Entertaining, Summer, Tips, Timesavers & Troubleshooters

The Chowder Bar Pop-Up Party

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Newport is busy with visiting guests, drop-by garden aficionados and parties galore. You probably have your own version of this summer fun also. So  I thought you might enjoy an easy-to-assemble, spur-of-the-moment entertaining idea that plays off a New England signature favorite– clam chowder. And you can set it up any place — on the beach, by the barbecue, on a mountain top. Plus, it’s a filling, “one-dish meal.” Just add a salad, shrimp cocktail and cheese platter (above)…and chewy sourdough bread… and you have a summer pop-up party!


It’s as easy as 1-2-3
1. Rent a tabletop burner
2. Make the chowder base
3. Gather the fillings

Tip: Chowders, fish stews, summer soups — each is a reason to collect interesting bowls — from vintage “shell” dishes to glazed earthenware to sea treasures and birds hand-painted on porcelain.




Make your own chowder.

The twist in this chowder bar concept is that each guest selects from the ten ingredients that can be added to the original chowder base…one person may only want clams, potatoes and bacon; another guest only seafood (scallops, shrimp, halibut, clams). And then there’s the option of including every ingredient…chopped halibut, baby shrimp, sea scallops, clams, Portugese sausage, bacon, potatoes, red peppers, chives and leeks.


The guest’s personalized chowder is made to order and cooked on the little burner (if this is a big party, you may need more than one tabletop burner).

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Don’t forget the oyster crackers…


Last week my sun porch served as the perfect setting for this kind of pop-up party,  which requires little space.


Here’s to tasty and easy end-of-summer entertaining.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

5 thoughts on “The Chowder Bar Pop-Up Party

  1. I absolutely love this idea. Every fall I host a ‘soup night’ and offer 3 different homemade soups. Guests can bring sides that work well with soup if they like. It is always a huge hit. Your idea of a chowder base is just fantastic and I know it will occur in my house soon!
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Lisa, for that resounding endorsement. I feel the same way…maybe this is how a new trend starts?
      Enjoy your soup parties; such a good idea no matter the weather or season. Cheers from Newport, Bettie

  2. Fantastic idea Bettie! We were in Newport over July 4th and always take the opportunity to enjoy some chowder when we’re there, it’s the perfect meal. I LOVE this idea and will definitely incorporate it into my hosting repertoire for Book Club and Family& Friends . I appreciate your providing a recipe, thank you. I was not familiar with the use of individual add ins, it’s a charming concept and will allow all to enjoy the opportunity to Individualize their meal. I’m looking forward also selecting the serving platters & bowls from my collection. Bettie, I know you are very busy, however I can see you perhaps creating/designing a lovely dinnerware/hosting collection! Best regards, Helen O

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