After much anticipation and Twitter buzz, The Philadelphia Cheese Experiment made its debut yesterday at the World Cafe Live during Philly Beer Week. Seventeen home chefs competed to win a slew of fabulous prizes, including a trip to Brooklyn to cook in the national competition. Their creations were savory and sweet, traditional and really quite random.
We didn't go to the Burger Brawl; we saved our appetites (and a lot of money) to support average joes who could not have been more pumped to share their creations with 350+ other average joes with one thing in common: a love for food. It's what brings families together every night and strangers together around the world (and in Philly!).
Hats off to Nick Suarez and Theo Peck of The Food Experiments for pulling off an amazing event. It really is just the two of them running the whole show across the country, and they couldn't be more down-to-earth, welcoming guys. (Read our pre-event interview with Theo here.) That's important in a grassroots event like this. The contestants and attendees were made to feel at home. No celebrities to schmooze, just a room full of cool people with whom you could share excitement for cheese/beer. Plus it was a a fundraiser for The Food Trust, an exceptionally worthy cause and proof that Nick and Theo are in this because of their passion for food.
Two of the more unique dishes included "Unconstitutional Ravioli" by the girls at Downtown Dwell, with quail egg, ricotta, provolone and broccoli rabe as the filling; and "S'morgasms" made with goat cheese filling and some other stuff dipped in dark chocolate. The former earned third place in the crowd vote.
Interestingly, neither we nor anyone we talked to, agreed with the judges' picks. The panel included Tony Luke, Emilio Mignucci an owner of DiBruno Bros., Mike Stollenwerk the owner of Fish, Little Fish and Fathom, and Maria Valetta from Philly.com. You can see their winners here. I really liked the pierogies, creatively named "The Notorious Pie.Ro.Gi," but wouldn't put it in the top three of a cheese competition. Maybe they all got fresher/better samples? Obviously they were looking at something different, because the crowd vote took a totally different direction. Regardless, having both makes it an honest competition that mixes professional opinions with what the masses really like.
Brooklyn Brewery, a major sponsor, took over the taps offering a nice selection of beers. The Summer Ale was our favorite as a very typical light refreshing beer. Also liked the Lager and the Brewmaster's Reserve. The latter had a really strong, fruity finish and was probably too heavy to drink more than one, but worth trying for your first round.
Below is a slideshow with lots more photos from the event. Enjoy!