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While many cities empty out for the 4th of July weekend, Boston combines the holiday with a festival that celebrates its historic roots that are so closely tied to America’s independence.
Boston Harborfest, a six day festival July 2 through July 7, began in 1982 with only 35 activities. This year, there are over 200 events spanned throughout the week.
“It used to be that Boston locals would exit the city for the 4th of July holiday and head up to the Cape or elsewhere,” said Liz Pashley, a spokesperson for the festival. “Boston Harborfest was started in order to attract local attention to the historical significance of our city and bring people in to celebrate.”
Events include historical reenactments, walking tours, sunset harbor cruises, free noontime concerts on City Hall Plaza, fireworks, a Children’s Day, and the Chowderfest.
The Chowderfest is a competitive New England clam chowder cook-off between Boston’s top restaurants, all vying for the title of “Boston’s Best Chowder.”
Over 2,000 gallons of chowder will be served at the City Hall Plaza on Sunday July 7 to the thousands of tasters who show up and vote on their favorite. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for children under 12.
Last year, Anthem Kitchen + Bar won best chowder against competitors Hyatt Harborside Grill, Ipswich Clambake Company, Wyndham Beacon Hill, and Waterline, among others.
Chart House, a three-time winner, will also be serving its Hall of Fame recipe.
The family-friendly festival attracts over 2.5 million people who want to step back in time and appreciate Boston’s specialties in one of the most historic and patriotic cities in the country.
“Boston Harborfest is the only festival that will give you a true feel for what independence meant to our country back in 1776 and how that translates to our current lives,” Pashley said.
What’s Cooking: Clam chowder
CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (WHDH) — New England is known for its history and clam chowder and in this week’s What’s Cooking, 7’s Sarah French visited a restaurant in Charlestown that has both.
Named after Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren, the Warren Tavern is one of the oldest historic meeting places in Massachusetts, built in 1780. Chef Steve Minnihan shared their recipe for classic New England Clam Chowder.
Warren Tavern Clam Chowder Recipe
14 Diced Onion
1 Pound Butter
1 Pound Flour
3 oz Salt Pork
12 Gallon Clam Stock
4 Pounds Fresh Chopped Clams
1 Teaspoon Each-Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Thyme, Cracked Black Pepper, Tabasco, Worchester Sauce
1 14 Pounds Diced Potatoes
Finish with Light Cream to Desired Thickness
Approximately 1 12 Gallons
Or 24 Cups of Chowder
Sauté Diced White Onions, butter, salt pork in a large pot. Add Flour Cook 5 Minutes Add Clam Stock, Potatoes Cook till Thickened
Add Chopped Clams, Garlic powder, Onion Powder, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and Thyme and bring to a boil.
Add Lite Cream, Remove Salt Pork
(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Boston Harborfest Preview
With more than 200 activities planned for the 31st Boston Harborfest, this year&rsquos week-long, family-friendly festival promises to live up to its proud reputation as the nation&rsquos largest patriotic celebration. The Harborfest&rsquos historic tradition looks to be as big as ever this year. At its waterfront venues the city will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with the USS Constitution and visiting foreign maritime vessels and ships taking center stage during a Parade of Ships in Boston Harbor June 30. Other events will include a Chowderfest, historical reenactments, walking tours, sunset harbor cruises and free noontime concerts on City Hall Plaza. More than half of the Harborfest events are free, and based on last year&rsquos attendance, they will likely attract more than two million visitors.
75 State Street Garage
75 State St.
Boston, MA 02109
The 75 State Street Garage is conveniently located within walking distance of most of the Harborfest venues and related tourist attractions, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market, the Freedom Trail and the waterfront. Take the Green Line to Government Center, the Blue or Orange Line to State, or the Orange or Red Line to Downtown Crossing for proximity to most of the week’s events.
