Chowdafest Winners and Rob’s Favorites!

By Robert Koch 
Intro by Andrew Dominick

A short while back we brought you a preview of Chowdafest, an annual soup and chowder competition between popular local restaurants that you know and some you’re sure to want to try very soon. This heated soup battle and tasting (if you bought a ticket) took place on Super Bowl Sunday and acted as the perfect appetizer before the big game.

What made this Chowdafest different from the others before?

Chef Quahog let you be the judge at Chowdafest V,
and it took place at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena!

Oh, you want to know who won? Gotcha. And I must add, major props to the Norwalk restaurants and bars on this list. Represent!

Classic New England Clam Chowder
1st:  Donovan’s (Norwalk)
2nd:  Mansion Clam House (Westport)
3rd:  Crab Shell (Stamford)

Rob’s picks from the Classic New England category:

1. Crab Shell
2. Mansion Clam House

3. On the Rocks

My ballot had a slightly different outcome. I preferred the chowder from Crab Shell slightly over the version from Mansion Clam House. The chowder from Donovan’s didn’t really blow me away with flavor. I just feel like it was missing something that could have made it really stand out. I still gave it a solid 8.5 out of 10.

Some of the New England Clam Chowders added bacon to their list of ingredients. There is always banter about whether a true New England Clam Chowder should have bacon in it or not. I don’t mind bacon one bit, everything is better with bacon. Even bacon!

Newcomer Bloom Brothers’ (Norwalk) take on New England Clam Chowder,
check them out at the SoNo Marketplace

Creative Chowder
1st:  Ginger Man, sweet potato clam chowder (Norwalk)
2nd:  Brewhouse, chicken corn chowder (Norwalk)
3rd:  Southport Brewing Company, corn & poblano chowder (Fairfield)

Rob’s picks for Creative Chowder:

1. Southport Brewing Company – Corn and poblano chowder
2. Liquid Lunch – Thai Shrimp chowder

3. Ginger Man – Sweet potato clam chowder

I’m a big fan of spice if you couldn’t already tell. To quote Chef Emeril Lagasse, I like everything that has a little bit of “bam” to it. So having a chowder with poblano pepper and then another chowder with a tangy side was right up my alley. The sweet potato chowder still made my top three.

Gary Zemola of Super Duper Weenie (Fairfield) serves up some Manhattan Clam Chowder

1st:  Crab Shell, lobster bisque (Stamford)
2nd:  Dunville’s, cream of chicken chipotle soup (Westport)
3rd:  Liquid Lunch, Buffalo chicken soup (Shelton)

Rob’s Soup and Bisque picks (almost like Bisquick, but not quite):

1. Liquid Lunch – Buffalo chicken soup
2. Crab Shell – Lobster bisque
3. Dunvilles – Cream of Chicken Chioptle Soup

The critics and I agree! The Buffalo chicken soup tasted just like a chicken wing. I don’t know how appetizing that sounds to most of you, but it works for me. A very honorable mention should go to Restaurant at Rowayton for their Senegalese Peanut Soup. You could really taste the peanut in it which made it very unique. Another hit for me was this gem, the Venezuelan Corn & Bacon Bisque from Valencia. It came garnished with a Fontina cheese, clam and bacon arepa ball. Yum.

Valencia’s (Norwalk) Venezuelan Corn & Bacon Bisque

Rob’s Final Thoughts:

Chowdafest was both an exciting and interesting experience for me. It was the first time that I was actually asked to give a grade to food, instead of just saying that it was great or not so great.

Being a newbie to the food world isn’t a terrible thing, it allows you to try pretty much anything and find your comfort zone. You should probably make sure that you aren’t allergic to certain things before you go diving headfirst into them though. This event was definitely not fit for people with shellfish issues.

I wish that there was a way of documenting the toll that all of those samples took on my body. Throughout the event, my inner temperature kept rising to the point of taking my jacket off and I became engulfed in perspiration. My facial expression changed from one of joy to one of slight discomfort, and my brisk walking pace became a sluggish crawl.

After Chowdafest, it’s safe to say that I don’t want to be around soup for a while. In the end it was all worth it for the experience. I got to stir the pot in a good way, and I learned that anyone can be a foodie, but it takes a special breed of foodie to be a soup aficionado. And now if you excuse me, I have to slowly walk off this bisque.

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