We moseyed on over to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center around 11:30 or so, and despite the cool rain, we couldn’t help but explore the animal pens on our way up to the Bendel Mansion where all the food festivities were taking place. I mean they have goats, alpacas, chickens, sheep, cattle, (oh my)… how could two animal lovers resist?! When we finally made our way up there, we were frickin’ starving so we started with the pancake breakfast of 3 fluffy buttermilk pancakes, 2 sausage links and of course a heaping helping of their very own, hand-made maple syrup (2 ladles full to be exact). Once we wolfed that deliciousness down, we headed on over to the final round of the First County Bank’s Chef’s Challenge, featuring semifinalists Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning and David’s Soundview Catering.
We were immediately beckoned by the outgoing and spunky Director of Sales and Operations, Melissa DeSousa from David’s Soundview Catering. We were very intrigued by their dish, a hearty maple vegetable stew consisting of maple syrup (duh!), butternut squash, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, kidney beans, and smoked sea salt. With such a creative concoction, we immediately thought they were either going to nail it, or tank. Well, they nailed it! It was fantastic. Maybe it was the fact that we were so chilly from the pouring rain, but that delicious, hot stew was just what we needed to get us going. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, not too crisp, not at all soggy, and the maple syrup really stood out, but didn’t overpower the dish at all. A perfect blend, served in cute little recycled bamboo bowls. To compliment the dish, they also had a wide variety of rolls from brioche, to multigrain, to sesame, to cranberry (yeah, so, I tried most of them… whatever, don’t judge) along with maple butter rosettes to slather on top. YUMMY! The rolls were soft and complex and the butter too, had the perfect touch of maple syrup.
Once we were done stuffing our faces there, we headed on over to Marcia Selden Catering’s adorably decorated table and were also greeted with friendly smiles. They came prepared to kick some maple boo-tay with three different yummy treats! Our favorite was a mix of popcorn, peanuts and cooked prosciutto (oh how I love when pork goodness in mixed in with sweets), all coated in (what else?) maple syrup. It was awesome! Next up was a maple corn dog. Ah, yes, I saw what they were doing, going for the kid vote… smaaaart! ; ) I, believe it or not, am not a corn dog fan, but I gave it a try anyway. It was nicely cooked and Danny really enjoyed it, though we both agree it could’ve used more maple syrup as the flavor didn’t really come through. The maple did, however, come through in their corn dog dipping sauce which was an absolutely delicious honey, maple mustard. Then last, but not least, were maple pecan mini whoopie pies! Again, I hate to say it, but I don’t like whoopie pies. I know, what’s wrong with me?! But again, I of course gave it a try! As far as whoopie pies go, it was good with delicate pies and a nice creamy filling with just the right amount of crunch from the pecans.
So, who won you ask? Well, 3 must have been the magic number, and the kid vote seemed to come through on those corn dogs and whoopie pies, because Marcia Selden’s Catering won by 9 votes! It was quite the competition and both challengers came to the event with incredibly, winning recipes! It really was a tough call!
At this point we pretty much could’ve run a marathon on our sugar high. Well, if we weren’t so darn full that is. Before we headed out though, we wanted to be sure to pick up some jugs of their maple syrup, which is sourced and made right there at the nature center. And on the way out we checked out more animal exhibits of the slithery type, watched a maple syrup making demonstration, and Danny somehow found room to snarf down a maple snow cone!
And, on a side note, we also decided to become Stamford Museum and Nature Center members after learning about all the benefits. It really is such a great place to have fun for people of all ages! A $100 family membership gets you a ton of perks like free entry any day, any time (that means I can visit the goats aaaaany time I want, yay), half price entry into their events like this one, classic car shows, harvest festivals, etc, invitations to exhibit opening receptions, free admission to their bi-monthly astronomy series in their observatory (we LOVE astronomy), and more! And, best of all, the cost goes to a good cause in supporting the nature center, so definitely check it out!Stamford Museum and Nature Center Address: 39 Scofieldtown Road
Stamford, CT 06903 Phone:203.322.1646