Enter through 10th Avenue, pick up a mug and spoon, drop off your coat and get ready for a veritable onslaught of beans and meat. The Fourth Annual NYChiliFest on Sunday, January 26, 2014, hosted by Chelsea Market, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats and The Cleaver Company and benefiting Food Systems NYC, brought together restaurants and caterers for a carnivore-centric celebration of a great winter food. Samuel Adams was also on hand with a pairing of four beers. The festival showed that chili is anything but humble as creative chefs explored diverse interpretations of the classic.
Though attendees made their way through the event’s lines, this was not the mystery meat chili you might find in a cafeteria. Dickson’s Farmstand Meats supplied all of the chefs with dry-aged, locally raised beef from Wrighteous Organics in Schoharie, NY. Bubby’s served succulent cubes in chili sauce with little distraction from the beef’s texture. Other chefs built on the beef base with pork, lamb, and veal as sausage, bacon, pastrami and even boudin. The East Village’s Filipino restaurant Jeepney, balanced one of the spiciest chilis with banana ketchup and longganisa.
A major debate at the NYChiliFest was over the use of tomatoes. While red sauces were by far the majority, a few of the batches made special note to call out their different approach. Queens catering company Bitter Green used a beer based broth with oyster mushrooms, chantrelles and maple syrup for a hearty stew with beef, beef bacon, lamb pastrami and Cayuga Pure beans. Chelsea Market’s own Friedman’s Lunch also passed over tomatoes for a delicious green chili with tomatillos.
And the chili toppings were far from an afterthought. Friedman’s Lunch served their chili with two green sauces at opposite ends of the flavor spectrum: a highly recommend avocado cream and a super hot puree of poblano, serrano and jalapeño peppers that wore a warning. Other fun toppings included pimento cheese and vinaigrette from Untamed Sandwiches, Monument Lane’s apple slaw, white cheddar crema, cubed corn bread and tortillas.
Top honors for the night were announced during a rousing set by Brooklyn’s country band The Dixons. Award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Seamus Mullen, founder and owner of Umami Burger Adam Fleishman and Wrighteous Organics’ Martin Tssarzik awarded the judges’s prize and the 2014 Golden Chili Mug to Chelsea Market’s Los Tacos No. 1 for their Watchale Chili. The new People’s Choice award was given to Mexicue for their burnt ends and smoked chorizo chili with lime crema, house pickled jalapeños and cotija. And all the guests can continue to enjoy homemade batches with their commerative mugs until next year’s feast!