A whole case of top Chicago sommeliers gathered last night at Spiaggia to compete in public, remember the late Spiaggia somm Henry Bishop, and raise money for cancer research. With Alpana Singh and Spiaggia's Jason Carlen hosting, ten of Chicago's best paired off in biodynamic duos to offer their wine selection for each of Sarah Grueneberg's five courses, following a theme of Old World vs. New World in their selections; guests then cast a vote for the winner of each round (using red or clear glass beads). Our man Huge Galdones was on the scene; here's his photographic report.
Welcome to the Sommelier Smackdown.
Chicago sommeliers geeking out on a very large book entitled "Wine Grapes."
Dan Pilkey (Waldorf Astoria) reminds guests of the reason for the event— to benefit cancer research and celebrate the late Henry Bishop.
Is it special guest Santo? Good guess, but it's Tona Palomino (Trenchermen) and co-host Alpana Singh.
Sarah Grueneberg on the line finishing the first course.
First course: raw Nantucket Bay scallops with celery root puree and citrus.
Co-emcee and Master Somm Alpana Singh.
Sommelier at Spiaggia, co-emcee and organizer Jason Carlen.
Second course: Spiaggia's signature hand rolled gnocchi with porcini mushrooms, aged pecorino and nepitella.
Somms were encouraged to bring weapons. Jeremy Quinn (Telegraph) brought a pasta maker while Shebnem Ince (The Gage/Henri) packed the heat with a hunting knife.
Jean Tomaro (Gilt Group) versus Aaron Sherman (Girl & The Goat).
Aaron Sherman (Girl & The Goat) tries to convince the audience that his Gewurtztraminer pairing works better than Jean Tomaro's Old World St. Aubin.
Third course: Acquerello risotto with Maine lobster, La Quercia guanciale, Cociocavallo Silano DOP and Mieli Thune dandelion honey.
Rachael Lowe tries to talk some sense into Dan Pilkey.
Fourth course: Wood-roasted Axis vension sausage-wrapped loin with chestnuts, duck liver, cranberries and Barolo Chinato.
Jason Wagner (RM Champagne Salon) takes it to next level turning the Smackdown into a roast of the night's emcees.
Dan Pilkey, Alpana Singh, Chad Ellegood, Aaron Sherman, Jeremy Quinn, Arthur Hon, Chef Meredith Patterson, Chef Chris Marchino, Jean Tomaro, Jason Wagner, Chef Sarah Grueneberg, Jason Carlen, Rachael Lowe, Charles Blackstone, Tona Palomino and Shebnem Ince.
Sarah addresses the crowd post-service.
The victors enjoying the Champagne of beers: Dan Pilkey (Waldorf Astoria), Jean Tomaro (Gilt Group), Jeremy Quinn (Telegraph), Arthur Hon (Sepia) and Chad Ellegood (NoMI Kitchen).
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