Saratoga County

Dogs steal spotlight at annual Chowderfest

There was no gut-wrenching moment of indecision, just a steady charge toward the chowder bowl in the
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There was no gut-wrenching moment of indecision, just a steady charge toward the chowder bowl in the middle and then quick gulps of soup as a bit of foamy drool dangled from the corners of the mouth.

That was how Dr. Watson, Saratoga Springs’ “first dog,” greeted the meaty stew that Marianne Barker spent a week preparing in advance of Saturday’s Chowderfest.

Watson ignored a bowl prepared by Dawgdom and gave only an idle sniff to a bowl from Sloppy Kisses, both dog boutiques on Broadway.

So Impressions of Saratoga, which Barker owns, was declared the winner in the canine category of Chowderfest, part of this weekend’s Winterfest.

After Watson, who belongs to Mayor Scott Johnson and his wife Julie, ate his fill, dogs in the audience that were straining at their leashes were allowed to get a taste.

Then the 190-pound American mastiff stretched out on the ground, spent from his hard work and spinal problems that make it difficult for him to stand for long periods.

Watson wasn’t the only one who preferred Barker’s chowder, which she said contained beef, venison, turkey and vegetables and was topped with dog treats she sells at the store.

“I came home last night and my husband and his friends were eating it,” she said.

Presumably she added the dog treats later.

Restaurants and stores came up with creative concoctions for humans sampling the chowders, and lines at several venues stretched out on the sidewalks for $1 cups of soup.

A spicy chowder prepared by the Horseshoe Inn and served at the Bullpen on Caroline Street contained chewy alligator meat, the Grey Gelding served buffalo chicken and cheese chowder and Crafters Gallery dished out Piedmont chowder, which horses could eat, too — it contained oats and apples.

Chowder connoisseurs Karl and Erik Swanson of Queensbury sampled the Piedmont chowder as their first stop of the day.

While Karl, 10, pronounced it “pretty good,” Erik, 8, said the soup was too sweet for his liking.

The brothers like New England clam chowder, seafood chowder, chili and lobster bisque.

Paula Pennell of Troy and her friends liked Forno Bistro’s clam chowder.

“We all liked Forno’s. And I liked Cantina,” she said.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout at Chowderfest and its parent celebration, Winterfest, which offers events all weekend around town.

A candlelight ski and snowshoe outing Friday night attracted a lot of people, said David Zunker, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.

And many people registered for the snowshoe race, which takes place today at Saratoga Spa State Park.

Zunker was a little worried early Saturday.

“I was here about 9 o’clock,” Zunker said. “There was nobody on the streets.”

But by 11 a.m., people were out in big numbers.

“It seems larger than last year,” he said. “The lines seem longer today than they were last year.”

Last year’s Chowderfest attracted about 5,000 people.

This year’s event focused on making the festival “green.” People were encouraged to save their spoons from one venue to another.

The spoons were made of corn starch, and the bowls were biodegradable, Zunker said. A new trolley brought visitors to the far-flung venues like Beekman Street and up and down Broadway.

There were 46 restaurants participating in Chowderfest this year. Winners in the contest will be announced Monday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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