Do you like New England clam chowder?  Perhaps you prefer Manhattan chowder?

Well, what about Westport chowder?

Or, as the organizers of this Saturday’s Chowdafest (February 4, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) call it: chowda.

In just 4 years, the annual event — a fundraiser for the Connecticut Food Bank — has grown from a couple of hundred Westport people at the Unitarian Church to a few thousand (from throughout Fairfield County) at Bedford Middle School.

The format is perfect: a chowder chowda, soup and bisque competition between restaurants. Everyone judges.

Da Pietro's always draws a crowd at Chowdafest.

For $6 ($2 for those under 12) you get a spoon, ballot and pencil. Then — life is hard — you sample over 30 different offerings from 23 restaurants. They cover the coast, from Stamford to Mystic, making it the largest Chowdafest in New England.

But the local guys do fine. Last year’s winners included Mansion Clam House and Southport Brewing Company.

Westport restaurants competing this year include the Boathouse, Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s, Da Pietro’s, Dunville’s, Mansion, River House and Tavern on Main.

Bobby Q's is a Chowdafest fixture.

There are 3 categories: Classic New England Clam Chowder, Creative Chowder (anything else), and Soup/Bisque. New this year: a blind taste test among chefs, and a “Critics’ Choice” given to the overall favorite.

Because it’s held the day before the Souper Super Bowl, volunteers and servers wear football jerseys, eye black and referee outfits. Sacred Heart University’s marching band provides entertainment.

It’s a great family event. Kids particularly enjoy receiving chef hats, stickers andtemporary tattoos. They take their voting privilege seriously (a good lesson this election year, no?).

“What’s cool is that Sam and Suzy Sixpack — all of us — determine the winner,” says head chowdahead Jim Keenan. “It’s not a panel of people who don’t represent us.”

In just 3 years, the money raised has funded over 30,000 meals.

Hopefully, some of them were chowder chowda based.

(For more information click here, call 203-216-8452, or email

7 responses to “Chowda!

  1. The Dude Abides

    A+ charity function.

    • I’ll give them an A- because they do not spell “chowder” correctly. 😉

      • Aren’t they spelling it exactly the way it’s pronounced?!

        • Anonymous wink

          Outside of the Boston region “chowder” and all other “-er” words are pronounced without dropping the “r”. Even though the Boston accent is non-rhotic, Bostonians would never drop the “r” when writing. To assume otherwise is disrespectful.

          This is just a pet peeve of mine. Also, very few can mimic the accent, so please stop trying. 🙂

      • The Dude Abides

        In Texas, we don’t eat it but when we have to call it something, we call it chew-deer. You all come back now, ya hear?

  2. Three cheers for Jim Keenan who is the remarkable energy behind this wonderful event. The Unitarian Church in Westport never ceases to amaze.