Thursday, April 14, 2011

In search of the Rare and Elusive Salmon Bean Soup

My husband is allergic to shellfish. And so is his sister. And so was his grandmother. So you can imagine that not much shellfish is served in our house. The frustrating part is that all of them developed the allergy in their teen years, so they remember the awesome taste of lobster and crab and in particular a hearty bowl of clam chowder.

So, I am on a constant mission to find substitutes for clam chowder.

After a stop to the Chowder House in Portland, Maine, for example, I worked tirelessly to perfect my own version of a shellfish-free, cream-based fish chowder.

We had also fallen in love with a White Bean Salmon Chowder the Whole Foods Market made and sold back near the fish counter. However, we noticed a year or so ago that we never saw it anymore. Finally, I asked some folks at our store. No one really knew what I was talking about; no one seemed to remember the chowder. Then finally one guy thought he remembered them getting it pre-made from a company called 'Sea Bear'.

So, armed with this information, I sat down to type.

First, I wrote to Whole Foods, asking them about the chowder.
  • I received confirmation almost immediately via email from Nadeem that their Commissary used to make 'Salmon & White Bean Soup' but that it was no longer made. She noted that it was hard to share a recipe when you make batches so large, but that she'd see what she could do.
  • Within a day I then received an email from Jay at the Springfield Seafood Department. He noted that the recipe contained the following ingredients and hoped this would help me: 
    Northern bean cooked, traditional hummus (whoa, really? I would never have guessed this!), water, Canned tomato, salmon wild coho, onion, celery, Base fish, Food starch, garlic, salt, parsley, seafood seasoning, dill herb, & black pepper 

At the same time, I located Sea Bear's website and also wrote to them:
  • Within a day, I heard from Charly who noted that she would be checking with her manager about my question.
  • About a day later, she wrote me back with another response:

    I checked with my manager regarding your question. She says that it is possible they may have used one of our soup bases that we have from Gerard and Dominique, but most likely added their own ingredients to the soup.

    We do offer Smoked Salmon Chowder and our Spicy White Bean soup. Both are very delicious. You are welcome to try them free of the shipping charge. You would need to call and place the order over the phone and speak with me or place your order online and call us with the order number so we may remove your shipping charges. All of our products are backed by our Fisherman’s Guarantee. If for any reason you are not thrilled with our products, we will either refund you or send you something else.
  • I decided to take them up on their offer, so I called and we walked over the ingredients together. As it turned out, the Spicy White Bean soup had a clam rather than a fish base, and there were big flags on their records saying to point this out to customers requesting fish rather than shellfish products. She noted that they were working to reformulate the recipe to drop the clam. So I decided to try the Salmon Chowder.
  • I now have 2 paks of the Chowder on my shelf, waiting for a cold, rainy day.

In a world of rotten customer service, I wanted to give a shout-out to both Whole Foods and Sea Bear. They both went above and beyond to help me on my quest, even though it was not at all certain that such help would result in any type of sale. I'm left with a nice warm feeling -- not unlike that feeling that a good, hot, chowder leaves behind -- after my interactions with both of them. Can't wait to do business with them, again.


SarCatOtt said...

Not 10 minutes ago I finished my small container of Whole Foods Salmon and White Bean soup. I then immediately googled it for more info when I came across your post here. The good news is, it's still out there! The bad, I'm not sure how close you are to Washington DC but if you wanted to contact a Whole Foods that has the soup you're looking for in-house RIGHT THIS SECOND, they're located on Wisconsin Ave in NW D.C.

Sarah said...

We also have it here in NJ!