Question: I'm writing to request the Clam Chowder recipe from the Seagull Street Fish Market in Albuquerque. - Calvin English, Rock Springs, Wyo.

Answer: Mass ascension and a "Balloon Glow" will launch Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 4-12, bringing hot-air magic to the high desert. The arena is a rectangular box of air above the city that is a weather/environmental phenomenon. Pilots describe it as some of the best balloon weather in the world.

During the mass ascension, hundreds of balloons in a multitude of colors and shapes rise, floating gently above the New Mexican desert. Special shapes have included Noah's Ark, the Pink Panther, a tennis shoe, a macaw, Old Saint Nick and a penguin. Flames illuminate the inside of the balloons as the hot air giants are inflated during the "Balloon Glow."

Pilots demonstrate their skill during the competitive key grab, as they maneuver their balloons as close as possible to a 30-foot-tall pole. The winner grabs the dangling set of car keys and gets to keep the car they start!

Seagull Street serves classic New England-style clam chowder in a setting worthy of a Yankee sea captain's home. Rock pillars divide the surround of glass, and a wooden wall is covered with pictures of crusty seafarers and their catch, lifesaver rings, coveralls and knotted rope. Locals give an aye, aye to the "Early Tide" dinners.

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RECIPE

CLAM CHOWDER

Clam chowder

2 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams, juice reserved

1/2 cup butter

1 bunch celery, chopped

1 onion, diced

2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups half-and-half

Roux

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat. Add celery, onion and potatoes, and saute until onions are tender. Add reserved clam juice, thyme, bay leaf and white pepper, stirring to combine. Add milk and half-and-half. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently.

To prepare the roux: Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring continuously, 3 minutes or until flour is cooked. Add 1 to 2 cups of the hot liquid to the roux, stirring to incorporate and remove lumps. Immediately add the roux mixture back into the chowder and stir to blend. Add clams. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently. Yields 3 1/2 quarts.