Chowderfest: Teambuilding Gets Delicious in Maine

 In New England, chowder (or “chowdah” depending on where in New England you happen to be) is a revered dish. New England-style chowder is white and creamy, not to be confused with Manhattan-style chowder, which is red and includes tomatoes. Adding tomatoes to chowder is simply unacceptable in New England; in fact, in 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature that would make it illegal to include tomatoes.

Samoset Resort, located in Rockport, ME, is helping groups build camaraderie by taking them into the kitchen to make their own versions of New England clam chowder. 

It’s a fitting place for such an activity, as seafood has attained true cult status in Maine. “Everyone has their own recipe for chowder up here,” explains Tim Pierce, Samoset’s executive chef. “So what better teambuilding activity than having them make their own?” 

Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation planned a “Chowder Cookoff” as part of a meeting it had at Samoset for a group of nearly 30 attendees. The group was broken into five teams and each was given the typical chowder ingredients: potatoes, onions, clams, lobster, haddock, butter, fish and lobster stock, milk, and cream, as well as a pot, cutting board, knife, work table, burner, and table decor. Then the attendees got busy creating, cutting, and simmering. 

“The teams really got into it. They used lobster claws, fish nets, and fishermen figurines as decorations. After I was done judging each chowder it was placed in the buffet that was prepared for the group’s lunch,” says Pierce. “The group really had a great time working together. The winner got a plaque and, best of all, bragging rights.”

Samoset, the 178-room resort that crowns a 230-acre waterfront complex at the edge of Penobscot Bay, is undergoing major renovations that will be completed early this year. A full-service seaside spa, an Italian restaurant, and three luxury guest cottages will debut as part of the renovation. 

The resort, which closes for the winter and reopens to groups in March, features an oceanside 18-hole championship golf course, a health club, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and tennis and basketball courts. There is over 21,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a boardroom, ballrooms, and two outdoor spaces that  can be tented. 

Samoset’s Lobster  Corn Chowder
4 cups lobster stock (see below) 
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1/2 lb diced butter 
1 tsp thyme
1 cup corn
2 cups diced red potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped lobster meat
Salt and pepper

To make the stock: Lightly brown 6 lobster shells in olive oil with 1 large onion (chopped), 2 carrots (chopped), and 2 celery ribs (chopped). Deglaze with 2 cups white wine and reduce by half. Add 6 cups water, 1 Tbsp thyme, 2 garlic cloves (chopped), and 6 peppercorns. Simmer for 30 minutes and strain.

For the chowder, saute the vegetables in the butter for three minutes. Add the water, thyme, stock, and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the lobster and cream and cook for 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve.