By Cassie Hepler
It was red, packed and steamy at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown for Philly Cooks 2015 – and we’re not just talking about Cheu Noodle Bar‘s steam bun table whose line was a mile long. Tons of people turned out on Ash Wednesday from hipsters to media moguls to Philly’s fashionistas – some with smudges of ash crosses on their foreheads – to sample cuisine from chefs all over the city. Before the doors were even open, a long line wrapped around the hallway, waiting to check winter coats and flee into the sea of food. A sweat-inducing speakeasy setup featuring bartenders from Philadelphia’s top craft bars, including Olde Bar, Franky Bradley’s, and The Franklin (with a cocktail competition) rested in the center of the 4th floor ballroom as well as other water and booze stations – including a Southern-style section for Crown Royale tucked in the corner near the “Just Desserts” wall. The Stella Artois cidre was a nice, light and refreshing drink to tote around (and not spill while eating with the other hand).
It was almost impossible not to run into someone – quite literally – that you knew. Every which way you turned, there was someone eating, someone getting something to eat or someone trying to get to the next table. It was a feeding frenzy even sharks could relate to – one tall man in a nice suit with glasses and groomed beard literally pushed his way in the front of a line to get to an IndeBlue chicken leg. Literally running into Steven Yaeger, formerly GM of multiple Starr Restaurants, was a pleasant surprise who is offering his making-restaurants-fabulous services freelance nowadays.
A live band, East Coast Entertainment’s The Zone, kept everyone from the chefs to the patrons grooving and eating. An Infiniti luxury car exhibit to the left of the entrance makes you wonder just how do you go about putting cars on the 4th floor? A chef demonstration by Chef Luke Palladino of Palladino’s on Passyunk in the Infiniti Lounge took place around 7 p.m. while a photo booth was also available to preserve memories with a digital print-out and email or social media option.
The always outstanding Townsend with the suckling stuffed pig was to die for as well as the surprisingly tasteful pork and beans at The Fat Ham. Bufad‘s craft pizza is certainly worth a visit and IndeBlue is always spot-on (and worth the wait/mosh pit moment). John and Kira’s gourmet chocolates hit the sweet spot and one of our faves, Bredenbeck’s provided creamy bites of heaven in a chocolate shell.
At these taste-testing food events sprinkled throughout the year, they usually use small wooden dishes and plates to reduce the carbon footprint. There were a lot of styrofoam plates floating around and we’re not sure how it happened, but two burn blisters settled on two fingers… from hot soup maybe? Most of the chefs were hustling to feed the masses and in turn, a good handful of tasting tables were sold out by 7:45 p.m. (the event started at 6:30 p.m. with an end at 9 p.m.) which was unfortunate to not be able to get that foodie fix from 30 or more Philadelphia restaurants.
But rest assured because 10 percent of ticket sales were donated to their Beneficiary, AIM Institute for Learning and Research. The AIM Institute for Learning and Research is an international, multidisciplinary service delivery model designed to bring the latest research and educational training opportunities to parents, teachers and professionals who work with children who learn differently. To learn more about AIM, visit www.aimpa.org.
Enjoy the photo story below of some of our favorites of the night and feel free to share your experience as well in the comments!