Chestnut Hill to host Hill on Ice two-day festival

by April Lisante
Posted 1/27/21

This weekend, the Hill will come alive with the return of the Chestnut Hill on Ice two-day festival featuring food, firepits and fraternity.

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Chestnut Hill to host Hill on Ice two-day festival

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This weekend, the Hill will come alive with the return of the Chestnut Hill on Ice two-day festival featuring food, firepits and fraternity.

There are so many reasons to be excited about the festival, not the least of which is that it serves as a harbinger, hopefully, of better days to come. It will be the first major outdoor event on the Hill in months, and restaurants and shops are geared up for the festivities, hoping it will be a sign of rejuvenation, recuperation, and a kickoff to perhaps what will be our new normal.

Restaurateurs agree that the event will bring a sense of excitement and hope to the Avenue.

“We are so excited!” said Anne McNally, owner of the historic McNally’s Tavern on Germantown Ave. McNally and her family spent the better part of the last several months creating a heated outdoor resto-tent to survive the pandemic. Having festivalgoers return to the Hill this weekend is long overdue, McNally said.

“I think it will be huge because it’s an outdoor event. People are excited to get outside.”

The event, which is now in its third year, will kick off Friday the 29th at 5 p.m. with ice sculpture displays, a firepit celebration, roaming cocktails and perhaps the highlight: a celebration of chili, with bowls of the savory winter meal available in many variations from restaurants up and down the Avenue.

The festival will run from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and again from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday between Rex and Willow Groves Avenues, marking two days of walking revelry. Restaurants have been giving a lot of thought to making the event wintry and cozy.

“I think it will be great for people to get out on the Avenue and hopefully it will bring traffic to the stores, and give people something to look forward to doing,” said Chestnut Hill Brewing Company Taproom owner Lindsey Pete.

Local ice artist Peter Slavin will be carving ice art at Laurel Hill Gardens, and there will be a walking map tour to view his sculptures, which will include ice furniture and even an ice sculpture to surround a firepit at the Top of the Hill. There will be warming stations along the way as you walk. Kids can also enjoy a 960-square-foot “iceless rink” where they can glide around for $10 a person. Nearby, at the Market at the Fareway, there will be an ice bar carved entirely out of ice, where you can saddle up for a brew or a glass of wine.

Festivalgoers can enjoy icy beer mugs as well as winter cocktails, like the rum apple cider or the salted caramel hot chocolate from the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company Taproom.

If you have a hankering for chili, this is the time to enjoy it in all its forms. Vegan chili from the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company Taproom, turkey chili from McNally’s and Cosimo’s, beef chili from El Poquito, and a bean chili, which will be offered by the new All the Way Live Café.

Mimi’s Café, the new resto headed by chef Carl Drake, will feature Drake’s kickin’ chili, which took home the gold in the Chestnut Hill Rotary Club contest a few years ago.

“My chili is made with love,” Drake said. “There are some secret ingredients that I can’t reveal, but it is one of our most popular dishes at Mimi’s. It is not too hot, but you can always add siracha and feel the burn!”

McNally’s turkey chili is a menu staple at the historic tavern atop the Hill. They make the chili with the same fresh roasted turkey they use to make their famous The Dickens turkey sandwiches. McNally’s is running a festival special, pairing a quart of turkey chili with a Baker Street baguette for $20.

“We have a lot of customers that rave about this turkey chili,” McNally said.

Just a couple doors away from McNally’s, Cosimo’s Pizza Café will feature a turkey chili of its own, made with ground turkey meat fresh from the butcher. Owner Enzo Mandarano hopes the event will kick start the New Year for the Hill.

“Anything to help with the pandemic. We are very excited,” Mandarano said. “Let’s hope this will be the beginning of somewhat normal.”

At All the Way Live Café, which has served up the Hill’s raw vegan cuisine for a little over a year now, will be featuring a three-bean chili, homemade by mother and daughter owners Beverly Medley and Nyeisha Cabiness.

“It is so wonderful how things are opening up for the restaurant community to prosper,” said Medley. “It really makes us feel good to be a part of this beautiful event.”

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