Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hop Chef Came To Philadelphia: July 10, 2012

(Click the picture for a full gallery of event pictures)

I was in northern California last week. Sonoma, Sebastopol, San Ramon, Oakland, and of course, San Francisco. Much more on that to come.

But, while I was away...

It was a shame to have missed the highly-anticipated Philadelphia version of Ommegang's Hop Chef held at World Café Live in Philly last Tuesday July 10. The Chefs had been to Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, baited and berated each other on Twitter, and showed up ready to prove they were the best at incorporating an Ommegang beer into their kitchen creations.

A celebrity panel of judges including Mat Falco (Philly Beer Scene), Arthur Etchells (Foobooz), Drew Lazor (City Paper, Saveur, among others), Emilio Mignucci (DiBruno Bros.), and Jen Carroll ("Top Chef" and hot chef about town and, reportedly, NYC) would have the final say. And, so would the people as they cast their vote for People's Choice.

I would have been there in a heartbeat with my media pass. But, since I was a few thousand miles away, I enlisted trusty Brew Lounge foot soldier, Mike Rizzo to file his report on the event. You should probably see an immediate improvement in the food pictures over what I might have otherwise submitted for your review. I knew he was good with a camera and that he's got some of that foodie thing going on too, so I figured it would be a winning combination.

Just hours after the event, I received the quickly-filed words and pictures from Rizzo. I've finally had a chance to pour through the results, so let's see what he's uncovered for us.

"The food was some of the best that I have eaten in Philly and I have been to many of the top restaurants in and around the city. There was plenty of Ommegang to be had as they had a table setup on the dining floor and all the Taps on the elevated bar were tapped with Ommegang beers. I never had to wait more than a few minutes to get topped off."

Sounds like a great way to open an event review. From the opening sentences, I knew the disappointment that I could not attend was real. Let's see how the pairings worked out.

"I think it would of worked much better had they been pouring the paired beers at each chef's table so that as you picked up the food, you received the correct beer. To me and others that I saw, it became more of a 'get what you can food-wise and hope that you have the correct beer on hand'. I found myself many times either having an empty beer or the wrong paired beer when I got to the table. There was usually a wait for the food and you did not want to get out of line to get beer while you were waiting for the food in fear of the food running out. They should have had people pouring the beers at each station for people tasting the food, to ensure you knew you were tasting it as it was meant to be."

This is an interesting coincidence because it reminds me of how at last summer's Belgium Comes To Cooperstown event at Ommegang, I found myself sipping on a beer intended for a bowl of mussels that was still be completed by the chef. Granted, they're busting their tails to keep up with the line and demand, but at a pairing contest, you surely do want the benefit of beer (and enough of it) to consider with the plate of food. Not a show stopper, but interesting to note from an organizational perspective.

"I did not see many people from Ommegang there offering advise or explaining the beers that they brought. It seemed that they were just pouring them and keeping the lines moving."

I wonder if there wasn't an Ommegang informational-type table where attendees could learn more about, maybe take home some product sheets of, Ommegang's family of beers. That would seem to have made sense. I know regional representative, Megan Maguire, loves to talk about their beers and I'm sure she was doing a bunch of that as she circulated. In a crowded event, you can't catch everything that's happening, so maybe Mike missed the Ommegang representation.

"As for how the beers were paired, Three Philosophers was the runaway chef's favorite, being paired with four dishes, all desserts. Witte, Abbey, and BPA were used in two dishes each and Rare Vos and Hennepin were both used in one."

That makes sense. Three Philosophers has got the maltiness going on as well as the cherry addition which makes this great for both drinking by itself and incorporating into food dishes.

Next, Mike provides a chef-by-chef rundown along with some brief notes.

Judges' Winner: George Sabatino of Stateside — 1536 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-551-2500, [website link]
~ Smoked Beef Cheek with Watermelon Rind, Pickle, and Beer-Boiled Peanuts — paired with Abbey Ale
~ Three Philosophers with Head-To-Tail Cherries — paired with Three Philosophers

  • No beef cheek; I overheard it was short rib instead cooked for 3 days, and it tasted like it. My 2nd best plate
  • They had 2 simple pairings, but you had to know this before getting to the table which had lines
  • Dessert was very good too

    People's Choice Winner: Scott Schroeder of South Philadelphia Tap Room — 1509 Mifflin Street, 215-271-7787, [website link]
    ~ Line-caught Blue Fin Tuna Crudo, Crispy Pancetta, Frozen BPA-soaked Melon — paired with BPA
    ~ Chef Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern and formerly Le Bec Fin's Hot Roast Beef Sandwich — paired with Abbey Ale

  • No desserts, only chef that didn’t do one
  • My favorite food was the hot roast beef sandwich - foie gras, etc...mustard seeds, went back for seconds on this one
  • Tuna has BPA melon frozen balls, may have been too cold not much flavor off of it
  • Overly salted
  • No one told a story about the Abbey Ale which was the pairing rule for the roast beef sandwich

    Jonathon Cichon of Lacroix — 210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533, [website link]
    ~ Blue Crab & Watermelon — paired with BPA
    ~ Cherry Beignet — paired with Three Philosophers

  • I love both blue crab and watermelon alone, so I thought I would like this one together. But, the flavor was lacking
  • Beignet was great with homemade ice cream

    Jason Cichonski of Ela — 627 South Third Street, 267-687-8512, [website link]
    ~ Liquid Corn Diver Scallop with Chanterelle Mushroom, Crunch Mustard, and Pickled Corn — paired with Hennepin
    ~ Aged Cheddar Panna Cotta with Sour Cherry, Chocolate, and Candied Rye — paired with Rare Vos

  • Great scallop, liquid corn in the middle of it
  • Ran out of scallops less than hour into event. Many people heard how good/different it was, but I was lucky enough to get in early and get to try one of everything before the crowds came in
  • Very balanced with the Hennepin

    Joe Cicala of Le Virtu — 1927 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626, [website link]
    ~ Line-caught Blue Fin Tuna Crudo, Crispy Pancetta, Frozen BPA-soaked Melon — paired with BPA
    ~ Chef Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern and formerly Le Bec Fin's Hot Roast Beef Sandwich — paired with Abbey Ale

  • Ravioli was great
  • Check out the pictures and you can see how much butter they use to start a cream sauce. I always wondered why it was so tasty dining out and never tasted quite so good at home
  • Cooked in Witte, I think he was only chef I saw cooking with beer, other than SPTR who had beer in the mushroom broth that the beef was topped with
  • Dessert was with Three Philosophers; very tasty as well

    Nick Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern — 251 South 18th Street, 215-732-2412, [website link]
    ~ Hamachi and Sea Urchin with Wheatgrass, Citrus, and Coriander — paired with Witte
    ~ Cheese and Cherry Pie, Pistachio, and Lardo — paired with Three Philosophers

  • Witte with Hamachi and sea urchin; had some foam on it as well
  • Thought there was too much going on
  • Also was not easy to eat for a small plate meal
  • Dessert was good and paired well with Three Philosophers

    What do you think? Did you like this format? I did and may use it occasionally in the future. Many thanks to Mike Rizzo for stepping in to provide coverage from this tasty and fun event.

    Have you been somewhere, are going somewhere, or would like to volunteer to provide coverage to a beer-related event that could make for good content here in the pages of The Brew Lounge? Drop a note to me.

    Mike's picture gallery can be found over at Google Albums

    Additional Coverage from:
    In Search Of Beer:
    City Paper:
    Grub Street: and
    Philly Eater:
    Philadelphia Magazine:

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