Recently, the annual Vancouver Aquarium Chowder Chowdown soiree took over the city’s marine life venue for an evening of culinary treats courtesy of YVR’s top chefs. The cause being to celebration of the Aquarium’s sustainable Ocean Wise seafood program with creativity, crustaceans, and of course, chowder.
Thirteen chefs competed in a friendly cook-off before a panel of high-profile judges (and of course, guests). For the second year in a row, Chef Chris Whittaker of Forage Restaurant of the Listel Hotel took home top honour, while the people’s choice award went to Chef Ned Bell of YEW seafood + bar of Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. Both top-notch chefs were chosen by hundreds of guests in attendance after a night of tasting.
While these two chefs won the hearts of event goers and judges alike, View The Vibe’s got our own chowder low-down guaranteed to have you hankering for a bowl of your own savoury seafood goodness in no time. Here’s a sampling of a few other featured chowder creations we tasted (and loved).
White Bean Chowder – as host to the event, all eyes were on Chef Astudillo of the Vancouver Aquarium’s culinary team. He definitely didn’t disappoint, presenting a creamy chowder full of juicy mussels and clams with a hint of spice. The creamy texture of the white beans provided a sense of comfort to this dish – with a unique Mediterranean twist.
Outlandish Mussel-Saffron Chowder – Brodo Kitchen and Codfather’s Seafood Market offered up samples of their Saffron dusted popcorn added an intriguing texture and an air of fun to a flavourful chowder of fresh vegetables and meaty seafood.
BC Dungeness Crab Chowder with Artichokes & Sunchokes – Glowbal Group’s seafood-centric Coast Restaurant presented mouthwatering tastes of tender Dungeness crab, Belgian endive alongside tender-sweet artichokes in their savoury chowder.
Chef Whittaker (of Forage) took won the crowd with his Creamy BC Spot Prawn Chowder – The judge’s favourite two years running, his spot prawn chowder was smooth and milky, with delightful crispiness afforded by the addition of bubbly chicharron.
The Big Red – aptly named for the pinkish-red hue by Chef Ned Bell of YEW seafood + bar, was perhaps the night’s most flawless execution of flavour, colour and texture. Chef Bell brought together the humpback shrimp’s delicate, buttery flavor and soft crunch – adding an unexpected twist when matched with the punchy sweetness of BC cranberries and aroma of crushed hazelnuts that culminated in a delicious juxtaposition of flavour and texture.
What’s a bowl of hearty, savoury chowder without a sip or two of a quality brew? The Chowdown event saw each dish paired with a variety of different beers to truly amplify the flavours (and experience). Guests sipped their way through popular favourites from Big Rock Brewery, Red Truck Beer Company and Stanley Park Brewery, as well as lesser-known brews from Parallel 49, Hoyne and Driftwood, among others.
Although this year’s fête has passed, Vancouver can look forward to delicious and sustainable seafood choices at these and many other restaurants that participate in the Ocean Wise program. In the meantime, we eagerly anticipate next year’s Chowder Chowdown to taste what Vancouver’s top seafood restaurants bring to the table in 2014!