That’s right…what started as a local chowder competition to help raise much needed money for local food banks has grown immensely. So immensely, in fact, that organizer (and Chief Chowderhead) Jim Keenan had to put some serious thought into expansion. Would he keep Chowdafest at the same level…or take it to the next level? If you’ve met Jim before you know he’s never content with keeping things at the same level; he always wants to kick it up a few hundred notches. And that’s exactly what he’s doing this year with Chowdafest 2014 (Part II) on Sunday, October 12 from 12-4 pm at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk! An obvious added benefit will be a more spread out festival to help combat the large crowds that people faced last Souper Bowl Sunday.
So, if you’re new to this, here’s the deal:
As if listening to Star 99.9’s Big Jim and Anna show (5:30-10 am) didn’t wake ya up enough and get you that blast of energy to power through the day, they’ve gone and made it bigger and oh so steamy. That’s ’cause they’ll be sampling 32 of the hottest bowls of soup here in Connecticut every single Friday. No, they won’t be trying all of them at the same time, but will try 8 bowls that will be featured at Chowdafest every Souper Friday.
Here’s the schedule along with the categories and the soups that Jim and Anna will be slurping on:
The Sixth Annual Chowdafest that goes down on SOUPer Bowl Sunday is just around the corner. So, whether you just love soup, you’re upset that your team never made it past the regular season, or you just want to pre-game at Webster Bank Arena, ChowdaFest will be the place to be from 11 to 3 on 2/2. There will be 28 restaurants competing to win your votes for best chowda in three different categories, yes…but there will be so much more that we can’t wait to share with you as one of the sponsors for this year’s event that helps to benefit The Connecticut Food Bank.
ChowdaQuest, the quest for the fest, was a huge success this year and it placed some amazing restaurants into the 2014 ChowdaFest competition through your votes. Going down on SOUPer Bowl Sunday, 2/2, from 11 am to 3 pm, ChowdaFest VI promises to be even more awesomerest than last year! Tickets will be just $10 and benefits The Connecticut Food Bank! We’ll have more details to share with you shortly, but in addition to everything that makes Chowdafest great like sampling chowders and voting for your favorites, there are tons of new things that you’ll love! And, speaking of liquid goodness, check out the winning competitors for ChowdaFest 2014 to be held at Webster Bank Arena:
New England Clam Chowder:
Bernard’s (Ridgefield) – first year
Donovan’s (Norwalk) – defending champion
Go Fish (Mystic) – first year
Guvnor’s Brewery (Norwalk) – first year
Mansion Clam House (Westport) – 2 time champ
Old Post Tavern (Fairfield)
Wood’n Tap (Orange and various locations) – first year
Traditional Chowder (Manhattan/RI only):
We’ve covered ChowdaFest for the past few years and we’ve been happy to see it grow into one of the most popular events in Connecticut. Really, what’s better? You pay just a small amount of money to go around and taste chowder after chowder, soup after soup, then vote on your favorites. And, at the end of the day, you feel good knowing that you’ve helped Connecticut Food Bank. Now, the next ChowdaFest isn’t until February 2, 2014, but there’s lots going on before then…namely the brand new experience called ChowdaQuest.
ChowdaQuest is “The Quest for the Fest” and will put even more power in the hands of hungry chowda-sippers. This all new experience came about due to so many restaurants wanting to be involved, but only having a limited amount of spots in the competition. All you need to do is check out any of the restaurants that we’ve listed below, ask for their soup sampler, then vote for your favorite soup by heading to ChowdaQuest.com. You get one vote per restaurant per valid e-mail address, so make sure you’re voting for your absolute favorite soup from each restaurant. The restaurants with the most votes by Thanksgiving will get spots in ChowdaFest 2014, so make sure that you support your favorite restaurants by voting! While you’re on the voting page, make sure to enter the Sierra Nevada contest. Just explain where your favorite place to drink Sierra Nevada is and you just might win dinner for two at any of the restaurants that are participating in ChowdaQuest 2014.
