NYChilifest 2012: The Many Mugs of Chili

By: Roberto Ferdman
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After trying countless spoonfuls of chili, the subtleties can really start to evade your palate. Notes of nutmeg and tamarind, at first fresh and fragrant, are soon lost amidst the whirlwind of flavors; hints of coffee and chocolate no longer round off each bite, but instead take refuge behind the lingering heat of poblanos and other hot peppers of the like. Appreciating the nuances of chili can prove a pretty tricky task, but wrapping one's palate around the subtle differences between competing bowls of the hearty stew, eaten one after another? Nearly impossible. Unless, that is, the entries are as varied as they were at this past weekend's chili showdown in New York City.

Held in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, NYChilifest 2012 featured an eclectic list of competitors, including fine-dining establishments like Gramercy Tavern, younger, trendier spots like Roberta's and even popular Mexican destinations Tacombi and La Palapa. No less eclectic were the competing chilis, which ranged from straightforward ground beef and bean-stocked vats, to short rib-studded, spicy green varieties. We rounded up some of our favorite spoonfuls, as well as a few sights and sounds from Sunday's chili cook-off.

Gramercy Tavern's chili came brimming with fall-apart tender beef and served with homemade corn chips and pimento cheese.

Beer Table's chili, on the other hand, came served with classic corn chips. Fittingly, it also retained notes of the beer added to the simmering vat.

Cookshop's chili may not have placed in the top two, but murmurs of approval circled around the market as patrons expressed their appreciation for its dark color and bean- and meat-rich consistency.

One of the few hometown restaurants local to Chelsea Market, Friedman's Lunch fielded long lines all evening. Their straightforward ground beef-speckled chili was a hit.

Popular Bushwick restaurant Roberta's served a spicy green chili, speckled with spicy seeds and overflowing with generous amounts of tender beef.

East Village Mexican mainstay La Palapa didn't place in last year's chili fest. This year, their entry took first place. Rich and flavorful, La Palapa's chili had just the right kick to round off each mouthful.

Even with appetites waning and lips stinging from one spicy mouthful after another, everyone still walked around looking for those last spoonfuls of chili. When a market-full of hungry stomachs meets some of New York City's best chili, though, there simply isn't enough for everyone to have fourths.

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