HughE Dillon: Ommegang Hop Chef

Philly's hottest chefs mix beer and food in competition.

At Tuesday’s Ommegang Hop Chef Competition at the World Cafe, where chefs had to create two dishes showcasing their skill in bringing beer and food together, chef Joe Cicala from Virtu paired witte-braised “Testina”-filled ravioli, crushed pistachios and Pecorino cheese to create his dish. For a second dish, he created a flourless cherry chocolate cake with coco cream and Three Philosophers ale.

Below: WMMR’s Marisa Magnatta introduced six eager Philadelphia chefs: Nick Elmi (Rittenhouse Tavern), Joe Cicala (Le Virtu), George Sabatino (Stateside), Scott Schroeder (South Philly Taproom), Jon Cichon (Lacroix Restaurant), and Jason Cichonski (Ela) to the nearly 250 eager eaters.

Below: Scott Schroeder of the South Philly Taproom intensely explains his bluefin tuna crudo dish to the judges. Judges were Arthur Etchells of Foobooz, Mat Falco of Philly Beer Scene magazine, Top Chef contestant Jen Carroll, Drew Lazor, food writer, and Emilio Mignucci of Di Bruno Bros. The chefs were judged on five criteria: simple pairing, incorporation (of beer), mimicking (matching the flavor profile of a dish with the flavor profile of a beer), storytelling, experimental (finding a way to make the beer the main star of a dish). I saw the paperwork the judges had to fill out—not an easy task especially after a few beer-infused dishes.

Below: Nicole Rossi, Jacklin Rhoads, Justin Pizzi, Erica Knewasser and Madison Alpern enjoy Jason Cichonski’s diver scallops, corn, and chanterelle mushrooms dish, which was paired with Ommegang Hennepin.

Below: Graphic designers at Philadelphia Museum of Art, friends Lindsey Crissman and Barbara Metzger enjoyed everything about the evening. They especially enjoyed the pairings of Scott Schroeder and Nick Elmi and their desserts. Lindsey tells me she’s a big fan of all things Brewery Ommegang and is getting married to her fiance Eric at the Brewery Ommegang pavilion in September.

Below: Speaking of marriages, congratulations to Statestide’s George Sabatino and Jennifer Conley, who just got engaged last Monday. George tells me that the duo was at a chef tasting at Eleven Madison Park in NYC. When they got to the last dish, the waiter lifted the top to expose several layers of tissues covering the ring box. At first, Jennifer thought it was interesting that the dessert looked just like tissue, but then George said to pay close attention. It was then that she noticed the ring box, which contained the custom-made ring that George designed. He explained that Jennifer didn’t like diamonds so the stone was blue as that’s her favorite color, with nine smaller stones for the nine goddesses of the arts. George said, “It’s unconventional but beautiful and one of a kind just like her.” No date was set for the wedding, but George can be found in the kitchen, and Jennifer can be found behind the bar most nights at the 1536 East Passyunk Ave. eatery.

Below: Jon Cichon, of Lacroix, whipped up a watermelon and blue crab dish with jalapeno, pickled rind, and melon compressed with pale ale and lime with a crispy shallot. For his second dish, he created a cherry beignet, replacing the water portion with Three Philosophers beer.

Below: Delicious food and a hot-looking staff! The Ela team—Alex Cicchitti, Chef Jason Cichonski, Nicole Cicchitti and Alexis Sophia—was on its toes all night making sure the masses were fed. Things weren’t as smooth for the talented chef the last few days. Last week, he was hospitalized after an accident in the kitchen left him with eight staples in his head. Then over the weekend he tweeted a photo of himself handcuffed to a bench inside a police station. Let’s just say he didn’t listen to the doctor’s advice when he was told “don’t get the staples wet.” That’s all behind him now, and he’s looking forward to seeing you in his restaurant.

Below: The judges chose chef Nick Elmi from the Rittenhouse Tavern as first runner-up, for his hamachi crudo with Santa Barbara sea urchin with wheat-grass citrus and celery, paired with the Ommegang Witte. He says that when choosing great food that goes with beer, it’s usually fried or has a high fat content, so he went with the sea urchin, which has a high fat count.

Below: Kristine Lynch, Tom Lynch and Patty Lynch enjoyed Nick Elmi’s second course, which was a cheese-and-cherry pie paired with the Three Philosophers.

Below: The winner of the Philadelphia Ommegang Hop Chef Competition was George Sabatino (center), Stateside, for his short ribs paired with Ommegang Abbey Ale, and his Three Philosophers head-to-tail-cherries cake. Congratulating him are, left to right, Nick Elmi, Joe Cicala, Scott Schroeder (who won crowd favorite), with Jon Cichon and Jason Cichonski looking on.

Below: The winning short ribs dish by George Sabatino. Sabatino will be serving the dish at Stateside for lunch and happy hour (5 to 7 p.m.) today (July 12th) and Friday (July 13th).