In just five days, 28 restaurants will go head to head in the 6th Annual ChowdaFest, New England’s best chowder and soup competition. The pre-super bowl event invites the public to sample over 30 types of chowder, soup, and bisque to decide who has the tastiest. Last year, two Norwalk restaurants took first place in two of the three categories, and they’re ready for the challenge again this year.
“Now we have to defend the title, which I couldn’t say no, so we’ll see what happens this year.”
Donovan’s in South Norwalk entered ChowdaFest for the first time last year, and left with the title of Best Classic New England Clam Chowder. Richard Ball, who has been the owner of Donovan’s for 35 years, says its’ a simple recipe him and his staff came up with together.
“We have a recipe we started when I got here and it’s continued ever since,” says Ball. “Several people have made it and I’ve taught the recipe to; my wife has made it for years and she’s passed it on.”
Just down the street from Donovan’s is the Ginger Man, a ChowdaFest competitor since 2010. The restaurant’s sweet potato chowder has taken first place in the Creative Clam Chowder category for the past three years.
“It’s a variation of a classic clam chowder,” says Nicholas Messina, assistant manager at The Ginger Man. “Instead of using regular potatoes, we use the sweet potatoes. It adds a little more depth, I find it a little more hearty.”
“There was a chef that worked here…and he was actually originally from Boston, Massachusetts,” says Head Chef Michael Bogacz. “It was his and he brought it on and when we first started doing the competition we entered it and it stayed on the menu ever since.”
Ball and Bogacz say they prepared about 50 to 60 gallons of chowder for last year’s competition and plan to do the same this year. When asked what makes their chowder the best, both attributed their wins to one thing.
“It’s gotta be made slowly, with love and care into it,” says Ball.
“It’s made with love and that’s what the difference is,” says Bogacz.
ChowdaFest will take place at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena on Sunday, February 2, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For tickets and more information visit www.chowdafest.org