Home > Bars and Restaurants, CT Bars and Restaurants, Food, Life > For the Love of Chowder – 2016 Edition

For the Love of Chowder – 2016 Edition

Last Sunday I had a pleasure of attending the New England Chowdafest 2016 event at Sherwood Island Park in Westport, Connecticut. The weather forecast was really “meh”, and we had an event to attend in the evening, but remembering a successful 2015 experience, I was determined – the weather will not stop me from sampling 40 delicious chowders (and lots more), no way.

While the weather was not great, it was not terrible either – grey sky but no rain was good enough to walk around for 2 hours trying all the different chowders, soups and lots more (ice cream, cheese, or Bigelow teas). Similar to the last year, all attendees were given a spoon, a ballot with the names of all participating restaurants and asked to rate what they taste on the scale from 7 to 10.5 (0.5 increments). Juggling soup cups, pencils and the charts was somewhat challenging, but it didn’t stop anyone from voting.

This year I was a bit smarter and remembered to take a decent picture of the ballot before I placed it in the box – have to say that someone else thought of it before me, as this course of action was suggested on the ballot itself (“take a picture before depositing this ballot in the box”) so people would be able to compare their own vote with the official results.

Few fun facts about the event (taken from the summary event sent out by organizers). During 4 hours of the event:

  • Over 2,000 gallons of chowder, soup and bisque were sampled (I believe it would translate to more than 100,000 samples given)
  • Over 3,000 ice cream cones were scooped by The Farmer’s Cow and almost 30 gallons of their farm fresh chocolate and whole milk was sampled

All these numbers easily translate into the main takeaway – lots of fun at the event.

Obviously, I didn’t try to write down tasting notes, just taste, rate and move on to the next. To give you an idea about happenings at the event, let me share you with you the results of the competition, as well as the picture report from the event. In the pictures, you will see my ballot so you can compare my votes with the official results. There were a number of very tasty chowders, but to be entirely honest, my favorite soup was the cream of mushroom with black truffles – the only soup I gave the 10.5 rating. I also have to mention a number of different chowders presented by the Stop’n’Shop, local supermarket chain – as the sponsors, they couldn’t compete, but their soups were simply delicious, I’m sure they would do great if they would actually enter the competition.

Same as the last year, Pike’s Place out of Seattle, Washington won in the category of New England Clam Chowder. Was it really the best chowder? I don’t think so, I think people were simply intimidated by the huge medal display put out by Pike’s Place. Their chowder was good – but put out for the blind taste, I don’t think it would do equally well. Anyway, New England restaurants should prepare better for the next competition which is already announced for October 1, 2017.

Here are the results:

Classic New England Clam Chowder:
1st: Pike Place Chowder – Seattle WA
2nd: 250 Market – Portsmouth NH
3rd; Take Five Cookery – Hartford CT

Traditional Clam Chowder:
1st: Donahue’s Clam Castle (Rhode Island) – Madison CT
2nd: Dunville’s (Manhattan) – Westport CT
3rd: TIE!
Chef’s Table (Rhode Island) – Fairfield CT
Parallel Post (Manhattan) – Trumbull CT

Creative Chowder:
1st: Our House Bistro – Winooski VT
2nd: Gaffney’s – Saratoga Springs NY
3rd: Smithsonian Cafe & Chowder House – North Hampton MA

Soup/Bisque:
1st: Crab Shell – Stamford CT
2nd: Old Post Tavern – Fairfield CT
3rd: Sam’s American Bistro – Stamford CT

Congratulations to all the winners!

Now I will leave you with pictures (lots of them!) from the event. And next year, make sure to add it to your busy schedule – the event will be definitely worth your time. Cheers!

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One side of the ballot served as a directory

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And another side was an actual ballot with instructions – empty at the moment

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This would give you an idea of the weather – no sun, but still nice

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tasting cups with  are getting ready to be carried around (most times, you had to wait in line, but few participants provided this extra touch

Tasting cups with are getting ready to be carried around (most times, you had to wait in line, but few participants provided this extra touch

Love the way some of the stands were decorated:

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Even with the tasting cups, some of the presentations were clearly a standout:

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This was the top creative chowder winner from Our House Bistro in Vermont – delicious!

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Lots of restaurants offered their recipes/ingredient lists right there:

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The recipe was very intriguing, but in my tasting cups was literally only liquid, no rattlesnake, no turkey – they really have to try better next time

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img_4602Not only their showders won, but their stand desings were a standout –

Our House Bistro from Vermont:

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img_4618and Pike’s Place from Seattle, Washington:

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see what I mean by intimidation? When people see this array of medals, can they not vote for them?

See what I mean by intimidation? When people see this array of medals, can they not vote for them?

Yes, there was more than just chowder there:

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img_4651I’m done with my barrage of pictures – almost. Here is the ballot with my vote:

img_4641Make sure to mark October 1st, 2017 in your calendars as a fun day. Enjoy your chowder!

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  1. October 9, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    All we get out here are chili contests- a chowder contest would be a refreshing alternative 😉

    • talkavino
      October 10, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Danielle, this might be a good opportunity to start it! 🙂 I love soup in general, so I would gladly take any soup competition. It is actually getting cold here, so I’m ready for some roasted butternut squash soup showdown 🙂

  2. October 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    That looks so good!! And fun….I’m going next year! Thanks for posting.

    • talkavino
      October 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      My pleasure, Lisa – and yes, you should attend next year – this event is lots of delicious fun!

  3. October 13, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    OH, this is so right up my alley!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • talkavino
      October 14, 2016 at 9:25 am

      My pleasure, Laurie!

  4. October 17, 2016 at 9:04 am

    rattlesnake???? Really, you think that is really true? I spent a holiday driving around Maine and trying Chowder and I have to say the chowder I remembered with most love and enthusiasm is the one I used to eat at the National Institutes of Health cafeteria – thick, creamy, delicate and thick. The chowders I ate in New England were mostly very thin liquid, with some butter eyes floating on top and little bits of clam floating in there. I was not happy. But the stuff your Bistrot made looked excellent!

    • talkavino
      October 18, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Well, the rattlesnake was there according to the picture. According to the chef, it is similar to pulled pork after cooking. Have no idea, as my cup contained only liquid.
      Interesting experience you had with chowders during your trip – never had much of the watered down New England clam chowders – my typical gripe is that they are too thick for my liking… Anyway, I keep telling you that you have to visit New York and Connecticut one day – will make sure that you are well fed and hydrated 🙂

      • October 18, 2016 at 8:24 am

        Hi there Anatoli, really, pulled pork after cooking,hm, I somehow prefer my rattlesnakes out in the wild rattling, but then I am a tree-hugging European, what can I say. Really the chowders you had were too thick? Hm, I must have been very unlucky then..As were you on your chowder tasting event, which sounds like it was fun even though the food was not amazing. I will put New York and Connecticut on my bucket list then, I haven’t been to New York in ages, wouldn’t go to China town now to test the black eggs, but there are so many cool places to visit there, and I have never been to Conneticticut, I will keep you kind exhortation in mind! Have a great Tuesday POli

  1. September 5, 2017 at 4:22 pm

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