Connecticut: The Chowder Capital of New England Last Updated 6/20

By Jim Keenan

With nearly 100 miles of idyllic shoreline, Connecticut knows more than a “little” about seafood, especially shellfish.  It goes to reason we also know great clam chowder!  Each fall, over 10,000+ discernible foodies travel from far and wide to sample and judge the best chowder, soup and bisque.  Restaurants representing every state in New England come to Westport, Connecticut to compete in The New England Chowdafest for the distinction of being called best in New England. Here's a little background about Connecticut's own chowder history to prime your tastebuds.

All Different Kinds

Chowders come in a wide variety and are difficult to compare to each other as there’s much more than the renowned creamy white New England clam chowder everyone loves.  There’s the clear broth Rhode Island clam chowder which traditionalists will argue is the true clam chowder and then there's the popular tomato based Manhattan clam chowder. There are fish chowders, mussel, oyster, scallop and shrimp chowders too but don't think for a moment chowders are just seafood.  There are corn and poblano chowders, cheese burger chowders — even a mango habanero chowder. 

People have even gone to war over determining which chowder is the best.  A tomato hating politician from Maine set off the Maine Clam Chowder War of 1939 when he proposed to introduce a bill to make it a crime to pollute clam chowder with tomatoes. Chowdafest tries to quell the debate more civilly each year through its competition but understands you can't simply compare one style of chowder to another as they each have their unique attributes which is why the competition has four distinct categories of competition:  New England clam chowder category, the “Traditional” category reserved for Rhode Island and Manhattan clam chowders, the creative chowder category (anything but New England and Traditional) and soup and bisque.  You can wait to attend Chowdafest each fall to determine your favorites but for those who can't wait, there's the Chowda Trail.

Chowda On!

The Chowda Trail is the latest trail introduced by the State of Connecticut.  It’s the second such trail in the United States, the other being in Oregon and the only such trail in New England.  What makes this trail so appealing is that unlike its sister trails, this trail changes annually to highlight the creative culinary talent featured in the upcoming Chowdafest competition.  Thirty-two of the 40 restaurants featured are right here in the nutmeg state highlighting the state’s immense culinary talent.

Jim Keenan is the “Chief Chowda-head” behind The New England Chowdafest, an annual event scheduled for October 4, 2020 in Westport, CT.