Here is the massive list of restaurants that are participating in ChowdaQuest 2014. Some of the restaurants are still waiting to confirm with Jim (nothing next to their name), but will be ready to go shortly:
HUGE Food Truck Festival, BBQ + Chowder Cook Offs, Demos, and Live Music at Westbrook Tanger Outlets7 Apr
New York has its food truck festivals, Boston, has its food truck festivals, and now Connecticut has a major festival, too. Let’s count ’em: 15-25 food trucks from Connecticut and surrounding states will show up at the Westbrook Tanger Outlets on 4/27-4/28/13. Plus, Westbrook Assistant Manager David DelVecchio says he’ll be updating the list (we’ll update for you, too) every few days as Food Trucks 2 Go brings new trucks in. There is absolutely no fee for attending, so you can use that saved dough to pig out. Here is the list as of 4/7:
- Away Café
- Away Café BBQ Truck
- Captain Marden’s Seafood (Saturday only)
- Caseus Cheese Truck (Sunday only)
- Chicken & Rice Guys (Saturday only)
- The Chubby Chickpea
- The Cupcake Brake
- Food Extrovert
- The Happy Taco
- High Tide Gourmet (Sunday only)
- Hog Wild
- Munchies Food Truck (Saturday Only)
- Spud Stud
- The Sugar Bakery Cup Cake
- Whey Station (Sunday Only)
The food trucks will be there for om noming from 11 am to 6 pm and there will be lots of live music to provide a soundtrack for your gorging pleasure. We’re talking The Red Hill Rockers, The Sin Sisters, The Shiney Lapel Trio, and others. There will also be live cooking demos from Clarke, Kitchen Aid, Soda Stream, Williams Sonoma, Chef Kashia, and lots more.
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.
One of the best parts about being food bloggers is that we get to meet lots of other awesome foodies. And while we love each of our fellow foodies in their own unique way, none are quite as irresistibly adorable and super cool as the “ChowderFamily”!
Who’s the ChowderFamily you ask? Psh, only the owners of Chowderkids, the most chowderific blog in Fairfield County (and the world) devoted to the love of all things chowder (well, New England style that is – but more on that later)!
We first came across Chowderkids on Twitter when we were talking about how psyched we were for Chowdafest IV! But it wasn’t until we discovered that the brains and talent behind Chowderkids are two adorable kids (a dynamic brother and sister team) and their supportive and equally adorable parents, that we KNEW we had to get to know them! See how it all began.
So in true blogger fashion, we set up a quick interview with the family to share with you so you can become as big fans of them as we are! Here’s the behind-the-scenes scoop!
It’s here. The time of year I dread the most. The longest, shortest month of the year. The month where you’re tired of the cold, snow, and ice, feeling cooped up with nothing to do, desperately wanting for the warmth of spring. Yep, this Saturday was the perfect example of this nastiness, but hell if Danny and I were going to let that keep us down. Nope! Instead we were determined to trek out in the nasty, cold rain for an all-day sample fest of some of the best food Fairfield County has to offer. Because when the weather fails you, there’s always comfort food to make it aaaaall better!
We started our day out at First County Bank on High Ridge Road in Stamford for the Second Annual Chef’s Challenge to support the Stamford Museum and Nature Center. For those of you unfamiliar with this challenge, three local restaurants and/or catering companies compete against each other by creating impressive maple syrup concoctions. Yeah, heaven! This year the competition stepped it up a few notches to try and take down last year’s champion, Marcia Selden Catering (pictured above).
We started with breakfast, naturally, at David’s Soundview Catering’s station. First up, maple & spiced bacon wrapped grissini, which were fabulous. The bacon was cooked perfect, not overcooked, not undercooked and with the perfect amount of maple syrup and spice so as to not overpower the bacony goodness. Next up was a mini butter milk pancake with (what else?) maple syrup and a maple sausage patty, fresh and hot off the skillet. Both also perfectly cooked, the sausage was so perfect in fact, we had to have two. What? Don’t judge us! It was just such the perfect combo of savory and sweet that we couldn’t resist. Then, last but not least, was their homemade granola which offered a fantastic level of crunch and sweetness you could only hope for out of granola.
Next up, brunch with Marcia Selden Catering, starting with some nicely maple coated mixed nuts. And, at the risk of being repetitive, also the perfect balance between savory and sweet. (Yep, guess these chef’s know what they’re doing). Then onto their maple pulled pork tacos. These were also pretty tasty. The pork was cooked very nicely, but could’ve used just a touch more maple syrup. As the iron chef judges say the key ingredient was not the star. And then we finished with their maple panna cotta which was holy awesomeness! I am a huge panna cotta fan and this did not disappoint with just the right amount of maple, cream, vanilla and berries to balance it all out. Don’t tell, but Danny had two. YUM!
