Having survived a Saturday where New York City was overrun by drunken Santas, it seemed only fitting that a rainy Sunday wouldn’t stop folks from turning out in droves to the Food Experiments National Championship at the Brooklyn Brewery.

Over the past year, Food Experiments co-hosts Theo Peck and Nick Suarez have traveled the U.S. (and Sweden too, the #2 market for Brooklyn beer) hosting 14 amateur cooking competitions to find “the most creative, precise and, at times, crazy amateur chefs.” Each Food Experiment cook-off has a special theme, ranging from Beer Food to Chinese Takeout (you can see a complete list here).

The only rule of the day was to create the perfect bite with the ultimate goal of culinary glory. The judges included Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit; Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur; Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery; and Noah Bernamoff of Mile End Deli. In addition to the excellent dishes, the Brooklyn beer kept flowing, including the highly coveted and hard to find Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, and new Brewmaster’s Reserve favorite, There Will Be Black.

The audience got to vote for the winner too. When all was said and done, two winners emerged: Audience favorite Jawns 3-D (from Philadelphia) for their pulled pork parmesan bowl and judge’s favorite, Brooklyn’s own Chef Charles, for his jewel-encrusted shrimp. Here are our five favorite dishes from last night:

  1. Jewel-Encrusted Shrimp: Competition winner Chef Charles of One World Kitchen created this first place dish of shrimp crusted in pistachios, cashews, wasabi peas, fresh herbs, panko and chili in a beer-kaffir lime and lemongrass curry. A lot going on, but it worked to perfection.
  2. Smoked Pork Dumplings: The Pork Dorks from Pittsburgh used Brooklyn Winter Ale in the dumpling itself as well as in the pork marinade. The Dorks won The Food Experiments’ prize for “best experimentation.”
  3. Pulled Pork Parmesan Bowl: Heavy hitters from Philly, Jawns 3-D, had a massive line all day for their Parmesan bowl filled with cheesy grits, topped with pulled pork, chicharron and sambal sauce. They also had a sweet poster depicting Jaws (you know, the shark) as a pig.
  4. Bacon, Habanero and Jalapeño Ice Cream: Appropriately titled “You’re Bacon Me Sweat,” the ice cream was served on a toasted corn flower macaroon and struck a perfect balance of sweet and heat.
  5. Brooklyn Lager Egg Nog: I’m not usually a fan of egg nog, but Dutch Lovin’s spin on the festive Christmas beverage was fantastic. Made with Brooklyn Lager and topped with bacon candied in Brooklyn, Winter Lager, it gets major points for creative use of beer.

Our bonus Brooklyn beer for the night was Winter is Coming, a delicious lightly smoked oatmeal stout. It’s a brewery-only release, part of the Worshipful Company of Brewers series guest-brewed by Tom Price. It’s a perfect compliment to a Game of Thrones feast!

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