FNA Chili Cook-Off: Fishtown Neighbors Association hosts 7th annual chili cook-off
On Sunday, the Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA) hosted the 7th Annual FNA Chili Cook-Off at the Fillmore Philadelphia. The yearly fundraiser invites local restaurants and community residents to compete beside one another for prizes and bragging rights.
This year’s cook-off brought in an eclectic assortment of chili appealing to any kind of palette. Lloyd Whiskey Bar came into the event as the favorite, having won the past three cook-offs. Chef Ethan Morgan prepared a braised beef cheek chili with a ranch and goat cheese crema and barbecued pork rinds. The result was delectable and led to Lloyd running out of their chili long before the winners were announced.
Other restaurants participating included Johnny Brenda’s, Sancho Pistola’s, Heffe Tacos, Castellino’s and the soon-to-be-opening Fishtown Brewpub. For the JB’s Chili, chef Alan Diltz went vegan.
“I wanted to do something different because a lot of times there aren’t a lot of options for vegans or vegetarians,” he explained. “So what I did was I smoked seitan and I’ve been fermenting chilis for a year. I mixed those with the base of my sauce and a lot of onions, garlic and peppers and an avocado puree … The fermentation gives it a more complex flavor. If you just have peppers it would be all heat.”
Brian Potash, a local graphic artist who did all of the design work for the event, praised the JB’s Chili from Johnny Brenda’s. “The avocado topping was really great with the pickled cherries. And the seitan… I really enjoyed. Not many people cook with that,” he said.
Mayor Jim Kenney was able to make an appearance in the midst of his busy schedule. Sporting his casual Levi’s, Kenney made his rounds and spoke to local residents and restaurateurs. He told Spirit News that he wanted to make an appearance to support the efforts of the FNA.
“It’s nice just to come here and validate community members’ efforts,” he said. “We want people to be involved in their neighborhood and these folks do it happily.”
Kenney stated that his favorite chili was Team Dietsch’s “Unreasonable Stew”, the undisputed hottest chili of the day. “Guy over there is nuclear, the second one in. Be careful,” he told Spirit News.
Team Dietsch was the husband-and-wife duo of Brett and Mindy Dietsch. The two decided to take a farm-to-table approach.
“My husband and I have a garden and we try to grow and use a lot of our own food,” Mindy explained. Exploding with flavor, their chili incorporated Trinidad scorpions, ghost pepper and thai chilis. For flavor, they brought in poblanos, bell peppers and jalapenos. The result was not for the faint of heart, but absolutely delivered for heat-seekers.
Another community group that participated was the Four Horsemen of the Meatpocalypse: Tom Loveland, Lucas Pithaf, Blake Horton and Curtis Albucher. The four friends were back for their second year, placing third for the critic’s choice award and second place in people’s choice last year. This year, the Horsemen wanted to showcase a chili with a variety of fresh and interesting meats.
“What we did is we took four different types of meats and we braised three of them,” Albucher explained. “The four meats we used are sika venison, wild boar, short ribs and ground beef. We braised them, added them together, put in a little poblano chiles and then our secret touch is we finish it off with our crispy sage sour cream with lemon zest.”
FNA president Ian Wilson announced the winners on the Fillmore stage at the conclusion of the cook-off. The Horsemen’s meat-heavy approach landed them first place in the people’s choice category. The critic’s choice award went to Adan Trinidad and Nick Bellenzeni from Sancho Pistola’s.
“I always feel good but I feel extra good today,” Chef Adan Trinidad of Sancho Pistola’s said after the win. This was Trinidad’s second year of competing and he decided to do a chorizo-based chili. “There’s a lot of flavor in that pork and we threw three different kinds of beans in there for some texture,” he said.
“The competition here was great. When you see so many people and you can come home with a prize like this, you can say you did pretty good,” Nick Bellenzeni added. “Obviously a chef has confidence in their food, but when you put it against others and then you win you know you’re doing something right.”
Wilson concluded the event by expressing his gratitude to everyone in attendance.
“We really really appreciate you all for coming out here and supporting the civic association and your neighborhood,” he said. “That’s what this is really about.” •