam chowder at Splash Cafe earlier in the year and absolutely loved it!!!!

                                      1. re: pleasurepalate
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                                        Jesdamala RE: pleasurepalate Oct 11, 2006 09:50 PM

                                        The website says it is now available at some Costco locations in the area. So rich, it's sinful, and perhaps I don't want to know just what makes it so creamy! I just want it now!

                                        1. re: Jesdamala
                                          monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 12:41 AM

                                          Probably only the Costco in Santa Maria or San Luis Obispo.
                                          They'll ship it all around the world if you're that desperate.

                                          1. re: monku
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                                            Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 12:50 AM

                                            I know, I have ordered. May be worth a drive to Oxnard, another location mentioned. Places along the way I would like to stop, not to be disappointed if nothing there!

                                            1. re: Jesdamala
                                              monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 01:34 AM

                                              Call me crazy too--I drive up there to have the clam chowder at Splash Cafe and BBQ at Jocko's in Nipomo. Then on the way back I'll check out the Costco in Santa Maria for their untrimmed tri-tip for $1.99 in the cryovac bag.
                                              Knowing this is the LA Board--I don't think they've had the "best" clam chowder until they've had the Splash Cafe clam chowder.

                                              1. re: monku
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                                                Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 01:39 AM

                                                Will keep it brief, as this is the LA board, but how in the world does it stay so thick and creamy? Cannot be only cream based, as that would break down from heat..
                                                I know a restaurant person who tried to figure it out, could not. Has never been published, not even a clone.
                                                Bummer. So, drive I will, or spend the money ordering it to be shipped.

                                                1. re: Jesdamala
                                                  monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 02:55 AM

                                                  I'm sure you can't heat the hell out of it.
                                                  All white clam chowder starts out with a roux of flour & butter and there's definitely cream in it. That was part of the basic recipe from the Old World Restaurant(I knew people there).

                                                  When you buy it from Costco they're going to have to divulge the ingredients (except spices). If its packaged for Costco they probably aren't making in their kitchen in Pismo Beach at the restaurant anymore but contracting it out--might even be a slight difference in the taste and consistency.

                                                  Keep me posted.

                                                  1. re: monku
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                                                    Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 03:02 AM

                                                    Can't say when I will drive up...but within a couple of months. I think you are right, it will be a bit different, but hey, so fabulous, a bit different will still be good, let's hope! The roux/flour/butter/cream still isn't what makes this one good. I have a friend who is a restaurant consultant, and a test kitchen she works with couldn't come close. I don't think the magic is in the clams/or even the spices...seems like there may be some tarragon in it...and the usual things...but in that marvelous base. Remember it sits there in pots, and I have reheated, and it does not break down. I will keep you posted!

                                                    1. re: Jesdamala
                                                      monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 03:12 AM

                                                      If you notice they never scoop it from the big pots they make it in, but are always serving from the counter top electric heated pot.
                                                      I'll tell you with great certainty it has to be. I spent a number of years working for a well known high end restaurant chain in LA and we'd either go out and look through their trash or pay some minimum wage employee a finders fee for a recipe. That's how we got the famous chocolate cake recipe from Gladstones and you see it all over now.

                                                      1. re: monku
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                                                        Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 03:36 AM

                                                        I hope we don't get kicked off this subject, but any clam chowder lover owes it to themselves to try this stuff! I realize the base needs to be those basic ingredients, but I think there is something else that holds it together. I am confused, with great certainty it has to be what? Did you ever 'go after' the Splash chowder, meaning checking the trash? I don't know why I want to recreate it other than to avoid the huge shipping charge! Or to have the pleasure of making something this wonderful in my kitchen, as I do love soups and often make my own stocks. If Costco truly has it, I will be stocking the freezer! Even counter top electric heated pots will break down cream based soups eventually. Something else is in the binding...the fabulous 'glue' that holds this amazing stuff.

                                                        1. re: Jesdamala
                                                          ozzygee RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 03:42 AM

                                                          Perhaps cornstarch as a binder?

