Free Tickets To ThinkFest: Round Two

Philadelphia magazine’s ThinkFest is coming up this weekend, and in order to get you all in an innovative frame of mind, we’ve decided to give away another pair of tickets for Saturday’s big-brain hootenanny at the Rittenhouse Hotel.

Because we’ve got a large and distinguished group of food people taking part in this year’s discussion (Stephen Starr is the Friday night keynote speaker, after all), for round one of the contest, I asked for your best food and/or restaurant brainstorms–the Big Ideas that would re-shape Philly and move it boldly into the future at the forefront of the food world.

This time, though–in honor of the Foobooz Top 50 Bars list released yesterday and the various beer and liquor smarties taking part in ThinkFest–we’re going in the other direction. This time, I want your Big Booze Ideas…

The rules are simple:

  • All great ideas go in the comments section.
  • No, just calling for the liquidation of the PLCB does not count as a great idea.
  • No, just demanding more Irish/British/Jamaican/Champagne bars does not count as a great idea.
  • All great ideas must be submitted by noon on Thursday, November 29.
  • The winner will be announced at the end of the day Thursday and will receive two tickets to Saturday’s events.

Got it? Good. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out the Big Ideas submitted for part 1 of the contest. In many cases, simply replacing “Farm” with “Bar” and “Local cuisine” with “Yuengling and moonshine” makes for at least half of a genius idea already.

ThinkFest [Philadelphia magazine]

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  • Rob Burrough

    Convert a Beer Garden, or perhaps the Piazza at Schmidt’s, to an ice/luge shot heaven this winter. Create an Over 21 area outside, and set up an enormous ice block display with multiple carved out tracks to pour shots down to the crowd.

  • KevinP

    I’d like to see BYOs collaborate with wine enthusiasts to grow the local wine scene (and fill their tables). I suggest a communal ‘wine sharing’ table, perhaps with a wine theme – e.g. sparkling wine; grape variety; etc – and even price parameters if need be. With or without a paired menu I think that there would be considerable interest, benefiting the community and the restaurant.

  • DM

    Mini bars- Instead of waiting in long lines for your drink,present an ID at the check in counter; choose a fully stocked beer, champagne or mixed fridge, grab your key to your own self-service minibar and go hang out in the lounge with your friends and the DJ spininng.

  • Liz

    There are plenty of great bars/barrista’s in Philadelphia but not enough interesting outdoor spaces to enjoy a cocktail. We need someplace you can actually have a conversation with a view, listen to live/great music, be outside and comfortable and enjoy some great food. The waterfront is one of the most beautiful and underutilized areas of the city. If we had something casual yet upscale like La Marina in NYC that would open the city up to an entirely new experience. Why don’t we keep more of the beergardens and outdoor spaces open in winter for cocktails with firepits, ice bars, small pop up ice skating rings and warm, kahlua filled hot chocolate drinks. The cocktail experience needs a broader stage.

  • Jenny

    We have great home brewers in Philadelphia. It would be interesting and cool if restaurants could create partnerships with home brewers to create menu specific or season specific small batch beers and be able to sell them. It would be a smaller version of the collaborations already happening between breweries and restaurants.

  • SF

    With speakeasys, craft beer and craft cocktail bars saturating the market, it is time to get back to the good old WWII fixation- the South Pacific and bring back tiki bars.

    Another thought- introducing the farm to table movement to farm to bar. Other than your standard drinks, allowing your customers a pick of your farm fresh ingredients and they get to mix and match it with their base alcohol of choice with the bar tenders’ guidance.

  • Lucky

    I would love to see a citywide drink competition that highlights the ingenuity, terroir, and culture of Philly’s diverse neighborhoods. I strongly believe that our city’s food scene is exciting because of its history, its talent (whether homegrown or transplanted), and its soil (Southeastern Pennsylvania has the country’s most fertile non-irrigated farmland). I’m consistently amazed by the fine products of our city’s backyard gardens, community gardens, and urban farms, as well as the amount of pollinators abounding in them (the honey from the different ZIP codes by Urban Apiaries is a clear example of the varying “tastes” of neighborhoods).

    For such a competition, local mixologists would partner with growers or gardens in their neighborhoods and only use fresh ingredients harvested the day of the event. There could be categories for beer (like a freshly squeezed syrup for a Berlinerweisse or Morgan Pier’s watermelon rickey), wine (such as seasonal spins on sangrias or mimosas), and cocktails (maybe this would be broken down into subcategories). Winning drinks should express the creativity of the beverage industry professionals making the drinks and salute the hard work of the growers while ensuring that the “flavor” of the neighborhood shines through. Of course, there could also be a “wild card” for a drink utilizing foraged ingredients. I’d suggest the mixologists partner with an established foraging club and have a set amount of time to walk around the neighborhood to find ingredients.