Photo Credit: osmh.org/Facebook
Scavenger Hunt: Where the Boston Tea Party Began
Old South Meeting House
310 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02108
Hours: June 28 &ndash 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. June 29 and July 1 &ndash 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: $1 to $6/free 18 and younger
As a venue for free speech since 1773, the Old South Meeting House played a major role in the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. It is best known as the place where thousands of outraged colonists met to vent their anger over the British tax on tea. Participants of all ages will enjoy this special scavenger hunt at the museum, where they&rsquoll be invited to search exhibits for clues as to what led to the infamous Boston Tea Party. Prizes will be awarded to everyone who successfully completes the hunt.
Photo Credit: Bostonharborfest.com
Boston City Hall Plaza
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 635-4500 or (617) 227-1528
Hours: June 29 &ndash 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Bring the whole family to this amazing day of entertaining and educational activities for kids of all ages. In addition to face painting, a bubble machine, balloon art, juggling and seed planting, the National Park Service will exhibit flag craft, Old North Paper will showcase paper lantern craft, and the Otis House will demonstrate paper boat craft. Representatives from the New England Aquarium will be there with a sample tide pool, and the Boston Fire Department will escort kids on tours of one of its fire engines. Music and dance will fill the air, with performances by singer-songwriter Wayne Potash and the Music Fun Band, and members of the Eleanor Rubino Dance Academy. Take the Blue or Green line to Government Center for this event.
Photo Credit: bostonharborfest.com/Facebook
Tall Ships Viewing on the Schooner Liberty Clipper
Boston&rsquos Central Wharf (north of New England Aquarium)
Dates: June 30 to July 4
Price: $35 to $150
Related: Guide To Boston Tall Ships Visit, War Of 1812 Bicentennial
The international sea parade of Tall Ships arrives in Boston Harbor late June 29, and there&rsquos no better vantage point from which to see them up close than the 125-foot-tall schooner Liberty Clipper. Take advantage of seafaring options including daytime sightseeing sails around the harbor to observe the Tall Ships in their docks, a 3.5-hour Tall Ship brunch tour, or a rum and revolution sail that features booze and crew members costumed in colonial garb regaling passengers with tales and songs of Boston&rsquos revolution from a rummer&rsquos perspective. Better still, sail out to the Harbor Islands on the 4th of July for a cookout and viewing of the Boston Pops and the fireworks display. Take the Blue line to Aquarium Station for this event.
Photo Credit: bostonharborfest.com/Facebook
Boston City Hall Plaza
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 635-4500 or (617) 227-1528
Hours: July 1 &ndash 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: $8 kids/$12 adults
Some of the Boston area&rsquos best restaurants will vie for the coveted title of best chowder maker, and you&rsquoll be the judge. Visitors should bring their appetites &mdash they&rsquoll have an opportunity to sample generous dollops of creamy New England clam chowder from several vendors before choosing their favorite. More than 2,000 gallons of the stuff were ladled out during last year&rsquos festivities and this year promises to be even better. Last year&rsquos champion, Clancy&rsquos, will be back to defend its title. Other competitors will include Scholar&rsquos American Bistro and Four Green Fields.
Photo Credit: bostonharborfest.com
Boston City Hall Plaza
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 635-4500 or (617) 227-1528
Dates: June 29 to July 3
This year&rsquos Harborfest concert series offers something for almost every musical taste. It kicks off Friday with one of last year&rsquos favorites, The Baha Brothers, who’ll play classic beach rock from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The all-female pop group, Girls Nite Out, will be onstage on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m., followed by Disco Inferno, a nine-piece s dance band that will play disco and funk tunes for the twilight set during a Party on the Plaza from 6 to 9 p.m. On Monday afternoon, the local alternative rock band, Mission Hill, will perform from noon to 3 p.m. followed by Boston&rsquos classic rock group, Element 78, who&rsquoll play from 4:30 to 7 p.m. On Tuesday, dance to the beat of The Town Hall Blues Band, a sextet who will mix it up with jazz and blues from noon to 3 p.m. The series concludes with the Mudhook quartet, which will take the stage from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. playing traditional ballads and shanties and contemporary songs of the sea.
Photo Credit: faneuilhallmarketplace.com
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
200-299 Quincy Market Place
Boston, MA 02109
Just a short walk from the Old South Meeting House and Boston City Hall, where many of the Boston Harborfest events will take place, Faneuil Hall Marketplace offers 14 restaurants and pubs, including Cheers, Durgin-Park and McCormick & Scmick’s, as well as 36 international food vendors inside of the Quincy Market Colonnade, New England’s largest food hall.