                                                          1. re: ozzygee
                                                            j
                                                            Jesdamala RE: ozzygee Oct 12, 2006 03:48 AM

                                                            I don't know why, but I don't think so. Potato flakes?
                                                            We need a chemist here in this! I have read the clams come from the east, but I don't think that makes a difference. There is no oommercial clamming in Pismo for decades. Something to boost the clam flavor? Clam juice? Still, something is making this stuff as creamy as creamy can be. One does not get the idea of a filler when feasting on it. No floury feeling. Monku? Thoughts? It holds up more than well to freezing, defrosting, reheating. A mystery I would love to know.

                                                            1. re: Jesdamala
                                                              monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 04:05 AM

                                                              Clam juice is a main ingredient in any clam chowder (that's why you're always thirsty afterwards). You're right they don't use Pismo clams anymore. If you know how to make a roux it shouldn't have a floury texture to it. Clam chowders have potatoes in them to add thickness to the texture.

                                                              As creamy as it is there has to be a high concentration of cream in it and Jesdamala you should know about the heating instructions and warnings if you ordered it by mail and it comes frozen. When you eat the soup there its not really piping hot.

                                                              Maybe I'm not as curious because it gives me an excuse to go up there every couple months.

                                                              Here's a couple for you--one of the ingredients in the Gladstones chocolate cake recipe is coffee and the pastrami used at Johnny's Pastrami and The Hat is Vienna.

                                                              1. re: monku
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                                                                Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 04:17 AM

                                                                Hey, do I always follow instructions? I am not going all the way up there, can order delivered, costly, but worth it once in a while. Was thinking Costco in Oxnard. But hey, maybe we need an excuse to go up there? Used to take my guys on the dunes, so much fun! And fun and food along the way. I am a tried, true, west LA person, born and bred and raised, although now go from east coast to west regularly, as well as NOLA. So, will aim for Costco and then continue this conversation! But tomorrow, will be ordering a fix from Splash! Without a doubt! This place, Chowhounds, can make one crave, CRAVE! Vienna's are my family fav hotdogs! Before our east commute, it was Chicago, where Vienna reigns. Which is why my guys have always loved Marty's. A few years back, one could buy them frozen at Victor's. The long ones. Now sure about recently.

                                                                1. re: Jesdamala
                                                                  monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 04:42 AM

                                                                  After some clam chowder recipe "Googling" I frequently see the Red Lobster recipe pop up quite frequently. I had it there once and remembered it wasn't bad and only thing I'd go back there for if I had to. But you'll also find other famous recipes and you can check out their ingredients(heavy cream, cream, half & half, powdered milk, milk)...some places I've been and their chowders can give Splash Cafe a pretty good run for their money.

                                                                  There's got to be some W.LA/South Bay places with excellent clam chowder on par with Splash Cafe.

                                                                  But going to Oxnard isn't like having to go to Pismo and I'm sure there are other good clam chowder places up there too. Now you're giving me an idea of going there for chowder.

                                                                  1. re: monku
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                                                                    Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 04:50 AM

                                                                    Go up, do it! I also like their clams, steamed or in whatever,yummy!!! It has been a couple of years! Oxnard is a day...and things to do along the way...Pismo is an overnighter.

                                                                    If going for the overnighter, go out on the dunes, so much fun, but don't go in the winter, too cold out there. I can tell you about how much fun it is if you want, and where perhaps to stay. I also like other places up there, it was always a fun weekend for my family. Now my guys are scattered all over the country. Miss it. And while I have guys, the girls will have just as much fun!

                                                                    I can order the chowder this week, but Costco may give a hint on the label as to ingredients. Not my life mission, but I am interested. Have loved this stuff for a very long time! Fun to talk about something so yummy, and others' may not know about. Great stretch from LA to Pismo with many yummy things along the way.

                                                                    1. re: Jesdamala
                                                                      monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 05:05 AM

                                                                      Done the dunes...was like a Mad Max movie out there. Pismo is only 3 hours away. Costco Oxnard 45 minutes. They have to list the ingredients. They got so many summer part timers working there its just a matter of time before the recipe shows up on the net.

