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Chowdafest Set for Sunday at Sherwood Island State Park

Chowdafest, a regional chowder and soup competition that has drawn participants from across the country, will hold its tenth annual festival Sunday at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Some of the attendees at last year’s Chowdafest at Sherwood Island State Park. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“Each year we try to increase the level of competition as Chowdafest is a competition between the best,” said event director Jim Keenan, adding that he scours New England for the best chowder, soup and bisque, so he can find new competitors.

“When you win Chowdafest, you’ve earned it,” he added.

Chowdafest limits participation to 40 restaurants competing in one of five categories: New England clam chowder; traditional chowder; creative chowder; soup and bisque; and a vegetarian category, including such servings as corn chowder.

“You can’t compare a classic New England clam chowder to a lobster bisque or to a chicken tortilla soup, so categories are needed,” Keenan says.

“We’ve always had vegetarian entrees before, but we decided they needed their own category this year which really helps foodies who aren’t fans of seafood,” he added.

Years ago, Keenan said people started saying Chowdafest is the best chowder competition in New England.

That’s when Keenan started inviting restaurants from all over New England. “The compliments hit me oddly as how could we be the best in New England and not have the rest of New England represented” he said. “It’s like the Yankees or the Red Sox being named world champs and never play anyone outside the U.S.”

Keenan said the regional competition draws about 75 percent of the participants from Connecticut, and he makes two invite exceptions outside New England.

“I think it’s only fair that a restaurant from New York gets to defend its namesake, Manhattan clam chowder, don’t you?” he asked, saying that to date no New York restaurant has beaten anyone from New England.

The other exception is an invite to Pike Place Chowder of Seattle, Washington.

“If New England enjoys a reputation for great chowder, we should earn it,” said Keenan. “Pike Place Chowder has come to our event and beaten some of the best right here in our backyard for the past two years which has really upped the game with all our chefs”.

A people’s choice event, attendees can try small cups of chowder and rate them on a scale of 7 to 10.5, Keenan said, with half-point intervals.

“Everyone is a judge and given a spoon, ballot, and pencil and then enjoy unlimited sampling,” he said.

Keenan said the rating system “is the fairest way to determine the best as it’s not the quantity of votes a restaurant gets, it’s the quality.”

The restaurant in each category with the best overall averaged rating is named champion.

Tickets are on sale online at http://www.chowdafest.org/tickets. The cost is $20 each for adults; $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Parking is free. Keenan said AAA members save 25 percent on an adult ticket either online or at the door.

Here is the 2017 roster by category with their entry:

New England Clam Chowder Category:
− 250 Market from Portsmouth NH
− B.R. Y. A. C from Bridgeport
− City Fish Market from Wethersfield
− Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse from Uncasville
− My Brothers’ Place from Webster MA
− Pike Place Chowder* from Seattle WA
− Robert’s Maine Grill from Kittery ME
− Sedona Taphouse from Norwalk
− Take Five Cookery from Hartford

Traditional Chowder Category:
− 348 Oyster Bar from Fairfield (Manhattan clam chowder)
− Crave 52 from Fairfield (Rhode Island clam chowder)
− Donahue’s Clam Castle* from Madison (Rhode Island clam chowder)
− Dunville’s from Westport (Rhode Island clam chowder)
− Morgan Fish House from Rye NY (Manhattan clam chowder)

Creative Chowder Category:
− Bobby Q’s Cue & Co from Norwalk (smoked chicken & corn chowder)
− Crabby Al’s from Thomaston (spicy crab & corn chowder)
− Harbor Harvest from Norwalk (smoked salmon & oyster chowder)
− Hub & Spoke from Bridgeport (smoked chicken corn chowder)
− Our House Bistro* from Winooski VT (friend seafood & sweet potato chowder)
− Rothbard Ale & Larder from Westport (kielbasa, clam & salsify chowder)
− Sam the Clam Pub & Grub from Southington (Caribbean clam chowder)
− Tarry Lodge from Westport (Montauk chowder)
− The Blind Rhino in Norwalk (blue crab & clam chowder)
− The Irons from Mystic (bourbon bacon corn chowder)

Soup & Bisque Category:
− Chef’s Table from Fairfield (seafood gumbo)
− Crab Shell* from Stamford (lobster bisque)
− Geronimo from Fairfield and New Haven (chicken tortilla soup)
− J. Timothy’s Taverne from Plainville (cheddar and ale soup)
− Mr. Crab from Bridgeport (lump crab & spinach bisque)
− Rory’s from Darien (lobster bisque)
− Saltwater Restaurant from Norwalk (scallop & butternut squash bisque)
− Shell & Bones from New Haven (shrimp and squash bisque)

Vegetarian Category:
− Bailey’s Backyard from Ridgefield (white bean and roasted corn chowder)
− Harbor Harvest from Norwalk (zucchini blossom bisque)
− Harvest Wine Bar with locations in Greenwich, New Haven and Westport
(smoked corn and squash chowder)
− Knot Norms in Norwalk (roasted corn and poblano chowder)
− Old Post Tavern from Fairfield (truffle mushroom bisque)
− TruNorth Tavern & Table from Bridgeport (farmers market chowder)

* defending champion

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