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What Comes before SOUPer Bowl? The Answer is Chowdafest

The sixth annual "Chowdafest" is set for Sunday, Feb. 2 from 11:00a.m. to 3:00p.m. at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. The event is a nice way to involve the whole family in the build-up to the Super Bowl.

Caleb McDougall and Jessica Aulakh from Guvner's in South Norwalk took a moment to pose with the Chowdafest mascot Chef Ref during a kick off event at Clarke's. Credit: Leslie Yager
Caleb McDougall and Jessica Aulakh from Guvner's in South Norwalk took a moment to pose with the Chowdafest mascot Chef Ref during a kick off event at Clarke's. Credit: Leslie Yager
The countdown Chowdafest has officially begun.

Thursday morning at  Clarke's kitchen showroom, the official Sub Zero and Wolf test kitchens in South Norwalk, representatives from 28 different restaurants gathered to celebrate and get ready for the sixth annual tasting and competition.

The 28 restaurants, 14 of which are new this year, include one from Wilton — Bistro 7 — and several from Norwalk, including: Guvnor's Brewery, Brennan's Tap Room,  Donovan's, The Giner Man, Brewhouse,  Rowayton Seafood, and The Spread.

The restaurants were culled from 80 restaurants for a chance to compete in Chowdafest on Sunday, Feb. 2 from 11:00a.m. to 3:00p.m. at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. 

This year Guvnor's Brewery, which opened at the end of August at 136 Washington Street in SoNo, will participate for the first time. Chef Caleb McDougall said told Patch he plans to enter the New England Clam Chowder category.

This year marks the 6th year of Chowdafest, which, according to event organizer, the effervescent Jim Keenan, started in a church in Westport and has grown exponentially every year.

Last year 6,500 people attended and, according to Keenan, this year he anticipates a crowd of about 7,500. 

According to Keenan, there are ten new sponsors of the event this year, as well as the addition four featured celebrity chefs. And, to reinforce the football theme, the Sacred Heart Marching Band will play all the tunes you'd expect at a football event.

There will also be a special Italian section at "Ciao-da-fest" this year, as well as a cheese & cracker corner featuring Westminster Bakery which is famous for their oyster crackers. 

The sixth annual Chowdafest will also feature a chance to sample craft beers and wines. "Chef Ref" the new Chowdafest mascot will be on hand to lend his sense of humor and offer photo opportunities galore.

Another new feature of Chowdafest '14 is a new category for competition. In the past the three categories were classic, creative and soup & bisque. This year there will be a "Manhattans and Rhode Islands" category. 

Keenan is careful to clarify that Chowdafest does not compete with Super Bowl, but rather serve as something of a tailgate, or pre-game warm-your-stomach activity that has the added value of benefitting  CT Food Bank. Non-perishable food donations will be collected and anyone bringing items will be entered into a raffle for $200 Stop & Shop gift certificate.  

"We've sponsored Chowdafest for the last two years and we support Food Bank anyway, so it's a no-brainer for us," Kathy Smith of Farmer's Cow said. "We hope to see it continue to grow."

Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community affairs at Stop & Shop, Chowdafest's primary sponsor, said her company will promote the event in store circulars and her company especially excited to be the exclusive sponsor of Kids Cove.  

Chowdafest is a kid-friendly event. Children's votes count the same as adults and there are free temporary tattoos and stickers as well as chef hats they can decorate.

Tickets for Chowdafest are on sale at Stop & Shop stores and feature a $2.00 discount. 

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