“The best clam chowder!” claimed so many cities: San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, and, of course, Seattle. In fact, this is almost like hamburgers: every city has its best. I happen to be a clam chowder fan and, poisoned by early imprinting, partial to Boudin of San Francisco. And I have been pondering why. (What? You are not curious about your own preferences? Weird.)
The recipes are usually simple: clams, potato, cream, and some thickener like flour. Vegetables, typically celery and carrots, are the differentiators. One thing separates good and excellent clam chowders: the chew. Boudin has the best bread bowl from their famed sour dough bread.
Instead of yeast, sour dough bread uses a small amount of dough from the previous batch. The initial “seed dough” comes either from whatever yeast germs that were naturally floating in the air, or passed down from generations past. Sour dough breads therefore always have a unique flavor. Most of the formulas (it is not called “recipe” in bread making) are “wet,” in that it calls for more water, little or no oil, and almost no other seasoning than salt. It is the purest kind of bread. The idea is to produce soft crumb, crispy crust, and the natural aroma and flavor of flour and yeast. And that’s Boudin.
The center of the bread is emptied to make room for a perfect portion of piping hot chowder. The “lid” of the bowl is perfect to scoop out the chowder. Before long, you will be tearing apart that bowl to lick off the soaked up crumbs and chewing the flavorful crust at the same time.