Winter in New England means it's time for fish chowder. The first chowders probably contained the clams favored by Canadian fishermen, and the name came from the large pots (chaudieres) of the French settlers. By the mid 1700s, the term chowder was being used to describe the contents of the pot.
Today chowder can contain much more than clams. Chunks of white fish, the main ingredient, can be gussied up with potatoes, cream, and crackers. Tomatoes are usually scorned in New England since they're used in Manhattan clam chowder. At No Name Restaurant on Boston's Fish Pier, manager Jimmy Klidaras calls Manhattan chowder "tomato soup." No Name has been in the family since 1917, and is now owned by Klidaras's cousin, Katrina Contos. The chowder has been around for generations as well. No Name's bowls of seafood chowder are simplicity itself -- fresh white fish, shrimp, and clams with a bit of onion and evaporated milk. A dash of paprika gives a swirl of red to the broth. Potatoes aren't in the mix. "They can add potatoes if they like," Klidaras asserts, "but I think potatoes would ruin it."
A strong believer in the benefits of eating what he serves, Klidaras, 44, downs two bowls of his "brain food" every day. He eats one in the morning to "make sure they cooked it right," and another in the afternoon "to make sure it stays the same." That's his job -- to check that the food is consistent and served the way the family wants it. After all, the chowder is the restaurant's signature dish. "It's like Dunkin' Donuts has their coffee," says Klidaras. "We have our chowder." No Name, 15 1/2 Fish Pier, Boston. 617-338-7539 -- EMILY SCHWAB