    Many neighborhoods feature a diversity of cultural cuisines and bar scenes that would likely submit a variety of entries, so perhaps the competition (shall we call it “Fresh Drinks [Insert Neighborhood Name Here]?) should play out in a manner similar to Night Market in which different neighborhoods host the event and have tents highlighting their hyper-locally produced drinks with representatives from the growers present as well. Some large urban farms or parks with community gardens (or pop-up sites on vacant lots) that are large enough would host the events, making them more like garden parties than street fairs (thus differentiating them from Night Markets). Winning drinks would be featured at bars throughout the season and proceeds from the event competition would go towards the source of the ingredients for the winning drinks (provided they’re operating as nonprofit urban farms, gardens, or foraging clubs).

  • Gregg

    How about a few events that are “Drinking with the Stars”. Somewhat like dancing with the stars. With use of Augmented Reality you can drink with famous people. Every glass got a special unique ‘code’ which you can scan with an App. When you do this, you’ll see a star showing up who’s drinking a draught beer with you and your friends. You can easily make a picture and share this through social media with your friends. Besides celebrities you can upload your own pictures so when you have to miss an evening you can still be there with your friends.

    Frozen beer foam, which is a new innovation from Japan. The foam is essentially made from the fluffy head of beer flash chilled, then dispensed on top of your pint like soft serve ice cream.It works like a frozen lid that keeps your beer cold while you drink. Plus, you can eat the foam when you are done with your beer like a bonus little icy beer dessert. No more worries about beer-to-foam ratios.

  • Alexander Kacala

    Southern food is in now with places like Fette Sau and Federal Doughnuts popping every other day in Philadelphia. What about Southern style daiquiris opening? No, I am not expecting us to have drive thru’s like they do down South which only promotes drunk driving. I envision indoor and outdoor seating with 20 plus taps of slushie concoctions that take craft cocktails to the icy level. Made with top shelf and respected brands, there is an endless array to be explored. I’m thinking house made flavor infused vodkas instead of the shit Pinnacle sells. In the daiquiri garden, I imagine an old car or two, maybe bumper so we have that real feeling of Southern D and D but still keeping it Philly safe. PYT has the adult milkshake, now it’s time for the adult slushie.

  • Alex

    First, I mean ABSOLUTELY NO DISRESPECT with this post to anyone – it’s simply factual. I love Philly – to visit and to live here. No one has more grit and “bounce” (bounce back from setbacks – personal, political, financial, national, natural disaster, etc. – no city can regroup and keep on swinging like Philly. New York has 50x the resources and tourist love – phillies do it on their own, and I have nothing but mad love for that). But, like the food industry, we can’t grow if we can’t face some facts and address real issues here, and start growing.

    Love all of the creative ideas – but how about we institute something bigger and more structural? Let’s do a real conference on the state of the food industry. The mass produced part of it (where 80% of the food supply comes from), and the specialty production part (individual/ peer-to-peer production, like independent or small chain restaurants/ bakeries, etc.). We’ll have part of it open to the public, and part of it open only to the industry, so there’s open discussion and no fear of reprisal. Regulators would be invited in both unofficial and official capacity, so people can get to know what’s going on inside the FDA and USDA – what regs are coming up? What does it mean in terms of health and safety? Cost? Government support? Liability? Our food supply should not be a mystery, and its current status is – it’s pretty ridiculous. I’m in it, and from facility inspection to innovation, it’s a mess. Philly is a fantastic place for it because everything is here: St. John’s could host, in conjunction with another university or company base, as St. John’s is home to the only grad program in food marketing in the country. A rich supply of large and medium (and small) food manufacturing and distribution companies are based in this area – everything from Campbell’s,J & J snack foods, Pinnacle, Amoroso, Hershey’s, the US base of Bimbo’s and Tastykake (sorry, Hostess) manufacture here. Retail bases include Acme, Genuardis, ShopRite/ Brown’s – even WaWa and Harris Teeter (which isn’t far south and is moving north).

    Topics could include things like recent GMO labeling legislation in California – what is the state of real industry positioning on that? Agribusiness certainly has a large stake, but retailers and other manufacturers have a different position, but may not have time, money, or aggregated resources to really discuss their positions. It failed in CA because of “high cost of implementation.” Really? Many manufacturers and retailers either require or would like to require GMO labeling from suppliers – should this be a panel discussion?

    Also, what about rural insurance and things like Ben Franklin and quasi-governmental funding? Currently, there is a subsidy plan that permits farmers to get repayment for failed crops, and there is some history of farmers being encouraged to plant inappropriate crops to collect on the insurance. However, there are also great organizations like Ben Franklin who supply funding and resources from education to manufacturing capability for companies who create jobs within their requirements. Let’ get these government hits and misses out in the open, and widen the doors and close the gaps.

