This past Sunday, the annual NY Chilifest hit Chelsea Market, bringing together the best chefs, great beer, and good music to celebrate the best food to come in a bowl – chili.
Crowds of people swarmed the market to find the best chili in Manhattan, created by chefs from all backgrounds and restaurants. With chili tasting mugs in hand, lines formed quickly down the concourse, as people were eager to try the best of what the city had to offer. The restaurants tried to entice people to their stations and convince them to give up the highly coveted chip to vote for “People’s Choice.” Butter’s own executive chef Alex Guarnaschelli was even handing out her restaurant’s chili and vying for the best of the night.
Chefs from Mexicue, Bark, Morris Grilled Cheese, The Brooklyn Star, Cafe Cluny, Bubby’s, and many others, showcased their own versions of the dish, giving a glimpse into the culinary styles offered at each of their restaurants. Every participant had a choice of meat provided by Dickson Farmstand, which brought contrasting flavors across the fest for the heart of the dish. Some restaurants like Bark chose to incorporate beef brisket, while others like Mexicue brought together burnt ends and chorizo to highlight their dish. The Dutch incorporated tender beef tongue into theirs and Spices and Tease went straight for the Texas style chili and utilized the all-American grassfed beef.
Almost as important as the beef were the toppings on all of the dishes. Each chef took their time in making sure that each sample received the right amount additional ingredients to complete their dish. A popular topping of the night seemed to be the incorporation of Fritos for an added crunch. Roberta’s made their chili in the style of “Frito Chili Pie” which was made with coffee and Modelo marinated beef and topped with their homemade Fritos. The Brooklyn Star also garnished their chili with the crispy chip, giving the dish some texture. Crowd favorite Bubby’s brought homemade cornbread croutons to the table, while others like Bark incorporated a creamy sauce to cool down the spice of the dish.
Just as popular as the lines for the chili samples were the beer lines, which offered four of Sam Adams’ hand chosen draughts to pair with the dish of the night. The Boston brewer even brought two of their brand new beers, the Cold Snap, a Belgian style wheat beer and the hoppy Rebel IPA. Rounding out the beer taps were the Boston Lager and Angry Orchard cider, which gave options for pairing with the varying flavors and spices of the chilis.
With so many different restaurants present, it was hard to taste every single sample. Somehow the judges of the night were able to do just that and decide on a winner at the end of the night. Adam Fleishman, Amanda Freitag and Martin Tessarzik crowned Los Tacos No. 1 as the 2014 Chilifest winner, which could not have been an easy decision. While Chelsea Market’s own taco outpost was awarded the Golden Chili Mug for best chili of the night, Mexicue was given People’s Choice, the first ever winner of the award.
Los Tacos will have one year before they’ll have to defend their title once again in the market they call home. Until then, let’s hope that they, and all of the other participating restaurants, offer their delicious, heartwarming chilis in their own stores so we can go back for just one more bite.