Long time readers may recall I was actually a judge at the Chili Cook-Off way back when, so it was nice to be back. Here's what I learned this time around:
Apparently the chili I make at home is good enough for a competition because seriously very few samples tasted as good as I can make if I do say so myself. Perhaps it's harder than I know to properly season a huge batch of chili. All too many were fairly bland, runny, or overly tomatoey. My favorites had a notable hit of spice, rather than just cumin or cinnamon. Brunswick stews were generally far more successful and corn breads were universally awful. I nearly choked to death on one of the driest competitors. But at least those two dishes aren't in my repertoire so I can't compare them to my own cooking.
If you wear a white shirt to a chili cook-off, you're tempting fate. Hours of chili eating + drunk crowds = permanently stained clothing.
It's really hard to look ladylike while taking chili shooters. Chili was served up in tiny little shot glasses. Since it's often thick or chunky, eating requires a maneuver akin to a snake darting its tongue out. You gotta do what you gotta do to get every last bite of chili goodness, right?
Showmanship makes for a fun event even if it doesn't translate into great chili. My personal favorite in this department, and also the winner of best showmanship, were the Pirates of the Chilibean, complete with costumed pirates, gold doubloons, and a ship. Line of the day? "Every chest deserves a treasure," said as a pirate tossed a gold coin down my top.
Honorable showmanship mention to the old west themed Outlaw Chili and the crazy Redneck Chili. These people put on quite a show!
Stay away from port-o-potties at a chili festival AT ALL COSTS.
This festival has some of THE best people watching ever. Alas we didn't get a photo, but I kid you not, there was a real live fairy tale witch in attendance, complete with a single gnarled tooth sticking out. Yikes!
The day went by in a blur of beans, sweat and Miller Lite, so I can't really tell you which chilis I liked best, but that doesn't really matter, does it? The Atlanta Chili Cook-Off is a blast and is well worth a trip out to Stone Mountain, so if you missed it this time, be sure to check it out next year!