Residents and business owners heat up The Fillmore with original chili recipes.
What better way to spend a chilly spring afternoon than sampling some of the finest chili Fishtown has to offer?
Thanks to the Fishtown Neighbors Association, residents were given that opportunity last Sunday at the 7th Annual FNA Chili Cook-off, the community gathered together on Sunday, March 26 to taste and vote on the top two local chilis.
Held for the second consecutive year at The Fillmore, the neighborly competition featured chilis from four restaurants and 18 resident entries.
Ranging in taste from Team Dietsch’s fiery “Unreasonable Stew” to Team Casellino’s “Cocoa Espresso,” no two chilis were the same.
“My friend told me that the FNA was looking for more chili entries, and since I love cooking, I thought it would be fun,” said Vivienne Mo, a resident of Leopard Street who entered the competition with her boyfriend Rob Nally. “The secret ingredient in our ‘No Beans No Problem’ chili is the fire-roasted tomatoes.”
While many contestants, such as Mo and Nally, were first-time chili competitors, others such as Anthony Procco of Team “It’s your favorite chili’s chili” hoped to build on past success.
Having won first place at the Motts Creek Inn Chili Cook-off at the Jersey Shore, the team had been up the night before the contest until midnight making their chili and designing T-shirts with chili memes printed on them. (Follow @TonyB_Chili on Twitter to view some of their memes.)
After roughly two hours of sampling, by 2:30 p.m., the votes had been tallied, and as the song We are the Champions filled the venue, last year’s runner-up for the People’s Choice Award, the “Fishtown All-Stars,” walked away with first place for their “The Four Horsemen of the Meatpocolypse” chili. Having lost the award by only one vote in 2016, the team of four friends came back this year to set the record straight.
“When we first learned about the competition, we said ‘We can do this,’” said Tom Lovelund, one of the All-Stars. “Our friend, Noah Musher in Bandera, Texas, ethically hunts the meat and we use the whole animal, just like people have been doing for hundreds of years. I think people like the ‘gamey’ taste of it.”
When attempting to make a chili, Lovelund recommends starting the process a day or two before serving it to enhance the taste. He additionally credits “friendship” as the team’s secret ingredient, and said the other spices and “hot stuff” that go inside his team’s chili will remain a “family secret.”
Also winning big at the cook-off was the two-man team representing Sancho Pistola’s, a Mexican restaurant located at 19 W. Girard Ave.
Chef Adan Trinidad and Nick Bellenzeni brought to the table their “Bad Hombres” chili, mixing classic and spicy bean flavors.
“It was amazing to win. I feel so happy about it and proud of my team,” Trinidad said. “I think it was the chorizo and the cumin that really [helped it] taste almost like curry in a chilli. We don’t have it on our menu, but we will run it as special here and there, so stay tuned on our Twitter and Instagram accounts.”
FNA President Ian Wilson, who moved to Fishtown four years ago from West Philly, said this year’s chili cook-off was a huge success with what he believes to have been the biggest turnout yet.
He credited this success to the 20 resident volunteers who worked four to five hours that day, and to the FNA’s democracy in all it does.
“This is the second year that the FNA’s Board of Directors had asked the community for their input in suggesting ways to spend the proceeds, rather than having the board just decide,” the 31-year-old Norris Street resident said. “We want to make tangible investments in the community, putting all the money we raise back into it.”
He noted $1,000 of last year’s proceeds went to the Friends of Penn Treaty School. This year, Wilson, who was the contest coordinator of last year’s chili cook-off, expects some of the proceeds will go toward an approved pedestrian plaza in the neighborhood.
“This neighborhood is unique in that it has a growing population of young urbanites, along with a strong blue collar population,” Wilson said. “This helps make the FNA strong and successful in all of its endeavors.”
Wilson said the $20,000 event only cost FNA approximately $5,000 due to donations and community support. He wished to especially thank The Fillmore, whose franchise owner, Live Nation, waived approximately $10,000 in fees to make the fundraising cook-off possible.
“Bad Hombres” Chili
1/4 c. of canola oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 lbs. spicy chorizo
1 can of chipotle 7 oz. puree
1 can #10 tomato puree
2 c. of chicken stock
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs cayenne
2 tbs paprika
1tbs garlic powder
1 tbs onion powder
1/2 c. of sriracha
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic with oil for five minutes and then add chorizo. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add the rest of ingredients and cook on slow heat. Garnish with crispy tortilla chips, sour cream and queso fresco.