The Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Festival was a blast. We drove up the coast in our “96 Ford Thunderbird (The Cluck) hoping that the odometer reading 205,000 was going to keep turning until we made it home. We were met by three of our other foodies, Mark, Maria, and Brett. The first night we went out looking for something simple and local, and we found the Parish Publick House. This was a very cool local pub. We sat and ordered from a beer menu that featured beers from all over the world, categorized by style. The food menu was what you would expect in a pub: Bangers and Mash (Taylor), Shepherd’s Pie (Brett), and Grilled Ham and Cheese (Cliv). The food really hit the spot after a six hour drive. Brett’s Shepherd’s Pie was really tasty with delicious ground beef, an assortment of baked vegetables, and smothered mashed potatoes. We proceeded to have a few pints, listen to the local band of the day, The Splatters, and enjoy the atmosphere.

With Saturday came the chowder, but the tasting did not start until 1pm so we decided to check out downtown Santa Cruz. It is full of historical buildings that have all sorts of neat little shops. We, being the fat kids that we are, stumbled across the Pacific Cookie Company. Now, if you know me, I like mint stuff. They have a cookie called the Mint Condition; it is a chocolate cookie with mint chips and chocolate chips, and it is as rich as it is wonderful. We finished up our cookies and then headed down to the Boardwalk for the Festival.

First of all, the festival is on the Boardwalk next to the rollercoaster, the carnival games and all the excitement. Contestants and tasters alike were dressed up like clams, angels, devils, boat captains, and fisherman. There were 78 different contestant booths spanning the entire boardwalk, which was packed with 10,000 tasters. We got our tickets and tasting cups and were off like an addict looking for his next fix. There was truly a chowder for everyone’s tastes, with a startlingly wide variety of homemade and restaurant entries of both New England (white) and Manhattan (red). I will say that all the different chowders that I tasted were good, but the best was from Carmona’s Deli in Watsonville, California. It was rich, peppery, and just pure goodness. Oh, and another plus was that you could buy 24oz beers and carry them around with you along the boardwalk. Just a really great time!

After the festival we made a trip over to the all-organic Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. This place is cool. Tucked away in an unassuming little business complex off the beaten path, it waits for those who will put in the extra effort to find and enjoy the fruits of their own extra efforts. You walk into a little tap room and read the choices on the board, but you could blindfold yourself and throw a dart and you’d end up with a delicious brew. I tried their Brown, IPA, and Porter, and all three were great! The flavor was fresh, the beers were carbonated just right, and the temperature was perfect (not too cold so you could taste the flavors). We got a little sauced, played some dominoes at the bar and enjoyed some great local flavor. From here it was off to Mangiamo for some pizza and wine, and then back to the Parish for night caps.

After untold hours on roads through untold counties, we returned to the LBC full and happy. We had an awesome time, and I would highly recommend that you find a way to make it to the Clam Chowder Festival next year. The town is great, the weather is wonderful and the food is to die for.

Until Next Time, Keep eating Long Beach.