I was thrilled to be invited to judge the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's 4th Annual Chili Cook-Off last weekend at the Wolverine State Brewing Company, my second time being so honored. This is truly one of the best parties of the year - food, fun, chili, beer, chips, friends, and frivolity abound!
|The first three contenders.
We sampled in groups of three, assigning values based on taste, texture, creativity, and balance. Well, until you've been faced with this daunting prospect of seeking notes of spices and underlying flavors, or of debating what precisely constitutes "chili," you have no idea how difficult this seemingly enviable job is!
But we discussed, chatted, analyzed, and parsed until we determined a winner in each round; this left us with five finalists, plus a couple of candidates for other prizes.
From those finalists, we were able to finally determine the following winners:
Overall Winner: "Soup of the Devil" from Mike Mangrum, who was also last year's winner ... he's a force to be reckoned with! He told me that he's been to other chili cook-offs, but that this prize means a great deal to him because it's judged by "foodies" who appreciate his fabulous chili.
2nd Place: "Raymond's Rockin' Red" from Steve Raymond, who was also honored with the People's Choice Award - a big day for Steve, who clearly has many fans!
Honorable Mention: "Hippie Vegan Soy-rizo Chili" from Mary Kowalski, who accomplished a nearly impossible feat - making a meat-free, dairy-free chili which was able to take on the traditionalists with great flavor and texture!
Most Creative: "Lamb, Bam, Thank You, Ma'am" from Nancy Koziol, her husband Kris, and their exchange student Naomi Put. Nancy squealed with delight when their rich, spicy chili was announced as a winner - she was so cute, and it was so sweet to see her so excited!
|Our 2013 winners: Mike, Naomi, Nancy, Kris, Mary, and Steve - MAZAL TOV!!!
The Cook-Off also featured Wolverine's exceptional beers, which attendees could sample along with the chili, and an auction offering fabulous prizes ranging from handmade/homemade cookies to a weekend in a lake-front cottage, from dinner with the Civic Theatre's president (Darrell Pierce happens to be a gourmet cook and wine connoisseur) to tickets to see the Detroit Tigers take another stab at getting to the World Series after last year's success in getting there. (We won't talk about that sweep by the Giants ....) I was even given the honor of drawing tickets for raffle winners, which was a lot of fun!
With many thanks to the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre for welcoming me to its fundraising party, and with abundant congratulations to all the participants - whether planning the event, donating to the event, hosting the event, making chili for the event, attending the event, and all other contributions - for making the Cook-Off such a grand success!