Over 12,000 foodies filled Sherwood Island State Park in Westport for Chowdafest, presented by Stop & Shop on Sunday October 1st, setting a record for attendance including the largest event ever held at the park itself. “We had amazing weather and the turnout exceeded our wildest expectations” said Jim Keenan event director. “There was a lot of traffic getting into the park but once people got here, started enjoying all the great chowder and bisque, whatever inconvenience they may have had getting here was soon forgotten”.
Chowdafest also set a record for being able to fund over a half million meals for the event beneficiary, Food Rescue US. Chowdafest has funded well over a million meals in the past ten years. Thousands of bottles of water were handed out before running out unexpectedly with a suggested dollar donation to help the water deprived people of Puerto Rico. An additional $1,500 was raised, then matched by AARP, doubling the donation to $3,000 for the hurricane ravaged island.
Millions of people who could not attend the event will get a “taste” of Chowdafest now that the Food Network filmed it for a future episode that may air this December or January. Over 40 million people watch this popular cable network every week. “It’s nice to have Chowdafest recognized as a marquee food event” Keenan noted. “I think the network’s unique perspective, seeing Chowdafest through the eyes of one of our restaurants who was a two-time defending champion will make for great TV.” The network choose Our House Bistro from Winooski VT who successfully won the creative chowder category for the the third straight year setting a record for the highest rating ever achieved at Chowdafest in the process.
Over 10,000 ballots were scanned throughout the event in order to determine the best in New England in five different categories. Attendees rated everything they tried on a scale from 7 to 10.5. The restaurants with the highest average rating in their category were declared champions. All the restaurants gathered about 30 minutes after the event concluded to cheer on the winners in hopes that they would be among them. Keenan announced the winners and handed out the handcrafted sculpture trophies made by Connecticut artist Wendy Marciano along with banners the champions can proudly display outside their restaurants.
The 2017 New England Chowdafest Winners:
Classic New England Clam Chowder:
1st Place: Pike Place Chowder from Seattle WA
2nd Place: B.R.Y.A.C. from Bridgeport CT
3rd Place: Sedona Taphouse from Norwalk CT
Traditional Chowder (reserved just for Rhode Island and Manhattan clam chowders)
1st Place: Dunville’s in Westport CT (Rhode Island clam)
2nd Place: Crave 52 in Fairfield CT (Rhode Island clam)
3rd Place: Clam Castle in Madison CT (Rhode Island clam)
1st Place: Our House Bistro from Winooski VT (Fried seafood and sweat potato chowder)
2nd Place: Sam the Clam Pub & Grub from Plantsville CT (Caribbean clam chowder)
3rd Place: Hub & Spoke in Bridgeport CT (smoked chicken and corn chowder)
1st Place: Crab Shell in Stamford CT (Lobster bisque)
2nd Place: Geronimo in Fairfield CT (Chicken tortilla soup)
3rd Place: J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville CT (Cheddar & ale soup)
1st Place: Old Post Tavern in Fairfield CT (Truffle mushroom bisque)
2nd Place: Harvest Wine Bar in Westport CT (Smoked corn and squash bisque)
3rd Place: Harbor Harvest in Norwalk, CT (Zucchini blossom bisque)
When asked why a restaurant from NY and Seattle were allowed to compete in an all New England event where all the states are represented, Keenan said he invites a restaurant from New York each year as he see’s it only fair they get to defend their namesake chowder. To date, no New York restaurant has placed in the event for a Manhattan clam chowder. “Pike Place Chowder from Seattle competes all over the country and has won so often, they have been deemed “America’s Favorite Chowder”. I think if we in New England are to be considered to be the home of great chowder, we should earn that reputation. Our chefs believe if they want to be called the best, they must beat the best. They’ve been getting closer each year but so far Pike Place Chowder has now won for the 3rd time for their New England clam chowder, beating us in our own back yard”
The Crab Shell restaurant in Stamford has entered the competition just four times in the ten years of the competition and has won all four times. Dunville’s of Westport has entered the past six years, placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd all six times, winning three times including this year. Od Post Tavern in Fairfield broke a string of 2nd place finishes, capturing their first championship in our new Vegetarian category which could have been a chowder, soup or bisque.
Over 300 volunteers from Fairfield and Sacred Heart Universities along with the Service League of Boys from both New Canaan and Staples High Schools, plus food rescuers from Food Rescue US as well as the park staff, helped make Chowdafest run smoothly. “I have an amazing group I call the “A” Team that has been involved for all ten years” Keenan said “which includes my wife, daughter and dear friends. They supervised the volunteers and are known to roll up their sleeves to make it all come together. They’ve been part of the recipe of 10 years of success”.
Restaurant and sponsor planning is already in the works for 2018 and next year’s date has already been set for Sunday Sept 30, 2018 at Sherwood Island State Park
For additional information about Chowdafest, please visit www.chowdafest.org or email event director, Jim Keenan at email@example.com. Chowdafest, presented by Stop & Shop, is sponsored by: AAA Northeast, BlumShapiro, Butterworks Farm, Cabot Creamery, Chabaso Bakery, Chica de Gallo, City Carting, Clover, CT Bites, Copp’s Island Oysters, The Farmer’s Cow, The Farm Woodbury, Foxon Park Soda, Frontera Foods, Galilean Seafood, HamletHub, Harney & Sons Tea, Hotel Zero Degrees, Kids Helping Kids, Local Food Rocks, Lowe’s, Metro North Railroad, MINI of Fairfield County, Mohegan Sun, NECCO, New England Coffee, Ocean Spray, OmnomCT, Peapod by Stop & Shop, People’s United Bank, Ready Pac Foods, Revol Mix, Tate’s Bake Shop, WEBE 108, Westminster Bakery and Yankee Magazine.