Thousands of discernible foodies traveled from all over New England and beyond to attend the 11th annual Chowdafest competition on Sunday September 30, 2018. Presented by Stop & Shop, Chowdafest determines the best chowder, soup and bisque in New England. Over 2,000 gallons were once again consumed in the process.
“The goal each year is to invite some of the best restaurants from all over New England increasing the level of competition. Seeing how close the voting is each year, it seems we accomplished our goal” said Jim Keenan, executive director. Unlike other culinary competitions based on the number of votes each entry gets, Chowdafest values quality over quantity in creating a fairer competition. Attendees rate everything they try on a scale from 7 to 10.5 with half point intervals in filling out their ballot.
“We purposely have five categories of competition because you simply can’t compare a classic New England clam chowder, to a lobster bisque to chicken noodle soup,” said Keenan Thousands of ballots were tabulated throughout the event by BlumShapiro, the official accounts and ballot sponsor to ensure the validity of the results. Attendance figures are still being verified but at glance, it appears the competition grows in popularity.
History was made as two restaurants won for the fourth consecutive year. Pike Place Chowder from Seattle Washington successfully defended their title of best New England clam chowder for the 4th year in a row The restaurant competes in chowder competitions from coast to coast and have earned the reputation as America’s best chowder. “It says a lot about the amazing foodies who attend our event each year in putting any geographic bias aside and rate the chowders on their own merit,” Keenan noted. “It also says a lot of Pike Place Chowder to compete in the backyard of New England given our reputation for great chowder.”
Coming in 2nd place this year was Our House Bistro from Vermont. Our House Bistro entered the New England clam chowder category for the first time in hopes of bring the title back to New England. “Pike’s has won 3 years in a row while Our House has won the creative chowder category for the same three year,” said Matt Pearsall, chef/owner of Our House Bistro. “We’ve had a fun and quiet rivalry despite usually being in different categories, seeing who gets the best overall rating and it goes back and forth every year”. Coming in third was B.R.Y.A.C of Bridgeport and being the highest rated clam chowder from CT.
Our House Bistro from Winooski VT remained the king of the Creative chowder category, also setting a record for four straight championships. They defended their title with a new chowder called “Drunkin Pumpkin Seafood Chowder”. Their Vermot plaid shirted crew remains the pride of the Green Mountain State. New comer, Bar 3 Thirty Three of Milford made an impressive debut finishing 2nd place with a smoked shrimp & corn chowder. Local favorite, Tarry Lodge of Westport made the podium with a 3rd place finish with their distinctive Montauk Chowder.
Dunville’s of Westport continued its amazing legacy winning for the fourth time to go along with two second place and third place trophies, finishing in the top three in all of the eight years they’ve been in the competition. “Foodies know Dunville’s makes award winning chowders and soup,” Keenan noted. This year Dunville’s successfully defended their title with a Rhode Island clam chowder. Rookie Lucas Oyster Bar of Newtown CT was a runner up with their RI clam chowder. Hale & Heaty’s of New York made a little history of their own. Becoming the first NYC base restaurant to win any award for Manhattan clam chowder and finished third.
Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill with locations in both Fairfield and New Haven, finished in 1st place in the soup/bisque category with a spicy chicken tortilla soup. “If you win this category with a soup, it must be great as bisques are usually more popular,” said Keenan. J. Timothy’s Taverne of Plainville CT came in 2nd with their popular cheddar and ale soup made with CT brewed beer while The Castle on Post in Fairfield made their debut at the competition finishing 3rd place with their Irish variation of lobster bisque.
Old Post Tavern of Fairfield won the vegetarian category again with their truffle mushroom bisque narrowly beating out Harvest Wine & Bar of Westport and their roasted chestnut, apple cider, butternut squash bisque. It was the second time finishing 2nd for Harvest. Hale & Hearty’s Boston location finished 3rd with their corn cob chowder. Hale & Hearty’s took on the unthinkable and competed in all five categories, making approximately over 300 gallons of chowder and soup, taking home trophies in two of the categories.
Last year’s champion, Dunville’s of Westport finished in 2nd place this year. Dunville’s is always to be reckoned with as they have placed first, second or third in all six years in the competition. An unexpected tie occurred as both Chef’s Table of Fairfield and Parallel Post of Trumbull had identical scores and the same number of votes which is the tie breaker. Chef’s Table entered a RI chowder while Parallel Post entered a Manhattan clam chowder.
While it will be a while to finalize the event’s finances, Keenan suspects he’ll be able to match their goal of funding over a half a million meals in the ongoing fight against food insecurity through Food Rescue US. Attendees also enjoyed sampling chips, salsa’s, breads, pasta, pasta sauces, cheese, ice cream, cookies, yogurts, teas, coffee, and sparkling beverages. Presenting sponsor Stop & Shop along with its grocery delivery service Peapod pulled out all the stops and treated kids, both old and young alike to chef hats, coloring books, flying discs and other games/activities.
Keenan announced the date for 2019 has already been set for the first Sunday in October which will be October 6, 2019 in Sherwood Island State Park will once again host the event. “It’s an idyllic shoreline location that can accommodate our growing event. We’re honored to showcase the oldest Connecticut park to so many who have never been there and we so appreciative to their staff who makes it a pleasure to hold the event there,” Keenan also noted that Chowdafest’s success would not be possible without their award winning volunteers.
For additional information about Chowdafest, please visit www.chowdafest.org or email executive director, Jim Keenan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chowdafest, presented by Stop & Shop, is sponsored by: BlumShapiro, Cabot Creamery, Carla’s Pasta, Chica de Gallo, City Carting, Copp’s Island Oysters, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Even Hotels, HamletHub, Harney & Sons Tea, Ken’s Foods, Lowe’s, Lucy’s, Michele’s Pies, MINI of Fairfield County, New England Coffee, Nounos Creamery, Ocean Spray, Peapod by Stop & Shop, People’s United Bank, Polar Beverages, Rose Sister Chips, The Farmers Cow, Tortilleria Mi Nina, WEBE 108, Wave Hill Bakery, Westminster Bakery and Yankee Magazine.