Chowder Fun Simmers in Ventura and Santa Cruz

A brine time is just ahead for both ocean-y burgs, with a heaping helping of crackers on top.

Angelo DeSantis

What to Know

  • National New England Clam Chowder Day is Feb. 25
  • Ventura Harbor Village has a Clam Chowder Giveaway on from Feb. 25-28, 2022
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's Clam Chowder Cook-off happens on Feb. 26 and 27

DICE IT, SLICE IT, SWIRL IN CREAM: However you make your chowder, or whatever sort of seafood stew you prefer to order when you dine out, you can agree with the notion that chilly February is a prime month for scooping out a crusty boule of bread and ladling in a warm, rich, and ultra-clammy concoction. In fact, February happens to boast National New England Clam Chowder Day, a foodie occasion that lands near the end of the bundle-up-and-stay-warm month, on the 25th. Chowder houses, seaside fisheries, opulent crustaceans-on-platter palaces, and other bastions o' brine pause to honor the holiday in myriad ways, with special dishes, and deals, that add flavor to the flavorful classic. And in a couple of California towns? It's all about treating avowed chowderists, and paying homage to their favorite dish, through giveaways and cook-offs.

VENTURA HARBOR VILLAGE... is the giveaway go-to in 2022, where $250 worth of gift cards, at $25 each, will be handed out to seafoodies from Feb. 25 through 28. Where to use that $25 gift card, if you should score one? Why at a local restaurant, of course, since plenty of water-close eateries put their own spin on the hearty, bowl-based meal. The giveaway is happening on social media, so you'll want to review the rules, what the hashtags are, and such, before dipping your spoon into the creamy contest. But wait: You simply want to swing by the village to purchase and enjoy clam chowder? You can peruse what restaurants serve chowder here, and their unique takes (oyster crackers are a big addition, but some local spots go with bay leaves, bacon, and other clam-complementing ingredients).

SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK... is also a celebrated spot for bread-bowl-y bliss, and the Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-off will take place, just a few steps from the sand, over the final weekend of February 2022. As is tradition, amateur chefs are at the simmering pots on Saturday, while the clam-knowing pros will take the helm on Sunday. Trying several different chowders? That can happen, oh yeah, when you purchase a Tasting Kit for $12 (you'll get six tasting tickets, mmm, and Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation is the beneficiary). Perhaps you'll even be inspired to enter one year, if you've ever fancied yourself a bivalve boss, the sort of artist who can combine heavy cream, and meaty mollusks, with spectacular results. Read up now on this venerable gathering, one of the Golden State's creamiest, dreamiest throwdowns.

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