Photo Credit: harborsideinnboston.com
185 State St.
Boston, MA 02109
Just steps from the Freedom Trail, across the street from Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market, and minutes from Boston’s waterfront, the Harborside Inn is an ideal location for travelers who want to be able to walk to most of the Harborfest venues. The hotel offers free high-speed wireless Internet, newspapers, morning coffee and a free library of HBO movies.
40 Berkeley St.
Boston, MA 02116
If you’re don’t mind taking the T to most of the Harborfest venues, you might enjoy staying at 40 Berkeley, Boston’s upscale, but affordable, hostel. Its standard full, double, triple and quad rooms have shared baths (women’s and men’s on each floor) and no TV, while the deluxe suites, which can sleep up to four, have a private bath and TV. All guests receive a complimentary full buffet breakfast and access to free wireless Internet throughout the building.
Here Comes Harborfest
Boston becomes even more patriotic than usual this week with Harborfest, a sprawling celebration that uses the Fourth of July as a good reason to showcase the city’s attractions.
Harborfest offers more than 200 events arranged over six days, including historical reenactments, walking tours, sunset harbor cruises, food tastings, and concerts.
Today is Children’s Day at Boston City Hall Plaza. The brick expanse fills with booths from the U.S.S. Constitution Museum, Historic New England, and the New England Aquarium. Jugglers and musicians add color, as do lots of balloons.
Looking for more mature offerings? Take a tour of the State House, kayak the Boston Harbor Islands, or listen to Paul Revere recount his life story in the Old North Church.
Also worth mentioning is the 28th annual Chowderfest in City Hall Plaza on Saturday. The competition draws local restaurants like the Algonquin Club, the Yankee Lobster Fish Market, and Parker’s Restaurant to duke it out — or should we say ladle it out — for bragging rights as Boston’s best clam chowder venue. Over 2000 gallons will be available for tasting tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12. Our prediction: the less flour in the chowder, the better the chances to win.
Harborfest activities are taking place all over Boston this week, so be sure to read the full schedule of events.
Amy Laskowski can be reached at [email protected]
HUDS Loses Chowder Contest, Gains Following
When it comes to its academics and endowment, Harvard is used to being at the top of its game. But in a competition for "Boston's Best" clam chowder this past weekend, Harvard's offerings fell a little short.
Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) competed in the Boston Chowderfest Sunday--drawing mostly positive reviews from the judges, but failing to place in the top three.
"We had a great fan base," said Crista Martin, HUDS publications and communications coordinator. "A lot of people were very complimentary."
The 19th annual contest--which pitted local restaurants and clam chowder makers against each other--was among the many activities in Boston over the long Fourth of July weekend. This was the first year that HUDS attended.
Despite the non-winning bid, HUDS Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Alexandra McNitt said HUDS' chowder developed a loyal following.
"People were coming back with mugs to take some home," she said.
While HUDS officials said they were proud of their efforts, McNitt said she was disappointed that Harvard did not place in the top three.
"We felt like we were really strong contenders," McNitt said. "With all of the positive feedback, we thought we really had a chance of taking at least second or third [place]."
Martin said HUDS competed well with established restaurants.
"We feel like we serve restaurant quality food, and this was an opportunity to show Boston how we serve Harvard," Martin said.
Since posters and brochures in Annenberg Hall advertised Harborfest weekend activities, Harvard students made up a large contingent of supporters, sometimes having to speak on behalf of HUDS.
"There were Harvard students all over the place," McNitt said. "People started asking them 'Is this the chowder they really serve you?' and they would say it was."
Rehana E. Gubin '02 went to the Chowderfest with three other summer school proctors.
"They weren't necessarily the best, but they had a great setup," Gubin said. "They were better than some restaurants, and they definitely had the most spirit."
Captain Parker's Pub from Cape Cod took first place at the event.
"Everybody who was there had great chowder," said Michael Nardone, an employee of Captain Parker's Pub. "[Harvard's chowder] was really good."
