I'm pretty picky about clam chowder. First of all, it should taste like clams, as if the juices from the bivalves have really contributed something. The broth should be at least as clammy as it is creamy, and it should never be gluey or pasty. There should be tender pieces of clams, too, and the whole thing needs to be seasoned properly. Suffice it to say, I'm often disappointed.
But as Erin and I roadtripped our way down the Oregon coast, we stopped in at Ecola Seafoods for a cup of chowder (and some smoked mussels and some salmon fish and chips, because we never just stop anywhere for a single food item) and found that the unassuming little cup truly impressed us.
The secret: instead of using chunks of potatoes, they shred them to help thicken the soup. The texture ends up rich but not heavy, hearty but not overwhelming. It tastes deeply clammy, not fatty or starchy. There's a sprinkle of paprika on top for color, and it's well-seasoned throughout. The soup, which is made fresh every day, has an inviting, savory aroma, and big chunks of sweet and tender clams. It's pretty much everything I'd ask for in a chowder, and I'll be back for more.