Chowdafest brings New England delicacy to Westport


Chowdafest-goers stand in line to sample chowder from Our House Bistro, a restaurant in Winooski, Vermont. Photo by Jack Dennison ’21.

Jack Dennison '21, Paper Sports Editor

On a windy, but mysteriously warm October day at the lawn of Sherwood Island, people come together from all around the town, the state and the region to indulge in something that they love. They bring muffin tins to hold cups, and they stand in 10-minute lines to be able to try a delicacy of New England — chowder.

The “Chowdafest,” a competition to determine which restaurant has the best chowder, commenced on October 6 at Sherwood Island State Park. The winner of the 2019 Chowdafest was Pike Place Chowder, from the world-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. Their crew came all the way over to Westport in order to gain the distinction of having the best New England chowder for the fifth year.

“It keeps us relevant,” owner Larry said. “A lot of people win chowder cook-off events over the years, and then they win one and they never go again. But we won Chowdafest a bunch of times and we’d like to continue to do that.” 

While Pike Place was the winner of Chowdafest 2019, the runner-up was more local. Our House, a bistro in Winooski, Vermont, took home the second-place prize for best traditional chowder, and the first-place prize for best creative chowder, with their “Drunken Pumpkin” bowl.

David Barch, a worker at the bistro, says that the restaurant hoped to bring back the prize for best traditional chowder to the East Coast, as opposed to Pike Place in Seattle. 

“They’re the west coast team and we’re the east coast team,” he said. “We would love to have a New England team represent the best New England Clam Chowder.”

Visitors were able to sample classic clam chowder, but there were also seafood, corn, pumpkin and many other types of chowders and soups that offered a variety of different gifts to the taste buds.

After the hungry event-goers finish eating their mini-feasts, they were able to vote on which chowder was the best, using a scale between seven and 10.5. The votes were counted and tallied, and the restaurant with the best-voted chowder got the unique distinction of being the champion of Chowdafest.

The event was sponsored primarily by dairy companies, including the New England Dairy company, a non-profit whose purpose is to promote and educate consumers about dairy products. Kiley Putnam, digital marketing manager at the company, says that advertising at Chowdafest could help to make the public more educated about where their food comes from.

“Chowder is made from real dairy and it’s a great opportunity to connect people back to their local farmers,” she said. “That’s why we’re here, in particular our organization, just to get the word out about our farmers.”

Chowder is made from real dairy and it’s a great opportunity to connect people back to their local farmers.”

— Kiley Putnam, digital marketing manager for New England Dairy

In addition to awards for chowder, there were also prizes for the best soup and best vegetarian chowder, which were won by Gates Restaurant in New Canaan and Geronimo Southwest Grill in Fairfield, respectively.

The Chowdafest provided an excellent opportunity for food lovers, near and far, to chow down on a staple of the northeast on a beautiful day at a beautiful location.