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.
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.
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!
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.
Plenty of Chowdafest gear available for the big kids too!
Sacred Heart University Band provided some musical ambiance as we sipped our soup.
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.
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!
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
1st Gingerman, SONO, Sweet Potato Clam Chowder
2nd Brewhouse, SONO, Chicken Corn Chowder
3rd Southport Brewing Company, Fairfield, Corn and Poblano Chowder
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