MANCHESTER — The owner of Captain Dusty's Ice Cream, John Bartlett, says he loves both ice cream and clam chowder.
So he put the two together in 2006, and created what he calls the Captain Dusty's "cool chowder" ice cream flavor.
And for the past three years, he's entered this homemade creation in the clam chowder-tasting competition at the annual ClamFest. But this year, he says, he was abruptly told by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce that he can no longer take part in competition.
The reasons: He doesn't sell the product year-round at his four stores — and ice cream is not a traditional chowder.
"They are trying to push this as technicality," said Bartlett, who lives in Manchester and operates Captain Dusty's alongside his wife, Lisa. "We've been in the competition for a few years, and we are not tired of it.
"We would still like to be in it even though I don't think we would win," he said. "It's fun."
The idea to make a seafood ice cream was inspired when Bartlett had lobster ice cream on Martha's Vineyard many years before he even started making ice cream himself. He decided the ClamFest was the perfect event to create and introduce the clam chowder flavor to the public.
Although the ice cream is made with all the same basic ingredients of cream and clams as all the other chowders in the competition — and is served the same way in a bowl with oyster crackers — festival organizers don't think it belongs in the popular competition.
But, after Bartlett applied to enter the competition this year he received a phone call from Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Hastings, telling him the ClamFest committee voted unanimously not to include his "cool chowder" in this year's competition.
"Clam chowder ice cream is not a clam chowder," said Susan Lufkin who helped organized this year's festival. "It doesn't meet the definition of clam chowder — it is ice cream. It is nothing against Captain Dusty's."
Bartlett sells the "cool chowder" at his stores for a limited amount of time from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1. He admits it's more of a novelty than an actual seller, and he only makes a small amount for sale. But the reaction has been positive, and people ask about it. One customer, Bartlett said, has even requested that Dusty's make a half-gallon batch for him.
The unique flavor has never placed in past competitions at ClamFest.
"We go into the competition with high hopes during our slow season and have a little fun," Bartlett said. "We put our best quality product forward knowing that many people who like traditional chowder won't likely get their vote."
What do people think of Captain Dusty's "cool chowder"?
The first bite is for orientation, Bartlett says, because most people are used to warm chowder; the second bite, he said, is for taste.
"Many people not only find it interesting, but pretty good," he said. "Most people come back for more."
Captain Dusty's will have a booth at the ClamFest this weekend, giving out free samples and selling a few bowls of his "cool chowder" despite being snubbed from the competition.
"But this is what we do for a living," Bartlett said. "I definitely hope the committee gets some feedback — and reconsiders."