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How to Make a "Cream of Anything" Soup Base
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot, sweat 4 cups of chopped onions in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Don’t let the onions brown at all, just soften. Add 4 cups peeled and diced Russet potatoes.
- Add 6 cups water, or low-sodium chicken stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and gently simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until both onions and potatoes are completely soft. Taste and add salt and a bit of pepper.
- Puree the soup. If you have an immersion blender, this is the perfect time to use it to get a beautiful, smooth puree. You can also use a traditional blender, but be careful not to over-blend.
- Once pureed, the soup may seem a little too thick, but that’s very much on purpose. When ready to use, you can thin the base with as much or as little liquid as you want. (And you can even decide at that point to be decadent and add some cream.)
- Use immediately, or allow it cool, and freeze in an airtight container.
A few additional notes (after making literal GALLONS of it):
- You can make this with any amount of potatoes and onions — just make sure that they’re equal, and raise or lower the amount of liquid accordingly.
- I make mine with water so the potato flavor is highlighted, but chicken stock is just fine as well.
- Potatoes need salt, so don’t skimp. No matter how much you add, it won’t be anywhere near the amount in the condensed stuff.
- I always use cooked meat, and crisp cooked vegetables as add-ins for the base.
- I haven’t tried it, but I’m betting this would make a wonderful clam chowder… the New England kind, of course!
Now, I love this soup plain. And I always have onions, potatoes, water, and butter in the kitchen, so I can make it in much less than an hour. But if I have some interesting things in the fridge… this soup base opens up whole new worlds. Just try it. You&aposll likely end up with some incredible combinations I haven&apost even thought of.
New England Style Fish Chowder
After living in New England for almost seven years, chowder has become a staple in our home and restaurant outings. Whether it’s fish chowder like this one or classic clam chowder, even scallop chowder – we love it all. Today, I’m sharing an easy way to make a delicious chowder with fresh white fish.
One of the easiest ways to feel like you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, while still in your own home miles away, is by cooking up a delicious recipe that will bring back memories of your time on the island. This month, we want to share a great recipe for New England Style Fish Chowder, which you can recreate at home with a few ingredients.
New England is said to have its very own cuisine – one that focuses on the sea more than the land, and Martha’s Vineyard takes that cuisine even further by supporting their local fishermen as much as possible. The first and oldest-known printed fish chowder recipe was in the Boston Evening Post on September 23,1751. The history of chowder is impressive, but no more impressive than holding a bowl of warm chowder yourself and diving in. Let’s cook! For this recipe, you can use any white fish you can find at your local fish market, such as cod, barramundi, pollock, or any other firm white fish.
As someone that’s lives on Martha’s Vineyard and someone that makes hundreds of gallons of chowder in the season on Martha’s Vineyard, I’ve become very sensitive to what a classic chowder should be. Granted, everyone has their own way of doing things, but here’s my method:
- grab your favorite pork product, whether it’s bacon or salt pork and render the fat
- add your aromatics, meaning your onions and saute those with butter until translucent
- mix the pork product, along with all its rendered fat, with the onions and butter – here’s where you add your thickening agent (typically flour)
- from there, you add your liquids – fish stock, clam juice, half and half, cream
- in the meantime, you’ll cook your potatoes separately – no one likes mushy potatoes in their chowder
- whisking to bring it all together, you’ll finish it be seasoning with some salt and pepper, possibly a hit of hot house
It’s that simple. NO need to add carrots, leeks, dill – and let’s not even talk about that “other chowder” that’s tomato based. We’re in New England, for goodness sake!
Photography by Stacey Rupolo / Recipe by Cooking with Books
Our guide to your best summer ever
Summer is about cruising, beach boating, fishing, tubing and just plain having fun.
The days are longer, the air is sweet, and the boat is back in the water. Summer is the perfect time to collect the family, weigh anchor and set off on a relaxing cruise. Explore a new harbor, wet a line, jump over the side for a swim, stop at a waterfront restaurant for crab cakes or lobster, or stuff your face at a seafood festival. Whatever you do, try something different this summer.
