High Steaks: 5th Annual Cheesesteak & Cocktail Challenge

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When Sansom Street shuts down outside of Square 1682 and the savory scent of ribeye fills the air, you know it’s time for a party in true Philly style. Square 1682 hosted their 5th Annual Cheesesteak and Cocktail Challenge on a sunny Sunday afternoon on October 12, 2014. Guests filled their bellies while feeding others, as the event benefitted Philabundance, Delaware Valley’s largest relief organization dedicated to fighting hunger by providing meals for those in need in Philadelphia.

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Host Square 1682’s unique rendition featured incredibly tender roasted venison, its flavor amplified by cipollini onions and a taleggio cheese sauce. (It turned out to be our favorite of the entire event!)

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Davio’s famous cheesesteak spring rolls–the light, crisp shell encasing tender shaved steak and a blend of Italian cheeses–were accompanied by spicy house-made ketchup and Sriracha dipping sauce.

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There was a kick to Rex 1516’s version, the brisket cheesesteak complemented by pimento cheese whiz and smoked onions.

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Devil’s Den reps, decked out in Philadelphia Eagles gear in honor of the Sunday night game, delivered a cheesesteak with meat as moist as pulled pork (and that fell apart just as easily).

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The pastrami-style brisket cheesesteak from Bainbridge Street Barrel House came on a soft bun with seared foie gras aioli, smoked cheddar whiz, and crispy shallots.

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Rouge didn’t just get creative with the innards of its cheesesteak (braised brisket, “walt wit” cheese sauce, pickled chilies, and crispy fried onions, if you were curious); the bun itself was a nicely-salted pretzel roll.

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I might start ladling provolone fondue onto everything I eat; Barren Hill made sure to put a generous amount of the luscious cheese on their cheesesteaks. An eclair-type pastry cradled beef short rib with bone marrow and caramelized onions.

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Another spicy cheesesteak contender came in the form of Red Owl Tavern’s shaved ribeye with long hots, sharp cheddar sauce, and caramelized onions.

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The bar talent included Mariko Honda of a.kitchen + bar, Bess Gulliver and Nicholas Brozek of Crow and the Pitcher, Colin O’Neill of Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co…

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…Lindsey Krueger of Oyster House, Dan Lan Hamm of 1 Tippling Place, and Kyle Darrow of Red Owl Tavern.

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Dan of 1 Tippling Place put the finishing touch on his cocktails.

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 The Perfect Pear-ing (see what he did there) contained Dewar’s White Label, allspice, caramelized onions, pear, and coffee beans.

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Local sponsors Victory Brewing Company and Manatawny Still Works also had sips for the crowd.

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Manatawny Still Works is 6 months into operations, producing high quality, handcrafted small-batch spirits.

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The Pottstown, PA-based company poured a particularly fruity apple cider-based concoction, a favorite among guests.

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 A live band entertained the festivalgoers, singing everything from The Killers to Justin Timberlake.

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While there were People’s Choice and Expert Judging picks, we were all winners (with full stomachs to boot) at the block party celebration. Cheers to five years, and looking forward to many more!

— Nicole Woon