Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I Am Da Chili Man

A couple weekends ago, a caravan of six family members including myself braved freezing temperatures and snow-covered walks to attend the second annual Depot Town Chili Tasting Challenge in Ypsilanti. Ten businesses, mostly bar and restaurant types, put their best beans, cheese and chili sauce recipes on the line for charity.

We picked up judging ballots along with the requisite spoons, napkins and empty plastic tasting vessels at the Corner Brewery. After samping their chili—one pot featured venison—we marched onward, visiting each of the ten local merchants clustered about the commercial district.

I think I ranked the venison chili a seven out of ten. Most venues offered two chili types, one vegetarian. At a bakery we visited there was a rowdy crowd of cheerleaders keeping tabs on which chili would-be tasters picked to try (they had two, one being vegan chili).

“I’ll try the one that’s NOT vegan,” I said, drawing boos and catcalls from on-lookers behind the counter. As one smiling chef spooned me a sample from his pot, another gentleman made the “Loser” sign for me, pressing his thumb and extended index finger to his forehead.

But I got a bonus: my chili came with a mini-corn muffin and a dainty cupcake with a colorful swirl of frosting on top. I noticed several competitors offering extras from shots of beer to free wetnaps. It was like a chili primary--anything for a vote.

By the way, my nephew Bill behind me did choose the vegi chili at the bakery, which drew nearly as many boos and guffaws, some claiming he chose opposite of me to avoid the loser label. And Bill didn’t get the bonus corn muffin or mini-pastry, which somehow I got blamed for. I guess my careless dismissal of the vegan chili had put the local server out of synch when he served up my nephew’s chili.

I split my favorite vote, giving perfect tens to both Sidetrack’s Cheeseburger Chili, which was last year’s champion, and Cady’s Restaurant’s Aunt Barb’s White Bean Turkey Chili, which drew the ire of my sister-in-law Denise. “If it wins, I’ll never come back,” she complained, feeling that Aunt Barb’s was really a customized brand of Campbell’s soup.

What makes chili anyway? It’s true that many chilis we sampled seemed more stew or soup than chili. I’d be interested in opinions here, particularly from any Texans since Texas cuisine seems synonymous with chili in my book.

Anyway, among the 20 or so chilis competing, Aunt Barb’s took first place and Sidetrack’s second. Wow, my picks both! My sister-in-law should have new respect for my culinary expertise now. I can say it . . . I am da chili man.

[I've had difficulty keeping up with my blogging this week because our Verizon has been acting up again. First the phones went out, then my Verizon DSL, then the phones came back on, but not my DSL, then the phones went out again. I strongly suspect that robot I wrote about in my "You, Robot" blog a couple weeks ago had been surfing the net, came across my blog and didn't like it. So he's been pulling this switch, pushing that button, and messing with our communications. So I have a new pronouncement that I hope will help here: robots are your friend.]


Blogger jan said...

It's a very good idea to suck up to robots that can mess with your communications.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

chilis, yum!
I'm just having trouble keeping up this week Dave

8:02 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, being a navite Texan, I can say that chile should not be the consistency of soup. Real chile, has a meaty girth and more the consistency of stew. I love chile but not "hot" chile. It sounds like you and your family had a great time.

Hi Dave's dad! I hope you are feeling better.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

I'm not real big on Chili, but I like it. Hubby loves good Chili and settles for "Two Alarm Chili" which is made from a bunch of little packets and coarsely ground or cut beef. I guess Texans don't really want any beans in their Chili, but I stick some in for variety. The best parts are the onions and cheddar on top. I'm glad you picked the winners---what do sisters-in-law know, anyway?

2:04 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

To my way of thinking, chili should have meat, but no beans. So how do they make a vegan chili, tomatoes and turnips?

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

Dave, when it comes to chili here in Texas, thick is best. Having grown up here and trotted across most of the state, different areas have different variations. For example (though I've never eaten it nor never will) there is rattlesnake chili here in some parts of the Hill Country.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Still Shovelin' in B.C. said...

I have been in my share of chili cook-offs. I took second place in my first cook-off, third place the second year. This past year, I thought my chili was perfect, what do you know... came in second to last.

FYI...White chili should never be allowed in a true chili cook-off.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

HOSS--Vegi chilis can have just about anything non-meat in them so far that I could see. I remember sweet potatoes in one, tofu in another.

STILL SHOVELIN'--Oh, my sister-in-law says she was going to check comments here, waiting to see if somebody was going to say that white chili wasn't true chili. She'll like your comment.

So your chili finished second to last this year, eh. Isn't that a familiar position for you though, I mean with fantasy football and all? ;)

12:12 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

We have a Charity Chili cook out coming up in a few weeks. Reading your post has raised my enthusiasm.

Verison is having trouble out our way, too. We cannot get our voice mail messages. It is so widespread that the morning paper carried an article about the "bug". I thought they might mention some guy named Dave that ticked off the robot, but since they didn't, I am assuming they haven't read your blog. I won't spill the beans. . . guess that brings me back to Chili cook-out.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Hi again, Dave, Thought I'd pop back in to say we had lunch after church at Skyline Chili today. It is supposed to be Cincinnati's wonderful version of Chili Mac. Yuck! It was watery and awful. I think I'd rather go to a cook-off and check out a few than to be stuck with the one I didn't eat today!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traverse City held their annual chili cook-off a few weeks ago. They separated the chili's into different categories 1 Alarm, 2 Alarm, 3 Alarm, Vegi, White, and Seafood. You picked your favorite of each category and an overall favorite. The most interesting was a Bayou Chili that had alligator in it. There was also a seafood one that had a whole crawfish in it. I like spicy chili so I choose a 3 Alarm made with beef tenderloin as my overall favorite.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

As a transplanted Texan, I have to go for thick and hot. But I want to be able to at least taste it, not just have the hair on my tongue singed off.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Matty said...

I won't get involved in this one...some say true chili has no meat...and some say no beans....but I love meat & beans in my chili....and spicy!
I would love to go to a chili tasting...but not around here. Never heard of a white chili either....and tofu? Come on,,,people shouldn't mess with chili like's a crime.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do believe you now qualify for the Chili King in your area based on your votes.
I'm afraid I detest Chili...hey, what da ya want from a Boston girl? My mom never cooked the stuff!
Hope your communication problems get straighted out...what a pain.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:40 PM  

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