One of our favorite events of the year is the ever-growing and ever-popular Stamford Charity Chili Cook-Off. Started as a small event in a local Stamford church, this event has grown every year with more competitors and even more hungry tasters. This year the tradition continues on November 6 from 11-3 right at Stamford Museum & Nature Center. There will be 15 home cooks, chefs, and restaurants this year, all vying for your votes! Who will win the coveted first place prize? Will Mayor Martin’s chili take down the competition? Will the students at JM Wright Tech uphold their number one spot? Also, who will be the contestants who win special trophies and rewards from four special judges (more on this below)? Continue reading
The Stamford Chili Cookoff is looking for cooks and chefs who have mastered the art of chili. If you think you’ve got that killer recipe that will help you take home first prize, then contact Joe Gonzalez and let him know you’re in it to win it!
For the rest of you who just want to taste their chili and vote on your favorite, let this be a save the date! The event goes down on November 1 from 11-3 at the beautiful Stamford Museum and Nature Center. More details on the way . . . but we can say that this is a great event that not only warms your body, but also your heart as you’re helping to raise money for The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.
You know it’s fall in CT when Stamford Museum & Nature Center’s Harvest Festival Weekend is just around the corner. Like years past, there will be plenty to do, see, experience and taste from 10/18-20. And, we’re happy to say that the kickoff to this awesome weekend, Oktoberfest on the Meadow is back again for the second year and we’re proud to be the media sponsor once again.
Here are the reasons why you need to make sure to hit up SM&NC’s Harvest Festival Weekend:
Can you go wrong with a S’more? It’s chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow together in fluffy, melty, crispy goodness. And while that’s a classic, there are still tons of variations with people using nutella instead of chocolate or using oreo cookies instead of graham crackers. But, there’s something amazing about a classic, and this classic in particular. That’s why Stamford Museum & Nature Center is celebrating National S’mores Day on 8/9 from 4-5 pm. While the actual national holiday doesn’t begin until 8/10, SM&NC wanted to get a head start and kick off the weekend the right way. Just pay your regular entrance fee (or go in if you’re a member) and head over to their meadow from 4-5 and you’ll be able to build and roast your own S’mores! When you’re there, you’ll definitely have to check out the brand new baby piglets and snap some shots of the famous Kathie Lee and Hoda goats. Plus, there are a ton of other animals to gaze upon as well as an entire farm to explore.
Oh, did we mention that there will be S’mores?
Seniors (65+): $8
Students (18+): $6 (with valid ID)
Children (4-17) $5
Members – Free
Children 3 and under: Free
39 Scofieldtown Road
Stamford, CT 06903
To celebrate Earth Day, Stamford Museum & Nature Center (only one of our most favoritest places ever) is doing something a bit different. Just a day before Earth Day, on April 21 from 9 am – 12:30 pm, volunteers will join in for the first ever Garlic Mustard Pull. See, guess some people in the 1860s thought it’d be cool to bring over some garlic mustard to North America. They would eat it and would even use it as medicine. Guess they didn’t realize, though, it would take over this continent like The Beatles or, better yet, One Direction or Justin Bieber. According to SM&NC, if nothing is done about the garlic mustard, it will basically choke out other life in forests and nature, dominating and decimating the biodiversity of our land.
Volunteers will pull up the garlic mustard that’s found throughout SM&NC and it will be collected. By the end of the day, the garlic mustard leaves will be donated to local food banks, helping to feed the hungry. The staff encourage you, also, to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy after you’ve rid SM&NC of these invasive pests. Anybody 11 or older can volunteer, but if you’re 11-14 you’ll need to have an adult with you. Eat for Equity Stamford has already stepped up, pledging to help. How ’bout you? Also, SM&NC is looking for team captains to help oversee the pulling. Please contact Cathryn Oulighan by April 17 by calling her at (203) 977-6530 or e-mailing her at email@example.com.
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
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!