Chili chases the chills away

Hun­dreds of hungry chili lov­ers came out Sunday for a chance to sample and vote on dozens of chil­is provided by loc­al res­taur­ants and neigh­bors. BRI­AN RADE­MAKERS / STAR PHOTO

In Fishtown, the 2013 FNA Chili Cookoff spiced things up Sunday by of­fer­ing loc­als a chance to sample chil­is that were spicy, sa­vory or just plain silly. It was a de­cidedly de­li­cious way to beat the wintry blues.

Maybe it was the little gummy “bur­gers.”

Or maybe it was the ex­tra care that went in­to craft­ing her very own cho­ri­zo saus­age and chili blend.

Whatever it was, Phyl­lis Far­quhar, own­er of the famed Sketch Bur­ger on Gir­ard Av­en­ue, was hold­ing her head high after the 3rd An­nu­al Fishtown Chili Cookoff. The Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation-or­gan­ized event, held at 2424 York St., drew hun­dreds of people on Sunday af­ter­noon to judge dozens of chili re­cipes made by area res­taur­ants and res­id­ents.

Far­quhar and Sketch un­seated last year’s win­ner, Loco Pez, for a first-place spot in the crit­ics’ choice cat­egory for res­taur­ants. Theresa and Greg Deck­er took first among the res­id­ents in the crit­ics’ choice field with their “Double Deck­er” chili.

Far­quhar said her win­ning re­cipe, topped with sour cream and a tor­tilla chip and served with a gummy candy “cheese” bur­ger on the side, in­cluded a meat mix­ture that was half chuck beef and half homemade cho­ri­zo saus­age. She also picked out her own chili pep­pers in mak­ing a from-scratch base for the chili.

“I don’t know if people were on a diet last year or what, but they wouldn’t touch the gummy bur­gers,” she said with a laugh. “We got robbed, but not this year.”

She said bey­ond the glory of tak­ing home the chili, the event has helped bring people to her res­taur­ant.

The cook-off’s func­tion as both a fun food event and neigh­bor­hood show­case was ap­par­ent to many in the crowd, which packed an enorm­ous room.

“It’s been amaz­ing, bet­ter than we could have ex­pec­ted. Our goal was 500, and I think we eas­ily ex­ceeded that many people,” said Neil Brech­er of the FNA. “We have res­taur­ants and res­id­ents, so it does double duty in terms of ex­pos­ure.”

Kristen Si­mon, who took over Fishtown Tav­ern with her hus­band last Ju­ly, was out of her white bean and tur­key chili by 2 p.m. Their spe­cial in­gredi­ent was Mod­e­lo beer, which they used for both soak­ing the beans and cook­ing the chili.

She heard it “was go­ing to be nuts,” but was still sur­prised by the turnout.

“Team­ing up with all these oth­er loc­al res­taur­ants and the am­a­teur cooks is pretty cool,” said Si­mon. “It’s also just fun to be here, put our faces out, and meet all these new people.”

Stan­ford Gable and Dave Meredith were there to rep­res­ent “Team Gar­age Ma­hal,” and offered their “Fire in the Hole” chili (with a three-and-a-half pep­per rat­ing, one of the hot­test there) with a side of chocol­ate-chili Ch­ex Mix. Gable, of East Kens­ing­ton, said they were there “Just for fun … and to win.”

“We like to be act­ive in the neigh­bor­hood, and an event like this adds some fun in­to the mix,” said Gable.

Walk­ing through the crowd with a clip­board and cups of chili, Phil­adelphia food crit­ic Drew Lazor singled out Sketch and Bar­cade as fa­vor­ites, but said he was im­pressed with the over­all qual­ity of the chili.

“I have to say, it’s been great to see the am­a­teurs hold their own along­side the res­taur­ants,” said Lazor.

Bill Camp­bell, of Port Rich­mond, just happened to be passing by on his way to go food shop­ping when he saw the crowd and de­cided to check it out. The next thing he knew, he was one of the hun­dreds of people sampling chili for what he called “a per­fect Sunday af­ter­noon.”

He raved about the of­fer­ing from Lloyd’s Whis­key Bar on Gir­ard, and said he was broad­en­ing his tastes on the chili tour.

“I hate tur­key nor­mally, but what Lloyd’s had was amaz­ing, the best so far,” said Camp­bell. “If I had known about it, I might have come down, but I will def­in­itely be back next year.”

He even sur­prised him­self by try­ing – and lik­ing – a ve­gan chili.

While there were few su­per-spicy chili dishes in the mix, many chefs tried to make their re­cipe stand out with something ex­tra.

“Last year, it seemed like every­one who had a gim­mick won, so this year I didn’t go as tra­di­tion­al,” said second place win­ner in the people’s choice cat­egory, Aaron Boczkowski. His gim­mick? A boozy shot of tequila in his chili. He said he entered the cook-off just for fun, and that cook­ing a good chili wasn’t ne­ces­sar­ily the hard­est part.

“One of the biggest chal­lenges is just mak­ing three gal­lons worth of chili,” said Boczkowski.

Leo Mulvi­hill and Jordan Rush­die, law part­ners with an of­fice at 2424 York St., eased off last year’s “Am­bu­lance Chaser,” a meat-filled fire­bomb, and offered “Oc­cupy Chili,” in hon­or of 14 Oc­cupy Philly pro­test­ers they rep­res­en­ted in court re­cently.

“This is a way for us to reach out to the neigh­bor­hood,” said Mulvi­hill. “It’s a good time with beer and chili … plus, it makes us law­yers look good.”

Re­port­er Bri­an Rademaekers can be reached at

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus