January 25, 2009
On Friday I enjoyed a late lunch with a real estate colleague and friend of mine at Willow Street Pizza in downtown Los Gatos. The food is always good but this time I had a bowl of clam chowder and it was the best I’ve had in years.
With New England Clam Chowder (the “white” one, as opposed to the red, Manhattan Clam Chowder), there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Sometimes the clams are gritty. Frequently the potatoes disintegrate and the whole soup becomes mushy and too thick. Perhaps most often, there’s excessive cream or fat in the recipe and the chowder is unpleasantly oily.
The bowl of chowder I was served on Friday, though, was a very pleasant surprise. The potatoes and other vegetables were not overcooked. The soup was very tasty and not overly heavy. And if I’m not mistaken, there were small, delicious dumplings cooked into the recipe too. The combination was unbeatable as the look, texture and taste were all fantastic.
Willow Street does not have a “soup and salad” combination on the menu, but you can do what I did and order a half or side salad plus a bowl of soup and create your own combo. I ordered a Romaine Gorgonzola half salad with cranberries together with the bowl of soup and it was very filling. A side salad instead of half salad would have been plenty!
If you enjoy clam chowder, look for it at Willow Street (and other restaurants) on Fridays. Very few places will offer it on any other day of the week. (The reason for this tradition has to do with religion and demographics. Catholics, who constitute about 20% of the population here in Silicon Valley, used to be prohibited by their church from eating meat on Fridays so many “fish specials” used to be featured on that day. That religious rule was changed in the early 1960s after Vatican II, and today the “no meat on Friday” rule only applies during Lent. Even so, some continue to keep to the older, stricter standards.)
Willow Street does have good pizza, it’s a kid-friendly restaurant, and the salads and soups are really quite delicious. Don’t let the name “Willow Street Pizza” fool you: there’s much more to the menu then just pizza. In fact, you can browse their menu online and see for yourself at http://www.willowstreet.com/LOS_GATOS/Los_Gatos.html
If you have a favorite, local place to enjoy a cup or bowl of clam chowder, please share it in the comments below!