Then lastly, more dessert with Maple Shortbread Fingers from SoNo Baking Company and Cafe. These too, were quite delicious, soft and delicate, though they could’ve also used just a bit more maple syrup to get that flavor across. Being a huge fan of SoNo Baking, I was sad to see that was all they made. I think being newbies to the Chef’s Challenge, they didn’t realize the competitors were going to bring out the whole dog and pony show. Maybe next year, because I know their food could definitely kick some arse!
All in all, the event was a huge success! The two winners, as determined by the people’s vote, will move on to compete in the final challenge at Stamford Museum and Nature Center for Maple Sugar Sunday on March 6, 11am – 3pm. And, you have until that Sunday to sponsor your very own bucket of maple syrup for $50, which not only gets you a pint of magically delicious local maple syrup, but also supports a great Stamford establishment dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of art, history and the natural and agricultural sciences. Guess what? We’ve got the winners! David’s Soundview Catering will go up against Marcia Selden Catering for the bragging rights of the Maple Sugar Sunday 2011 winners!
Chowdafest 2011 in Westport
After some errands and a long stop home for a cleaning marathon to prep our house for a showing (what a food-buzz kill), we beelined it over to Bedford Middle School in Westport for the 3rd annual Chowdafest. The fest was over at 4, and unfortunately we got there at 3:30, so we were on a mission to throw down as many chowder samples as physically possibly in that half hour. We wish we could give you the full report on all the awesome restaurants that participated, but we’ll do our best to entertain you with the highlights of what we did taste (bad food bloggers, BAD… we won’t do it again next year, we promise).
So after sample a variety of traditional to crazy creative soups from Italian Corner Deli, Old Post Tavern, Rowayton Seafood, MacKenzie’s, Liquid Lunch, Nicholas Roberts, River House, Soup Alley, Southport Brewing Company, Chef’s Table, and Da Pietro’s, we had some definite favorites!
Staring in the traditional New England chowder category, we definitely enjoyed them, but were actually not blown away by any of the chowders we tasted. The 1st place winner was Mansion Clam House and sadly we didn’t get to taste theirs. We did have the 2nd and 3rd place winners, however, from MacKenzie’s and Old Post Tavern and both were nice, solid chowders with hearty veggies, plump clams, and not too much thickener. All good go-to chowders.
Moving on to the creative chowder category, well, this is where we did have our socks blown off. What does that mean anyway? Whatever. By far the tastiest in this category was 1st place winner, SBC‘s Corn and Poblano Chowder with a squirt of their very own, unique Romesco sauce made with toasted almonds, roasted tomatoes, peppers, vinegar and more deliciousness! In fact, we got into a nice conversation with Chef/Owner David Rutligiano about his plans to possibly do a nice pasta with this sauce and more. A true foodie that David is, he shared with us some exciting ideas he’s been throwing around for SBC including an organic kids menu and using more regionally source foods within a 400 mile radius. Non winners in this category that we really enjoyed were Soup Alley’s Sicilian Sausage and Clam Chowder and Nicholas Robert’s Guinness and Chorizo Clam Chowder. Both were packed full of sausagey goodness which is probably why we liked these ones so much. It’s funny, we like these two best in this category when we were interviewed by the lovely Vanessa Inzitari from The Daily Westport about our favorites, not knowing what was ahead of us on our way to SBC’s station.
Then over to the last category which also blew our minds, soups and bisques. Here too, the runaway champion for 1st place stood out most in our minds, which was the Lobster Bisque by Nicholas Roberts. OH EM GEE DELICIOUS!!!! Creamy, well seasoned, and generous with the chunks of succulent lobster, this soup was FABULOUS! And we’re not just saying that because we already <3 Nicholas Robert’s. Also a standout in this category was 3rd place‘s Soup Alley’s El Queso Grande which was like literally drinking liquid queso with a little kick of hot peppers. I could slurp a vat of that stuff, though I’d likely gain 5 pounds doing it. Also, 2nd place Liquid Lunch‘s Buffalo Chicken Soup was delish, like drinking slightly hot buffalo wing sauce, topped with crispy celery. And here too, we really enjoyed a non-winner, the Asparagus Soup from River House. This was quite a unique soup, very fresh, light, and tasty using no cream, really allowing the fresh asparagus taste to shine through. This would be a great spring soup to go with a steak on the grill. We enjoyed it very much!
Wow, as you can see, it was an intense day of eating! Yeah, I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? We really enjoy opportunities like this to not only try great food from some of the best restaurants in our area, but to also get to know the chef’s and owners behind all the magic. There’s nothing better than meeting a chef and/or owner that is clearly SUPER passionate about their craft. It somehow makes the food taste even better!