                                                                      1. re: monku
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                                                                        Jesdamala RE: monku Oct 12, 2006 05:12 AM

                                                                        Mad Max only at sometimes of the year! Not always! So, if you get the ingredients, please let me know..and I will mess up the kitchen! And if I get there first, I will let you know! But, tomorrow, an order will be placed....Thanks to the original poster for starting the craving! May I say, many a google has not found any clone or ingredient list thus far, so this mystery is not being solved by any present or past workers at Splash!

                                                                        1. re: Jesdamala
                                                                          monku RE: Jesdamala Oct 12, 2006 05:37 AM

                                                                          Been there for a few 4th of July weekends...that counts right?

                                                                          Next time you're up there just hang around the kitchen and look around at the ingredients...I know they're making it all the time and its an open kitchen.

                                                                          I've been in restaurants and the rest room is back by the kitchen and I snoop around looking at the ingredients they have stored there or see food they're prepping maybe talk to the people and get some ideas.

                                    2. m
                                      malisa RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 11, 2006 10:47 PM

                                      I second Souplantation. Also good is the one at San Marino Seafood.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: malisa
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                                        calabasas_trafalgar RE: malisa Oct 12, 2006 08:05 PM

                                        Where is San Marino Seafood?

                                        1. re: calabasas_trafalgar
                                          ipsedixit RE: calabasas_trafalgar Oct 12, 2006 08:09 PM

                                          Near the SW corner of Huntington Drive and Del Mar.

                                          Address:
                                          2150 Huntington Dr
                                          San Marino, CA 91108
                                          (626) 943-8862

                                      2. e
                                        epop RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 12:49 AM

                                        souplantation?? next it'll be salad at mcdonald's

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                                          Hackenbush RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 02:49 AM

                                          I'd like to put in a good work for Bob Morris clam chowder. Morris is a local restaurant proprietor who opens restaurants and then sells them off to others. He did this with Gladstone's out on the beach, R.J.'s for Ribs in Beverly Hills and several others.

                                          Anyone who has been to these places know that after Morris leaves, the quality of the restaurant goes down somewhat. I've liked all his places when he was running them, especially because of his clam chowder recipe. It's white and it's a little thicker than I usually like but it's still the best clam chowder I've had outside of New England.

                                          I don't know about Gladstone's but R.J.'s still serves his recipe. It's not quite as good as when he was there but it's awfully good.

                                          Morris currently operates the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe up in Malibu. If I lived near there, I'd go in every day and just eat the clam chowder.

                                          1. steinpilz RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 02:58 AM

                                            From this post I'd say that Legal Seafood should definitely open a LA branch.

                                            1. davinagr RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 02:40 PM

                                              I'll mention the Clam Chowder at Weiler's Deli in Woodland Hills on Victory. It's the best Clam Chowder I've ever had. Very rich and loaded with clams.

                                              1. b
                                                bizzle RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 03:21 PM

                                                I think this thread goes to show that soup can be done well by just about anybody. It's just not that hard to do.

                                                1. r
                                                  rjw_lgb_ca RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 03:41 PM

                                                  I'm another fan of the New England clam chowder at the Los Al Original Fish Co. My in-laws are from the upper Cape and attest to its authenticity; in fact, having visited the grandparents-in-law in MA and dined at Vel's, I rate the Original's chowder as authentic and just as good. Someone mentioned an overwhelming sweetness the time he tried it-- I've been there dozens of times and never tasted anything like that.

                                                  Lasher's in Belmont Heights serves a somewhat modified recipe for NECC, and it's not just-off-the-Cape authentic but it's wicked good.

                                                  1. g
                                                    gourmetla RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 05:18 PM

                                                    I like Enterprise Fish Company's chowder in Santa Monica.

                                                    1. m
                                                      Mr. Cookie RE: Mr. Cookie Oct 12, 2006 05:44 PM

                                                      Thanks to all! Original Fish and Splash's top my "to try" list.

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