Sunday, August 30, 2015

Heat in the Hills Chili Cook Off

Heat in the hills chili cook off

The Heat in the Hills Chili Cook Off was held Aug. 22 with more than 20 competitors vying for a chance to get to the World Championships in Reno, Nevada. All proceeds went to benefit Empty Bowls.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

Cooks came in from Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

There were four categories: red chili, green chili, salsa and people's choice. Marianna and I went around sampling all sorts of different kinds. There were event a few restaurants who brought their chili: Martins Bar-B-Que and Boston Beanery (who added a side of cornbread!). Garcia's Latin Market, The Cupcakerie, Kegler's (beer only) and The Dancing Fig were there vending, as well.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

We made a first round and sampled small bites of chili. Some were a bit spicy, some had just a touch of sweetness. Others heavy on cumin. Some were just right. One even offered a sample of spiked punch! The green chilis were different and reminded me of something more like a sauce for a dish, rather than a meal on its own.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

Some cooks were not ready the first round, so we were gearing up for round two when I received a message from Kevin Connoley saying they needed extra judges.

Heat in the hills chili cook offCount. Me. In.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

Because it was an International Chili Society sanctioned event, and the winner of the red chili division (the one I helped judge!) automatically goes to the world championship, the rules for this competition were very serious.

Heat in the hills chili cook off

I quickly learned that there are NO beans in chili. It should be spicy - with just flavors of cumin and chili peppers. It shouldn't be tomato-y like pasta sauce or sweet like BBQ. We are judging CHILI.

Heat in the hills chili cook offI was assigned to Table A, and I went around and tasted each one. A clean spoon for each taste (just a tiny bit), with a palate cleanser inbetween each bite - water, beer, sour cream or pieces of tortilla. Truthfully, many taste very similar. Some may have been heavier on the cumin, while others had meat that wasn't quite as tender.

Heat in the hills chili cook offAfter narrowing it down to a couple that tasted best to me, I picked my top three and turned in my judges sheet. And took a few selfies (not my idea!).

Heat in the hills chili cook offHeat in the hills chili cook off

And for the overall winners:

Red Chili
1st Place - Carrie Parker
2nd Place - Tom Hoover
3rd Place - Mike Goodman

Chili Verde
1st Place - Jeffrey Lynch
2nd Place - Brian Warmouth
3rd Place - Diane Lentz

Salsa
1st Place - Rose Warmouth
2nd Place - Chris Johnson

People's Choice
1st Place - Mark Schwaiger
2nd Place - John A. Smith