Read the other story in this package: How we&aposll spend our summers
Here’s a look at 33 events we think are sure to get you on your way to fun on the water — from fleet blessings and chowder cook-offs to crab races and a Hemingway look-alike contest.
1. Vintage vessels of all shapes and sizes will be on display at the Chesapeake BayMaritimeMuseum in St. Michael’s, Md., June 16 to 18 for the annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival. Organizers call this the Mid-Atlantic’s largest gathering of classic mahogany speedboats, and there will be more than 100 pristine Chris-Crafts, Hackers, Gar Woods and others on display. Visitors can enjoy boat rides, safety demonstrations, food, live music, and activities for children, and more than 40 boating-related vendors will be on hand. Boats will be judged on workmanship, authenticity and maintenance. www.cbmm.org , www.chesapeakebayacbs.net
2. Regardless of where in the world sailors are this summer — Casco Bay, the Mediterranean, Puget Sound, the Sea of Cortez — they can join an international celebration of all things sailing: the Summer Sailstice. The celebration takes place June 17 and 18, the weekend closest to the solstice. Organizers say sailors from 48 states and 12 countries participated in the celebration last year, and many use the Sailstice as an incentive to organize their own events, knowing that fellow sailors around the world are doing the same. Registered participants will be eligible to win prizes, including a weeklong charter in the BVI, a Hunter Xcite sailboat, $200 West Marine gift certificates and more. (415) 412-6961. www.summersailstice.com
3. More than 175 speedboats and cruisers will sprint up the Hudson River June 17 in the New York City Poker Run. Festivities kick off with a “Patriotic Powerboat Parade” up the river from Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, N.J., to the GeorgeWashingtonBridge. Competitors from around the country and Canada then speed to the Tappan ZeeBridge and as far north as the Haverstraw Marina, picking up playing cards along the way. The race wraps up back at Liberty Landing, and the team with the best hand takes the $5,000 purse for this so-called “King of all Poker Runs.” Spectators gather at Liberty Landing to watch the action in the shadow of the Big Apple’s financial district. (203) 532-1312. www.nationalpowerboat.com
4. The Blessing of the Fleet is one of the highlights of the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, Mass., June 21 to 25. (St. Peter is patron saint of fishing). Clergy, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, will gather near the town’s iconic fisherman statue to bless fishing boats and crews as they parade by. After the 100-plus boats are blessed, skippers traditionally blast their signal horns. In addition to the religious ceremonies, there will be music, food, soccer games, seine boat races and “greasy pole” walks. The event is sponsored by Gloucester’s Italian-American fishing community. www.stpetersfiesta.org
5. Boston recognizes its Colonial and maritime heritage with its annual Harborfest celebration June 28 to July 4. Festivities include more than 200 events around BostonHarbor and downtown: Revolutionary War re-enactments, parades around the USS Constitution, a chowder festival (see item No. 8), concerts, and a fireworks display July 4. Organizers expect more than 2.5 million people for the weeklong celebration. (617) 227-1528. www.bostonharborfest.com
6. Anglers have a chance to win $1 million at the HMY-Viking MegaDock Billfishing Tournament out of the Charleston (S.C.) City Marina June 28 to July 1. The tournament, the last of five events in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, is a marlin and sailfish competition with additional categories for dolphin, tuna and wahoo. Organizers say it is the only competition offering the Bank of America MegaMillion Jackpot for the largest catch that breaks a South Carolina state record for blue marlin, tuna, wahoo or yellowfin tuna. Proceeds benefit a number of charities. (843) 278-4914. www.megadocktournament.com
7. Tall ships from around the world will sail into North Carolina’s CrystalCoast (Beaufort and MoreheadCity) for Pepsi America’s Sail 2006 June 30 to July 5. The festival is hosted by the Friends of the North CarolinaMaritimeMuseum, and will draw the 122-foot schooner Virginia, the 105-foot gaff-rigged schooner Alliance, Brazil’s 249-foot square-rigged clipper Cisne Branco,and other tall ships. Visitors can board the ships and interact with crews. Special events include a tall ships parade, 15-minute regatta and a Fourth of July concert and fireworks. (800) 637-8158. www.pepsiamericassail.com
8. New England restaurants will serve up more than 2,000 gallons of clam chowder during the July 2 Chowderfest at Boston City Hall Plaza — part of the Boston Harborfest celebration. Some 12,000 𠇌howderheads” are expected to sample recipes and vote for 𠇋oston’s Best Clam Chowder.” (617) 227-1528. www.bostonharborfest.com/chowderfest
9. The annual Kent County Watermen’s Day celebrates the hard-working people who harvest the bounty of Chesapeake Bay. The July 2 festival on the Upper Eastern Shore in Rock Hall, Md., includes a decorated boat parade, workboat docking competition and a crab-pot pulling contest. Among the highlights is the anchor toss, in which competitors (both men and women) fling iron grappling hooks to see who can throw one farthest. Some reach 70 to 80 feet. (410) 778-0416
2,000 Gallons of Chowder at Boston Harborfest - Recipes
Doesn't Boston have a Chowderfest on City Hall Plaza every July 4 or so as part of a Harborfest festival leading up to July 4?
