Everyone knows the legend of King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail, the chalice of Christ. But not everyone remembers that at the end of that journey, the man watching over the cup was called the fisher king.
I found my own fisher king at Cantler's Riverside Inn at the edge of the Broadneck peninsula this week when I stumbled onto what I consider the holy grail of clam chowders. It marked the end of a personal search for the best chowder that I set out on in my youth, and I didn't even have to travel to Maine like I'd planned.
Ever since I was a kid, I've considered myself a connoisseur of soups. Campbell's was a staple throughout my youth, until I was old enough to know better of course. As I became an adult, cooking and perfecting soups became a hobby of mine that family and friends always found strange. I never took as much of a liking in preparing full meals. Just soups.
But even my best soups never quite felt authentic. I felt I should go out and find the best clam chowder the world had to offer. So I set my sights on the far north. Growing up in Georgia, I often dreamed of traveling on a weekend trip up to the far reaches of Maine just to sample the best soup New England had to offer.
When I moved to Maryland, I felt instinctively closer to that holy land of clam chowder, but still far enough that it wasn't within my reach. Then someone on Facebook recommended I try out Cantler's.
So on a rainy Friday afternoon, I did just that. I followed the winding Forest Beach Road to the edge of the Broadneck peninsula and found a sleepy community nestled along the water. On the sign for the restaurant and inn was a fisherman in a raincoat smiling down at me. Could this be the fisher king?
Inside the lighting was dim, and a crew of workers huddled around the bar for afternoon drinks, but the tables were empty. I grabbed a seat, and within a minute had ordered my soup. It arrived soon afterward in an unceremonious paper cup.
Maybe this was like the true grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the film, the villain chose poorly when he grabbed a jewel-encrusted goblet. But Indy saw a shoddy, dim gold cup and said, "That's the cup of a carpenter."
After just one bite, as I let the soup's flavors roll over my tongue, I knew my quest had come to an end. I could lay down my sword and return home finally. But I'd also be taking a few of these chowder grails home with me.
So if you're craving some chowder, stop by Cantler's Riverside Inn. I can guarantee the soup will hit the spot. And if you don't agree with my assessment, please let me know in the comments where you think the best cup can be had in the area.