14 Chowders + Craft Beer: Tickets on Sale for 2014 Vancouver Chowder Chowdown

Photo credit: Leszek Leszczynski | Flickr

Photo credit: Leszek Leszczynski | Flickr

For all of its great seafood, Vancouver’s not really a chowder town. We prefer our fish in filets and steaks, expertly plated alongside 100-mile sides, or else sliced and diced and rolled with rice into maki and other sushi.

But Vancouver Aquarium is doing it’s best to change that. The annual Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown returns, Nov. 19.  Fourteen finalists from top local restaurants will be facing off for the title of Vancouver’s chowder king (or queen) inside the Vancouver Aquarium. (Yes, there’s something a tiny bit odd about gorging on fish in an aquarium, but we’ll leave that for another time …)

The event, which attracts huge crowds every year, pairs the chowders with local craft beers.

Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan

Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan

Attendees (if you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket) get to roam the aquarium, sampling inventive seafood stews while quaffing some of the best brews B.C. has to offer. And it’s all for a good cause: to support Ocean Wise, the Vancouver Aquarium conservation program that educates consumers about sustainable seafood.

And this year, there’s some added drama.  Chef Chris Whittaker of Vancouver’s Forage Restaurant is back, competing for his third consecutive chowder title.  Last year, Whittaker won over the judges with his savoury B.C. spot prawn chowder, which featured the province’s favourite crustacean paired with bacon, white wine and thyme and finished with smokey chicharon and poached egg.  Meanwhile, the people’s choice award went to Ned Bell of YEW, whose Big Red chowder combined humpback shrimp, pink peppercorn cream and cranberry-and-apple relish.

This year, however, the competition is stiffer than even.  Master chefs vying for chowder glory include Homer St. Cafe’s Tret Jordan, West’s Alex Hon, Fable’s Trevor Bird, Edible Canada’s Tyler Dallner and chowder pros from as far as Prince Rupert.

Photo credit: Danielle Griscti | Flickr

Photo credit: Danielle Griscti | Flickr

Getting hungry? Here are some chowder facts and trivia, to whet your appetite. The term chowder is thought to derive from the French chaudree, which is a thick fish soup from the coastal regions of Charente-Maritime and Vendee.  Back in the day, the dish took hold in Atlantic Canada and New England, where – legend goes – fishermen would throw scraps from the day’s catch into a large pot, adding whatever other ingredients were on hand to make a rich stew to ward off the fog and chill.

Overtime, countless regional variations have cropped up. The consummate New England clam chowder is made with chopped clams and diced potatoes in a base of milk and cream. Manhattan clam chowder famously substitutes tomatoes for the milk. Meanwhile, fish chowders are made with a variety of fish rather than clams, while corn chowders can eschew seafood completely.

Photo credit: peapodsquadmom | Flickr

Photo credit: peapodsquadmom | Flickr

The 2014 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown is Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Vancouver Aquarium. Tickets are on sale now for $63.

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