Chowdown On Chowda!

Chowdafest mascot: Chef Quahog! He's a S.O.U.P.er hero as CTfoodbank.org says!! (hehehe)
Chowdafest mascot: Chef Quahog!
He’s a S.O.U.P.er hero as CTfoodbank.org says!! (hehehe)

At five minutes to eleven we were in a line of about 40 people with our tickets in hand waiting for the doors to open. People didn’t seem to mind that there was still some snow on the ground; everyone waited patiently. In fact, this was the happiest line of people I’d seen in a very long time! Soup on a cold February day makes people happy. Combine good soup with the opportunity to give to those in need and it’s easy to understand why the Chowdafest has become so popular that it was held at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport this year.

Upon entering the arena we were given a ballot, a pencil, and a spoon as we made our way to the floor.

I'm ready to fill out my ballot!
I’m ready to fill out my ballot!

The smell of chowder filled the air as we walked from table to table. People smiled as they juggled little paper cups filled with liquid goodness. When someone found a favorite you could see their faces light up, and the smiles got even bigger. Often a flurry of paper followed as people faithfully filled out their ballots, pulling them out of pockets and bags in between sips and spoonfuls  to cast their ratings and vote for a winner. Some people were very serious about the process. I overheard many discussions of ingredients among taste tasters as people tried to decide their favorites.

Cindy from Szabo's Seafood of Shelton made us smile!
Cindy from Szabo’s Seafood of Shelton made us smile!

Run by the Unitarian Church in Westport to raise money for The Connecticut Food Bank, the 5th annual Chowdafest featured 30 restaurants on Sunday, February 3rd. About 10,000 people were expected to attend between 11am-4pm according to the Arena website .

At first  I was uncertain – how crowded would it get? I had read online that last year’s turnout to the Chowdafest was so successful they had to turn people away when they met capacity. By about 12:30 the floor was filling up!

4th Annual Chowdafest at Webster Bank Arena
4th Annual Chowdafest at Webster Bank Arena

Aside from the Chowdafest  mascot (Chef Quahog frequents local Stop and Shop locations too), and an appearance by B.B. the Bluefish’s mascot, there was plenty to entertain the kiddies with an activity table set up for the kids to decorate their own chef’s hat and get a free temporary tattoo.

Kids were able to decorate their own chef's hat.
Kids were able to decorate their own chef’s hat.

Plenty of Chowdafest gear available for the big kids too!

hats

Sacred Heart University Band provided some musical ambiance as we sipped our soup.

Sacred Heart University Band
Sacred Heart University Band

What about the soup you ask? Blogger Rookie mistake #1 – who forgot to take photos of all the beautiful little cups of chowda and soup ready to be slurped? This girl. You can bet I’ll never do that again, oops! It was my first foodie event and I got too excited, what can I say. Buuutttt I did write down some of my favorites from the day to share with you.

Bloom Bros Oysters & Clams New England Clam Chowder

Mansion Clam House  New England Clam Chowder

Gingerman of SONO Sweet Potato Clam Chowder

Brewhouse Chicken and Roasted Corn Chowder

Dunville’s Cream of Chicken Chipolte Soup

and Bobby Q’s Sweet Onion Bisque

Aside from all the delicious chowda and soup I must add that there were two other vendors who deserve some recognition.

Wave Hill Breads was on hand with some great crusty bread and Olive and Roasted Red Pepper Ciabatta. I know I’ll be visiting them on my next visit to the SONO Marketplace!

Last, but certainly not least, Farmer’s Cow was at the Chowdafest today.  What a perfect way to end the afternoon with a scoop of homemade ice cream!

farmerscow

And the winners of Chowdafest 2013 are…..*drumroll*

Classic New England Clam Chowder

1st      Donovan’s, Norwalk

2nd    Mansion Clam House, Westport

3rd    Crab Shell, Stamford

Creative Chowder

1st  Gingerman, SONO, Sweet Potato Clam Chowder

2nd   Brewhouse, SONO, Chicken Corn Chowder

3rd   Southport Brewing Company, Fairfield, Corn and Poblano Chowder

Soup/Bisque

1st   Crab Shell, Stamford, Lobster Bisque

2nd   Dunville’s, Westport,  Cream of Chicken Chipolte

3rd   Liquid Lunch, Shelton, Buffalo Chicken Soup

For more info visit: www.chowdafest.org

and for a full list of all participating restaurants: http://chowdafest.weebly.com/restaurants.html

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