    Next, continuing education for manufacturers and other members of the supply chain. Did you know that your hairstylist has a higher continuing education requirement than anyone in the food manufacturing chain? Once you’re approved, there’s just a series of regular inspections (which range from thorough to “really? toxic mold is a problem? I had no idea.” Sadly, I’m not kidding.), vary between localities, counties and states, and have little to no enforcement. Is anyone else scared about this? Especially when we get so much sourcing from countries with even less supervision, or from manufacturers permitted to do cottage manufacturing (in home) or have no training in microcontaminants, environmental protection or preventing cross and initial contamination/

    Shipping: did anyone know that no fewer than SIX rail and distribution companies based in Philly have gone out of business in the last 15 years? Philly is ideally suited to be the nexus of the east coast and entry to the midwest (through Pittsburgh), and clearly used to be. Shipping of goods has consolidated into 2 main national companies who use trucking almost exclusively, and a number of small regional companies who also use trucks for delivery. Single-driver trucking is antiquated and is the single greatest cause of emission pollution and road accidents annually. (More fatal accidents in the US – the cross bars (beneath the lift gate in back of the truck) in Canadian trucks are at least 2x as strong as US trucks, making accidents where car drivers who rear-end trucks at least twice as likely to be fatal in the US – those bars prevent cars from skidding forward on impact past the crumple zone. Strong bar = crushed car. Weak bar = less crushed bar, crushed passenger compartment and headless passengers. See? Fatal.) There are much better ways to transport goods, and we need to investigate them.

    The list is endless. You can get some amazing speakers, who would jump at the chance to talk to people about how to innovate in an industry perceived as old and stale – when it’s really an industry ripe for revitalization. The money (investors) are concentrated in the midwest and west coast – a large event would pull them in and provide opportunities for companies starting here or in the region. There could be start-up and growth seminars, M&A discussions (that’s what large food companies are, after all – just big conglomerations of brands), exporting and importing do’s and don’ts. Legal issues (I was a lawyer in a former life – this is unfortunately really useful), accounting issues, packaging issues – open a shop? Wholesale? Foodservice? Retail? How many grocery stores does it take to turn a profit? Where are the high profit zones in big box stores, and where are they in specialty stores? Is private labeling worth it? Should I sell equity? When, and how much? Is convertible debt a better option – and how the hell do I value a pre-money, pre-revenue company?

    People could bring in samples, and there could be a consumer-led “best-of” competition with a series of prizes, and consumer-based information generation sessions for individual companies, for the industry, and for personal education. The information can be accrued anonymously, and circulated appropriately to generate a post-meeting report and comment period – and company/ regulator information could be disseminated this way, as well.

    Also, there could be private, local break-out sessions, so local/ regional/ whatever with enough interest can meet and talk about some predetermined issue(s) and have a moderated discussion of potential resolution. For example, Philly is home to some great universities, but suffers from the worst “new grad brain drain” of any major metro area (people come here for school, then leave for jobs/ lives elsewhere). That leaves a city that has great resources but functions essentially like a land-grant college town (where I personally went. I-L-L-I-N-I!): a majority of residents are employees of the school or blue collar workers, which limits economic mobility and diversity, and stops people with the most disposible income from staying and developing new areas of town. Before anyone gets huffy about that, these grads create new enterprises and entice businesses hungry for skilled workers. Tax incentives aren’t enough – cities have to have the perqs of a high volume educated, well paid family population. If the families of executives don’t want to live here, and they don’t want to bring the kids here – businesses won’t move here. Period. And that’s cash out of Philly’s pocket. What can be done to keep grads here, and build companies and jobs? Can the city counsel’s “home rule” finally be brought under the microscope?

    I’m avoiding a major topic here – the five-letter “L” word (Labor) – which is a major issue in Philly, but I’m afraid I’ll get flamed so badly I will actually catch fire. The point is, local officials, local businesses, locals, and people considering (or no longer considering) Philly or the region as a home base can freely air their reasoning, so it can be addressed.

    It’s a networking mecca and a 2-3 day event, so restaurants, cabs, hotels, the convention center (possibly – another big issue) all benefit. And everything, from the food, to admission, to parking, to bags to carry all the loot home – is taxed. And that’s some cash we could use around here.

    Just a thought, and to all those attending ThinkFest – think on!

    Also, system is antiquated

  • Rob

    Sorry, 4 hours too late, but thought I would just throw one out there. I know Vetri is big on this. It would be great to see Philly’s chefs come together to rescue the meal programs in the Philadelphia school system. Develop menus that would deliver to students healthy, good tasting meals that come in around 2.00 bucks per student. Which is about what is currently being allocated per student. As the 7th largest school system in the United States it would be a daunting task, but an utterly worthwhile cause. While not saving the system itself, it is one big step to making a better Philadelphia.

  • Naren

    Find a large indoor space – possibly rehab a warehouse, with good parking – to serve as a communal BYO (beer and wine only) drinking and socializing space, with picnic tables. Charge a flat entry fee (about $10) for everyone but designated drivers.