WESTPORT, Conn. — Sunday’s Chowdafest in Westport has grown from a few local restaurants competing in Westport’s Unitarian Church, to larger venues in the cafeteria at Bedford Middle School and the Arena at Harbor Yard. On Sunday, it headed outdoors on a beautiful fall day at Sherwood Island State Park.
This year, 40 restaurants, from as far as Seattle and as close as Main Street, offered up samples of their finest chowdas to nearly 10,000 prospective judges.
Chowdafest supports the Norwalk-based Community Plates, a nonprofit whose volunteer food runners “rescue food, move it from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, supermarkets and restaurants, where it’s not needed, to food pantries, shelters and similar places, where it is [needed],” said CP volunteer Hillary Gibson.
Participants got your wrist band, a spoon, a ballot and a pencil. From there, happy eating. Everything served up was free.
Chowdas were judged in four categories: New England, Manhattan/Rhode Island, Creative (anything but New England, Manhattan or Rhode Island) and Soups and Bisques.
I sampled about half of the offerings and liked most of them. There wasn’t a bad eat among them.
First a disclaimer — I’m from Boston, so I have a bias for the creamy white chowdas of my youth. My New England favorite? Surprise! It was Seattle’s Pike Place Chowder. It was creamy, it was rich and it was just a touch spicy. Truth will out — I went back for seconds. They are, according to the event’s site, “the No. 1 chowder in the country.”
Two other New England favorites were served up by Westport’s Little Barn, and Luke’s Lobster, a chain with a number of locations in New York City.
My favorite Manhattan chowda was from Westport’s Dunville’s (“The Original Social Network,” according to the sign in its tent). They have won in prior years. A second favorite was from Dino’s in New Haven, a tasty broth with lots of potatoes.
For bisques, two I enjoyed were from Bobby Q’s, a Main Street favorite, and a frequent winner in barbecue and chili competitions but new to chowda, and Norwalk’s Simply Delicious catering.
Altogether, it was a great event with a big crowd but not crowded at all at the beachfront state park. And when you left, you had to know where you’re going for your next seafood meal.
Here are the winners:
Classic New England Clam Chowder:
- 1st: Pike Place Chowder of Seattle
- 2nd: Sedona Taphouse of Norwalk
- 3rd: Luke's Lobster of New York City
Traditional Clam Chowder:
- 1st: Dunville's of Westport
- 2nd: Stefano's of Long Beach Island, N.J.
- 3rd: Grow of Shelton
- 1st: Our House Bistro of Winooski, Vt.
- 2nd: Ri Ra of Portsmouth, N.H.
- 3rd: Smithsonian Chowder House of Northhampton, Mass.
- 1st: Simply Delicious of Norwalk
- 2nd: Post 154 of Westport
- 3rd: Bobby Q's of Westport
For more information, visit www.chowdafest.org/results.html
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