Hmmm. I rarely hear who won, and I'm usually up on these contests.
Do folks really want hot, steamy chowder on a hot July 4th?
I checked for Harborfest and this year's Chowderfest, and I'm a bit confused as to when and where after clicking two sites. Aarrgh!
I guess it's not necessarily on July 4, either.
But Anthem at Faneuil Hall won a couple and finished second recently Ned Devine's at Faneuil Hall also did well a few years back.
Chart House, a few steps from the back of Long Wharf Marriott, can no longer compete: after three winning years, a restaurant is retired from competition! That restaurant is hidden by the water near the back of the Marriott. it's been there forever, so that may say a lot. It's a national chain, right?
A spoon standing up in chowder is a sign of bad chowder. Or at least one that uses flours/non-potato thickener. No thanks.
I'm a fan of the versions at Neptune Oyster and Row 34. Actually, my own is decent--it's a pretty easy thing to make and it's not like fresh clams are hard to find.
I like Neptune Oyster in Boston. I also think that Bayside in Westport makes excellent chowder (with a great view). Chad's in Somerset, MA is great too.
I also make a decent chowder. I have a shell fishing license in Mattapoisett and use the bigger quahogs to make a chowder sometimes. No flour or other thickeners for me. Also, light on the bacon as much as it pains me to do so sometimes. Bayside's is still my favorite.
FWIW- If you like "Legal Seafood's" Chowder, you actually like Blount Fine Foods' Chowder. They make it and distribute it to a number of restaurants nationwide (including Panera Bread). I don't think it's bad at all, but it's certainly not something unique to the region (although Blount is a local company). Blount has a few retail "clam shacks' and soup stores in RI and one in Fall River, MA. Blount Retail - Delicious Soups, Sandwiches, Seafood and Specialties
Isn't Captain Marden's out of Wellesley considered decent? Do they have a shop there for takeout or is there a sit down option also?
I often see their small trucks in the region.
Foodies Urban Market (Southie, South End, Duxbury and soon Belmont) have their product at their soup bar sometimes, as well as selling some of their refrigerated/(frozen?) fish dinners.
What do people think of Whole Foods Market's chowder at their hot soup bar?
Bring clams and 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Cook until clams just open, 8-10 minutes (discard any that do not open). Using a large slotted spoon, transfer clams to a large rimmed baking sheet set broth aside. Let clams cool slightly, then pull meat from shells discard shells.
Chop clams into bite-size pieces. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add water if needed to measure 6 cups. DO AHEAD: Clams and broth can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add reserved broth (or 6 cups bottled clam juice), potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring chowder base to a simmer cook until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Stir cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl to form a slurry. Stir slurry into chowder base return to a boil to thicken. DO AHEAD: Base can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool cover and chill. Keep clams chilled. Bring base to a simmer before continuing.
Remove base from heat. Discard bay leaf. Stir in reserved clams (or two 10-ounce cans baby clams) and cream. Season with salt, if needed (clams' brininess varies), and pepper.