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
Chef’s Table (Rhode Island) – Fairfield CT
Parallel Post (Manhattan) – Trumbull CT
1st: Our House Bistro – Winooski VT
2nd: Gaffney’s – Saratoga Springs NY
3rd: Smithsonian Cafe & Chowder House – North Hampton MA
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!
Love the way some of the stands were decorated:
Even with the tasting cups, some of the presentations were clearly a standout:
Lots of restaurants offered their recipes/ingredient lists right there:
Our House Bistro from Vermont:
Yes, there was more than just chowder there: