We parked the Prius, walked into Webster Bank Arena, dropped off our food donations, then headed deep into all the action. No, there was no game that day, but there were thousands of gallons of assorted soups, chowders, and bisques. Chefs, owners, and their families waited with baited breath as thousands of chowdaheads came to see if they had what it took to be the next Chowdafest champion.
We dove into the action, right away, hitting up Valencia‘s Venezuelan Corn Bisque with a Corn, Fontina, and Bacon arepa ball. The soup was one of our favorites from the night, but what made it truly memorable was the nice finish from the arepa ball that remained crispy. Chef Michael Young didn’t seem flustered at all, even though his servers had no power and had to heat the soup up in a room near the top of the stadium. He’s the man…and it was a pleasure to catch up with him for a bit.
Then, as we were ready to check out more, we met up with Samantha Mckelvie from It’s Relevant. She recorded us talking about Chowdafest V (be on the lookout), then shot us going around to taste and talk about some of the soups. When we were done we looked around and saw a packed arena floor. While there were lots of people, lines weren’t too bad…actually better than last year. People were happy, tasting, talking, voting, and offering up their faves. We met up with some awesome people, too! Of course we talked with Jim Keenan, Chowda Chairman. Originally we had placed a friendly bet to see who could guess who would place 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in each category, but after tasting we all wanted to change some of our picks. Either way, it was great to talk soup and chowder with Jim, such a nice guy. Then we ran into some fellow readers and talked a bit…like them, we don’t know how you could possibly eat so much soup, but we push on…all in the name of the sport. We saw Stephanie Webster from CTbites, so we talked and chewed the fat for a bit. And then we saw Michel Nischan, our idol. We couldn’t help ourselves, came over, and talked for a bit. He’s such an awesome, warm, and friendly kind of guy.
So, without further ado, let’s give you a look at the actual ballot, the winners, and some of the chowdas we loved the most.
Classic New England Clam Chowder
1st) Donovan’s of Norwalk
2nd) Mansion Clam House of Westport
3rd) Crab Shell of Stamford
1st) Ginger Man of Norwalk with Sweet Potato Clam Chowder
2nd) Brewhouse of Norwalk with Chicken Corn Chowder
3rd) Southport Brewing Company of Fairfield with Corn & Poblano Chowder
1st) Crab Shell of Stamford with Lobster Bisque
2nd) Dunville’s of Westport with Cream of Chicken Chipotle Soup
3rd) Liquid Lunch of Shelton with Buffalo Chicken Soup
As we mentioned, we loved the Venezuelan Corn & Bacon Bisque from Valencia with the arepa balls. Just amazing.
We were also really surprised to love the Sweet Onion Bisque from Bobby Q’s. You could get that beautiful rich caramelized onion flavor coming through in the bisque. Ahh.
Ginger Man‘s Sweet Potato Clam Chowder, again, was awesome and it was a pleasure to finally meet Casey and Christian, representing the GM!
Liquid Lunch‘s Thai Shrimp Chowder was exotic, well balanced, and had a nice amount of tartness in the finish.
Nicholas Roberts‘ Oyster Pork Belly Chowder was great, too. The oyster’s flavor and brininess really came through while the pork belly added a nice fattiness to the dish.
On the Rocks’ New England Clam Chowder was smoky and full of bacony flavor. Boo to the people who say that no bacon should be inside a true NE Clam Chowder. So, just don’t eat it, leave it for us.
We also really loved Close Harbour Seafood‘s take on NE Clam Chowder. They had half NE Clam Chowder and half a Rhode Island Chowder. The RI Chowder is known for having a clear broth, as opposed to the cream or milk added to a NE Clam Chowder.
The Restaurant at Rowayton had a really interesting entry: Senegalese Peanut Soup! It was very rich and the peanut flavor really came through. One of the most unique of the day.