Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
On Tuesday night, some of the best chefs in the country gathered together in the Urban Outfitters Corporate Campus to do what they could to help Marc Vetri raise as much money as possible for the Vetri Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand. And what they could do was cook some amazing food for the attendees crowding the beautiful space at URBN.
With the caliber of chef cooking for the event, it’s hard to pick out specific dishes that stood out above the others, because it seemed that each time my wife and I took a bite, we were rolling our eyes and mentioning how delicious the dish was. Luckily, though, there was one offering that rose above the rest (and that we paid homage to by going back for thirds): Rocco Whalen’s braised pork cheek atop pinenut hummus and arugula pesto. The cheek was downright succulent, and the pesto cut through the fattiness perfectly.
And while I could go on and on about the dishes, a few other notables should be mentioned: Mike Solomonov’s sweetbread schnitzel was magical, and the depth of flavor in Timon Balloo’s stewed oxtail with pickled corn and garbanzo bean succotash was next-level. Jonathon Sawyer’s cultured scallops with koji and cherry were light and refreshing, and Michael Symon’s uber-creamy polenta with ramps and morels was worth going back for seconds. Matty Matheson’s grilled duck heart escabeche may now be the best duck heart I’ve ever had (sorry Zahav), and the seven-spice briskey ssam with peas and ssam sauce wrapped in bibb lettuce from Matt Rudofker was a perfectly delicious little wrap.
There were also top-notch beverage personalities in attendance, especially on the beer front. Brooklyn Brewery brought bottles of an experimental golden ale fermented with cider yeast and then bottle conditioned with champagne yeast that was probably the best beer of the night, and the likes of Deschutes, Dogfish Head and Captain Lawrence also brought out some of their best (as did Tom Peters of Monk’s Café, who once again brought cases of Russian River Damnation and Supplication). The amount of wine and cocktails—admittedly not my specialty—was enough to make your head spin (and keep you nice and toasty for the entire event).
When the doors closed on the event, we moved down the street to the afterparty – this year held at Lo Spiedo, which afforded infinitely more room than Alla Spina did previously. Under a large white tent, Questlove DJ’d a pretty active dance party while Phoebe Esmon and Christian Gaal whipped up their usual wonderfully inventive cocktails. There was also plenty of wine, beer, prosecco, and cocktails to go around, all in addition to more amazing BBQ from wunderkind Adam Perry Lang, roast pork from Tony Luke’s, steaks from Jim’s, and ice cream from Little Baby’s. But in the center of the action was the limitless 250-pound mortadella, cut into slices, chunks, and sandwiches for all-night snacking. And, of course, all the snacking didn’t even make a dent in it. Look for mortadella specials at all of Vetri’s places for the next month.
The event, while pricey, should not be missed. Even if you can only rationalize going once, do it. The collection of food available to everyone borders on the absurd, and the afterparty is extremely fun—where else are you going to see Food Network personalities Alex Guarnaschelli and Marc Murphy dancing together while Questlove spins? Plus, it’s all for charity, so you can feel extremely good about yourself—once you stop feeling poorly from your hangover.
To get a glimpse at some of the money the event raised, you can see the silent auction items and their winning bids here. Be sure to visit the Great Chefs website. Even if you didn’t go, you can still help by donating to Alex’s Lemonade Stand or the Vetri Foundation.