Get Warm at the NYChilifest

As the days keep getting colder, the idea of a chili festival sounds might warm and inviting. You’re in luck; this Sunday is the Third Annual NYChilifest, taking place at the Chelsea Market from 7 to 9pm. For $55 you get unlimited Sam Adams beer and chili samples from some of the city’s, excuse the pun, hottest purveyors. Twenty-three restaurants are participating, including Perla, Pies n’Thighs, Potlikker, Salvation Taco, Talde, and Gramercy Tavern.

Like last year, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, one of the presenters along with The Cleaver Company, is supplying each team with t100 percent dry-aged, locally raised beef. After sampling from each crock, cookbook author Rick Rogers, New York Times food writer Julia Moskin, Wrighteous Organics‘ Martin Tessarzik, and Laura Silverman, founder of will decide the winner of the Golden Chili Mug of 2013.

What’s not to like about 500 feet of hot chili fun, with perky country music by The Dixon’s included. All proceeds benefit Food Systems Network NYC, so when you leave to hold your belly and down an antacid, you will know your chili binge was totally worth it.

This Week’s NYC Happenings: NYChiliFest, Marquee, & Highlands

SUNDAY: Chili-laxing In Chelsea
Winter Warming At NYC’s Biggest Chili Festival

A hearty bowl of chili is fair compensation for the January cold. On Sunday at Chelsea Market, the NYChiliFest goes off, with masters of meat competing for the 2013 Golden Chili Mug crown. Dickson’s Farmstand Meats supplies the dry-aged beef while Sam Adams pairs up four chili-friendly brews. The chefs in the fray represent a couple dozen of our more creative kitchens, from Delaney Barbecue to Ducks Eatery to The Wayland. Brooklyn’s own band The Dixons provide the honky-tonk soundtrack.
NYChiliFest at Chelsea Market (88 Tenth Ave., Chelsea) kicks off at 7pm on Sunday the 27th. Tickets start at $50 and must be purchased in advance. To learn more about the market, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides. 

WEDNESDAY: Marquee Lights
Long-time flouter of gravitational hotness laws Marquee is back and smoking once again. The space has been redesigned from tip to toe, with the focus shifted from bottle service to dance music. Case in point: Wednesday night’s red-hot set by DJ Chuckie.
Marquee (289 Tenth Ave., Chelsea) is open now. Chuckie will DJ Wednesday night with doors at 12:30am. To learn more about the club, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

THURSDAY: Highlands Hearts Burns
True Scotsman’s gastropub Highlands celebrates poet Robert Burns’ 254th birthday with their annual Burns Night. There will be Scotch, along with a bagpiper, prix-fixe dinners, and a few kilts, too.
Burns Night at Highlands (150 W. 10th St., West Village) will be celebrated Thursday, with seatings at 6:30pm and 9:30pm. Prix-fixe dinners are $55, with $35 additional for whiskey pairings. To learn more about the gastropub, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

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Move Over, Wine. Beer Pairs with Fancy Food Too

While I’m woefully behind on certain trends—e.g. I’ve still never seen Titanic or heard a Justin Bieber song all the way through—those involving beer are not among them. Nope, I’m totally up to date when it comes to beer and all the wonderful things you can do with it. Therefore, the beery folks up at Sam Adams really didn’t need to set up that nice beer/food pairing they invited me to at Chelsea Market yesterday, but I kept my secret and showed up anyway, knowing how fun it would be.

The idea was to sample a few wines that are commonly thought to be excellent companions to various foods, and then try Sam Adams Boston Lager instead, just to see how it clicks. To do this, they enlisted the help of Jake Dickson, proprietor of Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, who hosted the tasting and even came up with a special cut of beef designed to complement Boston Lager which he aptly named the Boston Lager Cut. It’s a tender cut from the cap to the top sirloin that has a big, beefy flavor. You can buy the Boston Lager Cut from Robinson’s Prime Reserve if you like.
So there was a nice plate of medium rare steak, and we started off by tasting it with a wine selected by wine and beer sommelier (cool job, huh?) Gianni Cavicchi of Café D’Alsace. He poured a 2009 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, which is a tasty, medium-bodied red wine that costs about $19 a bottle retail. It paired nicely with the steak, as many red wines do, and I enjoyed the interplay of flavors as I have in the past. Then we tried the same steak with Boston Lager, which, as Sam Adams brewer Jennifer Glanville explained, is designed to have a perfect balance of malt and hops. Wouldn’t you know it, the steak and beer matched up great, the hops in the beer cutting through the caramelization of the steak, yielding a mouthful of meat that was even more succulent than I had hoped. A primo pairing. 
Next up was chocolate. Have you ever paired chocolate with wine? Of course you have, you sexy thing, on those cuddly nights with your ever-loving boo. We chomped on some TCHO 70% dark chocolate that Cavicchi paired with a 2009 Bonterra Zinfandel from Mendocino County that you can buy for $13. It was another fine red wine, and it gave the chocolate a nice fruity edge as it melted in my mouth. But when Glanville handed me my Boston Lager, it was a whole new ballgame, with the carbonation and maltiness of the brew cutting through the chocolate and yielding a medium-sweet treat that I can’t imagine ever getting tired of. It’s just as romantic as a wine and chocolate pairing, but a little more fun. Cue the bow-chicka-wow-wow, if you know what I’m saying. Because I’m saying it could lead to ’70s porno-style sex. 
Finally, we had our cheese course, nice healthy hunks of Roquefort spread over slices of French bread. It’s a powerful cheese, which Cavicchi paired with the most expensive wine of the bunch, a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port from Portugal that’ll run you $54. It was another fine pairing which I enjoyed, but the Boston Lager actually did a better job cutting through the pungency of the blue cheese, with the carbonation and hoppy edge lifting the creaminess off my tongue, and helping me experience the deeper flavors. A match made in cheese and beer heaven. 
All the while, a team of Dickson’s Farmstand butchers was working a few feet away from us, deftly chopping up massive forequarters of humanely-raised cattle, a display that would horrify vegetarians but I found quite interesting. We all chatted a bit more about how we like to eat and drink, and Cavicchi explained a little sommelier’s trick for helping guide diners to wines that are in their price range without making them feel bad for not wanting to blow a hundo on a bottle. (The trick involves going down the wine list with your hand in the devil-horns position, with the index finger pointing out the vineyard while the pinkie shows the price. "Oh, you like that vineyard? Excellent choice, sir.") And then that was it, and I was back out into the heat and sunshine of lower Manhattan in early September, still tasting a symphony of flavors in my gob. 
So now we all know just how well beer in general and Sam Adams Boston Lager in particular can pair with all kinds of food. Of course, Sam Adams makes many different beers you can experiment with. My current seasonal favorite is Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale, the perfect beer to welcome the official start of fall on Saturday, September 22. Now go get a bunch of food and a bunch of beer and start tasting.