Blog: NYChiliFest 2014 at Chelsea Market
A crisp wintry Sunday evening proved to be the perfect setting for the 2014 ‘NYChiliFest’ held in Manhattan’s famous Chelsea Market. What has now become an annual event attracted several hundred New Yorkers for a great evening of chili, live music & beer at the venerable west side venue, normally replete with restaurants, retail stores and specialty shops. On this day however, the Market’s main corridor space would be transformed to a celebration of all things meat, beans, and cheese in a fun and competitive tasting event between a multitude of participants vying for supremacy. As advertised, each ticket to ‘NYChiliFest’ included access to the 800-foot concourse of chili, served by dozens of New York City’s most notable restaurants and their chefs. All ticket proceeds from the festival would benefit the Food Systems Network NYC (FSNYC), a far more satisfying accomplishment than anything that we would devour during the course of the event.
Given the number of people in attendance, the event ran smoothly despite being a bit chaotic at times. The setup consisted of multiple serving stations including a variety of unique and delicious chili recipes with the perfect fix-ins to accompany them. In the midst of an event with so many outstanding choices- one might have a difficult time choosing a favorite, however there were a few notable selections worth highlighting. First and foremost, Num Pang Sandwich Shop which has a two location presence in Manhattan, served up a delicious “Highly Jalapeño Infused Chili” whose secret ingredient was a bottle of Old English .40 oz malt liquor- an incredibly inventive and surprising addition to the first stand out chili that we sampled. Another very notable highlight came at the hands of Butter. This establishment is best known for Executive Chef Alex Guarnaschelli- a recurring judge on The Food Network‘s hit show ‘Chopped.’ Surprisingly, Guarnaschelli was in attendance and happily serving their take on “Traditional Texas Beef Chili” with a delectable bread-crumb topping for added texture and flavor contrast. Chef Guarnaschelli was very friendly to the attendees stopping at her station, pausing for pictures at the request of each excited guest.
For those guests attending the event with hopes of getting a nice Sunday evening buzz on, they were certainly in luck. Renowned brewmakers Samuel Adams were serving up four of their favorite chili-pairing beers at multiple stations around the space, highlighted by the recently unveiled seasonal ‘Gold Snap.’ The crisp seasonal brew showed strong hints of plumb and orange peel which made it all the more refreshing and quelched much of the fiery chili tastings that had kicked up our palates. With participating restaurants like The Dutch, Jeepney, Roberta’s, Monument Lane, and The Cannibal, each restaurant provided a take on chili that was truly unique and distinctive despite the jam packed setting inside of Chelsea Market, which at times made finding space a challenge. But the increased attendance at this year’s ‘NYChiliFest’ only proved a more successful event for the folks at Food Systems Network NYC.
Admittedly, there is an art to preparing a delicious chili evidenced by the expert hands that meticulously crafted the more than twenty samples being offered up at this year’s Festival. The panel of judges tasked with selecting a champion chilimaker included the likes of Chef Amanda Freitag and Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman who selected Chelsea Market’s own Los Tacos No. 1 as the winners of the 2014 Golden Chili Mug. The People’s Choice Winner went to the folks at Mexicue, who operate both a food truck and a small shop in Midtown and more than held their own amongst some of New York City’s elites with a “Burnt Ends & Smoked Chorizo Chili” served with lime crema and cotija cheese. Making the evening even more enjoyable was the ambiance inside of Chelsea Market, coupled with the backdrop of Texas cowboy bands The Dixons and Super Bad Brad rocking all night long that kept us in good spirits as we inhaled the finest selection of chili the city has to offer. All of these variables came together smoothly to ensure a perfectly executed event and one that should not be missed next year.