Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

DeBella's Comfort Food Fest: Home-field advantage

A pulled-pork sandwich is the winner.

DeBella's Comfort Food Fest: Home-field advantage

Chef Justin Weathers with the Golden Spoon and fiancee Laura Hopwood.
Chef Justin Weathers with the Golden Spoon and fiancee Laura Hopwood.

Bacon-infused cotton candy? How about a grilled cheese sandwich wrapped in bacon?

Chefs tap their inner glutton at the annual John DeBella's Comfort Food Fest -- making dishes that won't usually appear on their menus -- and Wednesday's event did not disappoint.

For years one through three, the chef from host venue, Northern Liberties' Cescaphe Ballroom, came up empty in the win department.

But fourth time was the charm for chef Justin Weathers, and his pulled-pork sliders impressed the several hundred WMGK listeners and the judges (NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn, food writer Beth D'Addono, and I). He won the coveted Golden Spoon.

The secret to Weathers' juicy sliders, which he topped with provolone sauce and broccoli rabe slaw, were the soft-pretzel rolls he had scored from Hudson Bakery.

Other hits: Cuba Libre chef Jasper Alivia's hearty bowl of ramen noodles topped with braised pork and soy vinagrette; Harvest chef Dave Walti's rich, locavore-friendly bison meatloaf with Kennett Square wild mushroom sauce; and Verdad chef/owner Nick Farina's vertical BLTD (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and duck), which he topped with a nest of bacon-infused cotton candy (actually quite interesting) and served with a margarita.

My favorite was made by Michael Inferrera, chef at Mia at Caesars in Atlantic City. He prepared scallop-size grilled cheese sandwiches, wrapped them in speck ham, and served them with a mini cup of heirloom-tomato soup for dunking. Inferrera says he got the idea from his fiancee, Heather Higman. Inferrera used Hudson's brioche, filled them with a mixture of Brie, black truffles, herbs, and cream. He wraps the speck around 'em, and they hit the frying pan.

I saw a few chefs gaze over at Inferrera's station, so when they turn up on catering menus as an hors d'oeuvre, you'll know where they came from.

Michael Klein Philly.com
About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here. Reach Michael at mklein@philly.com.

Michael Klein Philly.com
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