Wednesday, October 14, 2015

ChowdaFest CT 2015 Recap and Winners

Social Media Promotion

A record crowd of 8,500 gathered to judge the annual Chowdafest competition that featured 38 restaurants from 12 different states, slurping down a record 1,500+ gallons of chowder, soup and bisque in determining which is the best in New England.  Awards were won by restaurants from 8 different states. 

“The voting was extraordinarily close this year versus previous years” said Jim Keenan, event director.  “I expected as much with the invitation of award winning restaurants from other states.  The level of competition was extremely high.  In some cases, just a tenth of a point or less determined the winners and only a half point separated the top from the bottom in some  categories”.  

Everyone who attends Chowdafest is a judge and is encouraged to rate each entry they try on a scale from 7 to 10 with half pt intervals.  “This is a true people's choice event.  Winners aren't determined by a food critic but by you and I' said Keenan. Thousands of ballots are then scanned to determine the average rating and the restaurants with the highest rating in each category is declared the winner.

Chowdafest, presented by Stop & Shop, is the largest competition of it's kind in New England as no other event represents every New England state, showcases as many restaurants plus attracts so many people.   In other words, ChowdaFest 2015 at Sherwood Island was a Clam Slam!
Or Corn Slam!
Or Bisque Slam!
Good Lord - every soup, bisque, and chowder I sampled deserved a grand-slam prize!

And to top it off - it was a beautiful sunny day, perfectly enjoyed at the new location of Sherwood Island, which featured plenty of parking and a beautiful view of Long Island Sound. The Chowder Gods certainly smiled down on us!

But every competition - must have a winner! And here are the results of the 2015 ChowdaFest held at Sherwood Island in Westport CT on Saturday, October 11th.

2015 ChowdaFest New England Clam Chowder Winners

CHAMPION: Pike Place Chowder of Seattle Washington

Pike Place Chowder

2nd Place Sedona Restaurant of Norwalk Connecticut

3rd Place Luke's Lobster/Hurricanes  of NYC and Maine

Sedona and Luke's Lobster/Hurricanes Chowder

2015 Traditional Chowder Winners

CHAMPION: Dunvilles ofWestport CT

2nd Place: Stefano's of Long Beach Island, NJ

3rd Place: GROW of Shelton, CT


2015 ChowdaFest Creative Chowder Winners

CHAMPION: Our House Bistro of  Winosk VT

Our House Bistro from Vermont

2nd Place: Ri Ra of Portsmouth NH

3rd Place: Smithsonian Chowder House of North Hampton MA

Ri Ra and Smithsonian

2015 ChowdaFest Soup/Bisque Winners

CHAMPION: Simply Delicious of Norwalk CT

2nd Place: Post 154 of Westport CT

3rd Place: Bobby Q's of Westport CT

Bobby Q's and Post 154

While expenses are still in the process of being finalized, Keenan reports that they'll provide Community Plates enough to fund at least 100,000 meals for the food insecure which is another event record  Community Plates is a 501-c3 non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger through the rescue of food from grocery stores, restaurants and farms, then delivers it to the myriad of shelters in need. 

Chowdafest also raised $750 for the Friends of Sherwood Island through the sale of muffin tins that were used as sample holders.  FOSI is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting and enhancing the state park.  "I'm glad we could do something for this worthwhile group" said Keenan.  "We could have done more but we ran out of tins.  I like the tin holder concept because of it's sustainability.  People bought two for $5 and got to take them home to use afterward.  Plus you can't buy one for under $8 in a store so it was a good deal for all involved".

Dunkin Donuts was busy sampling fall flavored coffees and munckin treats.  Ocean Spray and Aquafina were handing out juices, teas and water to thirsty event goers.  Stop & Shop sampled both their New England clam chowder and their lobster bisque demonstrating their soups are restaurant quality.  MINI of Fairfield County held a customer appreciation promotion and had 60 MINI's road rally their way to Chowdafest.  They also sponsored the "MINIstrone" tent in the Italian themed Ciao-dafest section

The Great Volunteers - The Sacred Heart Pioneers
Chowdafest also set a record for the composting over 4 tons of food waste.  "Every year, we get closer to having zero waste.  Hopefully next year we'll do even better"  The sustainablility efforts were supported by City Carting who provided receptacles and provided the carting, New Milford Farms who composted the waste, Vegware who supplied the compostable cups & spoons and Sustainable America of Stamford who oversaw our efforts.
New this year were the handcrafted trophies designed by Shelton artist, Wendy Marciano.  The nautically themed trophies were made from materials found along the shoreline and were displayed in a separate awards tent for all to see during the event.  "The chefs really loved them" Keenan said.  "The awards will be showcased at their restaurants as the piece of art they are.  Handcrafted, one of kind trophies for handcrafted chowder or soup from one of a kind chefs".

Chowdafest's other food sampling areas were very popular too as attendees sampled Ocean Spray Craisins, a variety of cheese from Cabots Creamery, Italian eats at the Ciao-dafest section, salsa & chips from Taco Mexico in Norwalk along with Tostito's chips & salsas in the ChowdMex section.  The Farmer's Cow was busy sampling ice cream and lemonade made from CT farms.  Kids of all ages sampled the many flavors of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Every restaurant gave out the famous oyster cracker from Westminster Bakery.

Volunteers and Vendors
AAA offered free emergency service to anyone needing it in the parking lot and nearly 25% of everyone who bought a ticket did so with a AAA discount.  Courtyard by Marriott had several "stay and chow" customers who spent the weekend and enjoyed Chowdafest.  The hotel also hosted several of the out of state restaurants.  Kid's Helping Kids operated the successful ChowdaKids section, orchestrating fun kids activities.  PEZ, headquartered in Orange CT, was on hand handing out their Halloween dispensers and giving discounts to their visitor center. WEBE 108 promoted the event with on-air ticket give-aways and those who attended were given a free issue of The Beat Magazine which included a wonderful feature on Chowdafest.

"I'd like to thank our incredible restaurants who brought their "A" game and made this the most competitive competition yet.  Thank you to Stop & Shop and all our incredible sponsors, who support this event year after year.  But most of all, my thanks goes out to the myriad of volunteers who do so much in helping us make this a record breaking event.  They include the student athletes from Sacred Heart and Fairfield Universities.  The Wakeman's boys and girls club.  The Service League of Boys from Staples High School.  My good friends from the Unitarian Church in Westport, my brothers Mike & Tom and of course my wife and daughter who without their help, our continued success would not be possible" noted Keenan 
Fun at ChowdaFest 2015!

Once again, another great chowdafestival thanks to Stop and Shop, the ChowdaFest people, and all the restaurants, vendors, and volunteers who supported the cause!

Jim has rounded up some great sponsors and pulled in some great volunteers - and the rest, as they say is Chowdahistory!

Save the date! 

10-2-16 at Sherwood Island for next year's ChowdaFest 16!

For more pictures visit the Home Place facebook page


and while you're there, don't forget to "like us"!

For more on ChowdaFest vist

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend ChowdaFest as a social media representative, however all views are my own.

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