When I received my weekly Eater’s Digest NYC e-mail, my eyes were immediately drawn to the headline: “Chili Takedown.” Providential. My husband loves chili and has been saying for years that he wants to go to a chili competition. I swear: he has brought it up more than once a month for the past year. And it just so happened that four of Andy’s meat-crazy friends were visiting from England the same weekend – what better way to show these boys a slice of American life than a Chili Takedown?
The day of the Takedown arrived and like good girls and boys, we had a light breakfast and no lunch. By the time 4 o’clock rolled around we were ravenous. There were 28 chilies in all and we tried each one. By the end, we were positively stuffed, but we enjoyed almost every chili (I only spit out one). Here are a few that took us down:
Breakfast Chili Definitely the most creative entry, but it wasn’t quite chili. Not as thick as chili, more of a soup and light in color, but smoky and curious. I quickly stuck my spoon into the cup for a second bite.
Venison Chili The man who made this entry informed us that the deer for this creation had been killed just three days earlier in Connecticut. Felled by his best friend, with a bow and arrow, no less. This was intended to impress, and actually it worked. As expected, it was rugged and spicy with big chunks of venison and more of a soup than a thick sauce. Loved it.
Rock the Casbah A creative Moroccan chili with minced lamb, chickpeas, chopped dried fruits such as prunes and sixteen spices. Delicious, but a little too sweet and too niche to be declared the winner. Still, I could have rocked a whole bowl.
Philly Chili Quite a clever idea, mimicking a Philly Cheesesteak. Featured a dollop of electric-orange Cheese Whiz on top. The boys were horrified that something like Whiz even exists.
Spicy Lime Infused 100% Vegan Roasted Vegetable Chili Very nearly had my vote. So full of flavor and texture I hardly noticed it was meatless; the crumbled corn cake on top was a delicious and sweet contrast to the spicy chili. Checked out the recipe: 34 ingredients! Nevertheless, I would take the time. It was that good.
White Trash Chili A straight up, no nonsense chili in every sense of the word. No bells and whistles, nothing fancy – just beef and beans and spices. Simply good and hearty, but for that reason, not memorable. Still, three of the four boys voted for it. (Told you they were meat-crazed.)
Turkey Chili Cheese Fries (Deconstructed) Ta-Da! My favorite. A delicious turkey chili topped with finely grated three-cheese and grated potatoes fried in duck fat. With false humility I add that Andy’s friend Tom and I called the winner.