An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Feb 20, 2014
09:44 AMThe Connecticut Table
Mystic Chowder Cook-Off a Folksy Event With Gourmet Soul, 'Best Seafood' Participants
Following the skim-coat of snow most of the state saw Tuesday, the milder weather that settled into Connecticut is taking a bite out of winter’s imposing presence. Still, all that cold and snow has left most of us longing for spring—and for some hot comfort food to warm up the chill that drilled down to the bottom of our bones.
A perfect opportunity awaits this Saturday in the form of the 11th Annual Cabin Fever Festival and Charity Chowder Cook-Off, running from noon to 5 p.m. at Olde Mistick Village, and benefitting the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center Emergency Food Pantry. It’s free and tickets are just $1 for each 3-ounce cup of chowder.
While the chowder cook-off comes across as a nice hometown event held within a cozy shopping village, the festival has gourmet appeal and merits the attention of foodies from beyond southeastern Connecticut (especially those with children, as nearby Mystic Seaport is celebrating schools’ winter break with by offering free admission for children).
In our Connecticut Best Restaurants 2013: Experts' Picks, Oyster Club was among the select honorees for Best Seafood—and that’s statewide—and right around the same time, the Mystic Marriott’s Octagon Restaurant took first prize in the Most Creative category at the 32nd Annual Polar Seltzer Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport.
And those are just two examples from a region, Greater Mystic, that is blessed with lots of great places to eat. In fact, according to a release from the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, 24 of the area’s finest restaurants and caterers will compete for awards.
“In addition to the three top People’s Choice awards, a team of media celebrities (Rick Koster, Dave Tranchida, and Elissa Bass) will be judging three additional categories of 1) Most Creative Chowder; 2) Heartiest Chowder; and 3) Best Use of Regional Ingredients,” the chamber says. “All of the awards will be presented by Senator Andrew Maynard and State Representative Diana Urban in the Meeting House in Olde Mistick Village at 5 p.m. on Saturday the 22nd.”
The 24 participants are: Ancient Mariner of Mystic; Bleu Squid Bakery and Cheese Shop; Casa Della Luce; Dog Watch Café; Flanagan’s Restaurant at Best Western Olympic Inn; Highland Grille-the Westerly High School Culinary Team; Latitudes 41-Coastal Gourmet Catering; McQuade’s Marketplace of Mystic; Mystic Boathouse; Mystic Diner and Restaurant; Oakwood Bar & Grill at Groton Inn and Suites; Ocean Blue Catering at Mystic Aquarium; Octagon Steakhouse; Oyster Club of Mystic; Pizza Grille of Mystic; Saybrook Soup and Sandwich; Seawell Seafood; Semolina Pasta Shop; Soundings at Mystic Hilton Hotel; StoneRidge Retirement Center; Stonington Big Y; Stonington Stop & Shop of Pawcatuck; Ten Clams, and the Restaurant at Water’s Edge Resort in Westbrook.
According to the chamber, each participant has a sponsoring shop in Olde Mistick Village, where space will be set aside to serve chowder. A map of the shops, restaurants and ticket locations will be available on the day of Cabin Fever throughout the Village.
Tickets are $1 for each 3-ounce cup of chowder, or guests may purchase 12 tickets for $10. Tickets will be on sale the day of the event at a locations throughout Olde Mistick Village.
Over the years the Cabin Fever Charity Chowder Cook-off has raised between $4,000 and $13,000, the chamber says in its release.
“Cabin Fever really brings the community together for a terrific event benefiting such an important organization,” Lu Lupovich, chairperson for the event said in the release. “In addition to our restaurant partners, I want to thank our corporate sponsors—Valenti Family of Dealerships, Liberty Bank, Go Fish Restaurant, Ten Clams Restaurant and the Olde Mistick Village Merchants Association. This year our additional sponsors are Vicki and Scott Anderson, Regan Enterprises, and the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce.”
“The Chowder Cook-off is such an important event not only for the financial help but for the awareness it raises about hunger in our community—and the Emergency Food Pantry of PNC,” Vicki Anderson, executive director of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, says in a post on the chamber’s website. “Use of food pantries, nationwide and in our local community, is at an all-time high. Besides help with emergency food, the PNC offers emergency fuel assistance, free clothing, and infant essentials such as diapers and formula. The Center provides free transportation for seniors living within the service area of Stonington, CT and Westerly, RI as well as programs for seniors and people of all ages.”
In conjunction with the chowder cook-off Olde Mistick Village is holding other “fun and educational events” throughout the day. The schedule is:
12-1pm Childbloom Guitar All Stars with Lou Manzi in the Meeting House
12-1pm Police K-9 Unit Demonstration on the Green
12-2pm Fly by Night Entertainers in and around the Village
1:30-2:30pm Stonington Singers (Mystic Middle School) in the Meeting House
2-2:30pm Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center Live Owl Presentation on the Green
2:30-2:30pm Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center Educational Program in the Meeting House
2:30-4:30pm Mystic Aquarium Touch and Learn Program in the Meeting House
3-4pm Pine Point School Artists in the Meeting House
3:30-4:30pm Horizon Wings Live Birds of Prey Program on the Green
Meanwhile, while you’re in the area, Mystic Seaport is offering free admission for children, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the promotion is currently running and ends Feb. 23) each day, in honor of schools’ winter breaks.
“Come explore the museum’s 19th-century seafaring village, historic vessels, and maritime exhibits,” Mystic Seaport invites in a post on its website, mentioning “plenty of family-fun activities,” including:
Charles W. Morgan — Climb aboard the world’s last wooden whaleship and watch as Shipwrights restore and prepare the vessel for her 38th Voyage this summer. (offered all day)
Pastimes and Playthings — Step back in time and try your hand at an old-fashioned game of skittles or checkers. (offered all day)
Navigation Quest — Check out a “Nav. Quest” kit at the Nautical Instruments Shop and find your way around the Museum using the navigational tools of a sailor. (offered all day)
Sailor Town — In this lively and informative talk, find out what a “sailor’s life for me” truly meant. (daily at 10:30 am)
Witness to History — Chat with a resident of 1876 Greenmanville about making the most of winter at sea and on shore, explore the sailors’ charity basket, and warm up by the Seamen’s Friend Society parlor stove. (Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am-3 pm)
How did they do that? — Listen as Museum shipcarvers explain the skills of crafting and gold leafing wooden carvings. (daily at 12:30 pm)
Captain Hogan’s Pride — Climb aboard the L.A. Dunton and learn the stories of the first owner and skipper of our traditional “Banks.” (daily at 12:45 pm)
Children’s Storytime — Visit the Children’s Museum to hear stories of the sea and shore. (daily at 1 pm)
Shipyard Tour — Join our knowledgeable staff as they explain the equipment and activities in our Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. (daily at 2 pm)
Winter Lights — See Jupiter, the belt stars of Orion, the red eye of Taurus, and other constellations of the winter night sky under our Planetarium dome. (daily at 2 pm and 3 pm, free admission)
How did they do that? — Learn how scrimshaw was done and by whom. (daily at 3:15 pm)