By Katie Lovett
Moving to Newburyport several years ago, Vanessa Traniello found herself missing something: a classic, fall chowder festival that other communities she lived in offered.
So, she decided to launch one here. The idea evolved into a fundraiser for the Newburyport Maritime Society, which runs the Custom House Maritime Museum in downtown Newburyport.
In the two years since, the fundraiser has grown. The first year, the festival included five restaurants and drew about 300 participants. Last year, more than 700 people showed up to sample chowder from 10 restaurants.
"Last year, we ended early," said Traniello, a member of the museum. "There were more people than chowder."
Organizers are making sure that won't be the case Saturday, she said, and have increased the amount of chowder they recommend that restaurants bring.
Six restaurants have signed up this year, including Ipswich Clambake, the reigning winner from last year's competition.
"Our Ipswich Clambake chowder is my husband's recipe, but my mother takes credit," Ipswich Clambake co-owner Michelle Pepin said in a statement. "It's a very simple recipe — not too thick and not too thin, and the secret is the number of clams."
Also competing will be The Grog, Ten Center Street, Michael's Harborside, Starboard Galley and The Black Cow.
Matthew Bradley, sous chef at The Grog, said he'll bring a chowder that's a cross between New England and Manhattan chowders — and is a favorite of their patrons.
Gary Greco, of Starboard Galley, said he'll be serving up a spicy Southwestern chicken-corn chowder, while Sean Ryan, manager of Ten Center Street, said the restaurant will dish out a traditional clam chowder that is their chef's own recipe. It has locally sourced clams and smoked applewood bacon, he said.
"Every restaurant has their own unique flavor," Traniello said.
Festival-goers will pay an admission of $5, with all proceeds going to fund programs at the museum. Each person will be given a ticket they will use to vote for their favorite chowder.
The Chowder Fest is sponsored by Atlantic Coast Construction.
IF YOU GO
What: Chowder Fest
When: Saturday, noon to 3 p.m.
Where: the lawn behind the Custom House Maritime Museum
How much: $5; it is a fundraiser for the museum