Traditional clam chowder, salmon and corn chowder, razor clam and Dungeness crab chowder — they were all on the menu Saturday at the Port of Olympia’s Boat Swap & Chowder Challenge.
Newcomers and challenge veterans faced off for the People’s Choice award and the Chef’s Choice award.
This year, newcomers Olympia Seafood won the People’s Choice award after receiving the most votes from the hundreds of people who sampled the soup. Emma’s Grill House took second place, and Fish Tale Brew Pub placed third.
Fish Tale picked up the Chef’s Choice award, an honor voted on by chowder chefs.
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Nine competitors entered this year: Olympia Seafood, Emma’s, Fish Tale, Little Creek Casino, O’Blarney’s Irish Pub, South Bay Pub and Eatery, the Sidewalk Cafe, Darby’s Cafe and Vern’s Catering.
Olympia Seafood owner Tony DeRito and his daughter, 12-year-old Sailor, served up chowder for the family business. They competed in the Chowder Challenge for the first time, and they came prepared.
“We made 30 gallons this week,” Sailor DeRito said. “We’re not going to run out any time soon.”
For their chowder, Olympia Seafood offered a twist on the traditional clam chowder. Their soup contained both razor clams and Dungeness crab.
“We’re feeling good,” Tony DeRito said. “We came prepared.”
Among the citizen samplers were Thurston County residents Paul Richardson and Bill Guilverson, self-proclaimed chowder experts who attend the event every year. Both men said they look for a spicy chowder and often add hot sauce.
After trying half of the competitors’ chowders, neither had decided which to vote for. Guilverson said that’s partially because none of the chowders live up to his favorite recipe: his mother’s.
“My mother by far had the best chowder,” Guilverson said. “But these will do.”
Richardson said that he and Guilverson have never picked a winner, possibly because they prefer spice while most Olympians prefer a traditional chowder.
“Whoever we vote for, they’re probably going to lose,” Richardson said.
For the non-chowder lovers, there was still plenty to do. The event featured a bounce house, an obstacle course, trout fishing, face painting and crafts for the children. A live band played to entertain people of all ages.
Port of Olympia spokeswoman Jennie Foglia-Jones said this year’s event had a great turnout. She estimated that between 6,000 and 7,000 people attended over the course of the day.
“It looks like everyone was having fun,” Foglia-Jones said. “That’s all we can ask for.”