Sunday, December 01, 2013

From The TESR Test Kitchen

Manhattan Clam Chowder?  As Joni Mitchell put it ("Big Yellow Taxi"), "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone."

One minute it was in cans and on the shelves of supermarkets everywhere.  Then it was gone.  Replaced by Cream of Potato or 'zesty' variations on tomato soup.

We blame Will & Grace.

Specifically, the season three episode "Girl Trouble" written by Alex Herschlag.

Natasha Lyonne  plays an aspiring interior designer named Gillian who wants to learn from Grace (Debra Messing).

Gillian: Hey, uh, do you mind if I just hang around and watch you work? I mean, I'd love to get a sense of what your process is. 

Grace: Oh. Sure. Okay.

Grace starts to do a sketch, then stops as she remembers something.

Grace: Oh!

She picks up her phone and dials.

Grace.  Hello.  Is Mr. Sanderson there, please? 

Gillian: You sure you don't want to be alone?

Grace:  No.  It's okay.  You can listen.  Mr. Sanderson?  Grace Adler. Hi.  Tell me, what's your soup today?  Manhattan or New England?  Ewww. 

Grace hangs up the phone.

Grace: It was Manhattan.

Gillian: Ewww.

And honestly, don't most people, like Gillian, agree with Grace's take on it?

Given the choice between New England Clam Chowder (creamy based) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (tomato based), don't most prefer New England?


Campbell's Soups makes both chowders.  They do it in condensed and in chunky.  But we've never seen the chunky version of their Manhattan Clam Chowder and, until this week, when we learned some Super Targets were carrying it, we didn't even know the instant was still around.

We put the condensed versions through The TESR Test Kitchen.

With New England, you dump the contents of the can into a pan (or, if you're microwaving, a bowl) and then add a can of milk.  The taste is so-so.  You really need to pepper it up. With all the cans of non-condensed New England Clam Chowder (including Campbell's chunky version) around, we're not really sure why someone would make this their first choice.  It might be good to have as a back up.  But it lacks so much in taste and in texture.

You cook the condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder the same way except you add a can of water.

This soup has a zest spice to it.

While both have potatoes and clams as ingredients, Manhattan has carrots, celery, red peppers and green peppers, among other ingredients.

The green peppers are the most abundant in the four cans we sampled for this article.  They tend to be bigger than all but the red peppers so that may be why they're easier to notice.  They're little squares, tiny ones.  The carrots and the celery are more like flakes.

While you'll most readily notice the green peppers in your spoon, it's the combination of the green peppers, red peppers, celery and carrots give the soup it's kick.

Conclusion?  Come back to store shelves everywhere, Campbell's Manhattan Clam Chowder, we misjudged you and we sorely miss you.

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