A few hours before the onset of what is supposed to be a “multi-day” and “life-threatening” blizzard, over one hundred Chicagoans gathered to sample Chicago’s best seafood chowders at the Columbia Yacht Club’s Chowdah Fest. The event was modeled on Boston’s popular ChowderFest, which perhaps more fittingly takes place in July. The Columbia Yacht Club is located on the Sea Scouts Ship #5111, a vessel currently moored in glacial Monroe Harbor. Inside the Yacht Club on Monday evening, however, the scene was cozy, complete with burnished wooden staircases and trophy cases glistening with sailing prizes.
The event was in part a fundraiser for the Chicago area Sea Scouts, some of whom were present and in uniform. A co-ed organization for young people ages 14 to 21, the Sea Scouts are a branch of the Boy and Girl Scouts. Sailing out of three ports in the city, the Sea Scouts’ sailboats range from 35 to 47 feet long. Sea Scouting dates back to the founding of the Scout Movement in Great Britain; even today they utilize a ranking system derived from the British Navy.
Nine Chicago restaurants and seafood purveyors were represented at Chowdah Fest, from Shaw’s Crab House’s classic-style chowder to private chef Julius Russell’s spicy Chilean concoction. When not manning their own tables, many of the restaurateurs intermittently slipped away to sample the competition and chat with seafood and fine dining enthusiasts.
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