Hey Baby, It’s Chili Out There

2014.Sep.10 Wednesday · 3 comments

in Food & Recipes, Life

This past Sunday it was time for one of my favorite annual events (this time the 4th annual Buenos Aires Chili Cook Off. I’ve been all four years now, and been a judge now at the last three. The event supports the Send a Child to School organization and the proceeds specifically go towards putting together packs of school supplies for children in the area whose families cannot afford to purchase all their schoolroom needs. (Past writeups: 2011, 2012, 2013)

Overall a smaller event this year – fewer chilies, only a dozen; fewer judges, only eight of us, and only, I think, three or four of us who’d participated in judging in past years (I’m not totally sure, as the first time I did it we were all wandering about tasting at the chili cooks’ stations, and last year there were so many of us we were split in two separate rooms, so I didn’t meet everyone). Better organized and much smoother judging process. I was talking with one of the judges from last year and we both felt that although there were still obvious differences, highs and lows, the quality of the chilies entered this year were all quite good – there weren’t any that we truly didn’t like as there had been in previous years, nor were there any “non-chili” entries thrown in. There were two additional categories this year – locro, however there was only one entry in that category (a superb entry from Rodrigo Caumo, by the way, though since there was no competition we didn’t taste it during the judging process), and brownies (eight of them, and I opted out of that part of the judging – too much sugary stuff for me).

Everyone, of course, has their own tastes, and my favorites didn’t line up with the overall favorites in either the judges’ or the other cooks’ final rankings for first, second and third, but that’s to be expected – I doubt any one judge or cook was in perfect agreement with the results. I admit upfront that although I grew up on ground beef style chili with lots of tomato, onions, beans and/or corn and softer spices, my palate many years on leans towards slow braised meat, with some smoked character, beans/corn optional, and a good amount of heat. My personal ranking of the competition, and it was really hard to decide because as I noted, the quality level was uniformly high this time around:

1st place:

Max Carnage from Tarquino, with a chili that brought together roast beef, osso buco, pork loin, bourbon, jalapeños, guajillos, cinnamon and clove into a beautifully spicy chili – it was also the spiciest one on offer.

Tied for 2nd place:

Evangelina Fuentes, who went whole hog on the smoked meats with smoked sirloin, rib steak, pork loin, bacon, chorizos, and just a little ground beef as well, dark beer and whiskey, habanero and piquin chilies, coffee, chocolate, oregano and smoked paprika.
Jon Wheeler, blended together roast beef and pork shoulder, kidney beans, a blend of a dozen or more dried chilies that he’d ground together and then cooked into a sofrito-like paste, cumin, allspice, cloves, fish sauce, and finished it off with some fresh chilies.

Tied for 3rd place:

Eric Boole, whose style was very reminiscent of what I grew up on – ground beef, onion, corn, tomato, cayenne and basil.
David Quevedo and Andres Vera from Che Taco who used ground beef, Mexican chorizos, bacon, guajillo chilies and achiote paste.
Jill Collins Farmer who mixed up lamb, beef, veal, and locally made bratwurst and a mix of spices that included curry and cinnamon, lime, cilantro, parsley, and hits of both pisco and cachaca.
Mario Recalde Pensotti, who used one of my favorite whiskeys, Hudson 4-Grain Bourbon, along with different cuts of beef and pork, chorizos, tomatoes, beans, chili powder, and cumin.

And the remainder tied for a very close 4th place:

Helena Mello, who pressure cooked her beef shoulder in wine, added in potatoes, herbs, red beans, onions, and curry.
Alba, another cook who went the heavy smoked route, with smoked pork, chorizo, beef, and bacon and cooked them down with whole dried jalapeños and smoked onions!
Nicole Florez Nickell, who went the delicious simplicity route using her grandmother’s New Mexican recipe, with pork shoulder, garlic, New Mexican red chili powder, water and salt.
Justin Clouden and Tim Jackson slow cooked osso buco, and added in grilled roast beef, jalapeños, chipotles, chocolate and beer.
Anish Merchant, who blended together finely chopped different cuts of beef with vegetables, beer, jalapeños, and a mix of Indian spices.

Congratulations to all, everyone did a great job and made this year’s judging a pleasure!


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jimintampa September 11, 2014 at 22:54

Glad to hear Jill Collins Farmer did well! Must be what she learned from Steve Otto’s Tampa Chili Cookoffs.

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