D-Day finally approached on Sunday, November 14th. After obsessing for five weeks, it was finally time to put my chili - which I really did name "(Sponsor's Name Here)'s Non-Internet Chili" - to the test in the Taylor & Dunn's 3rd Annual Cool Beans Chili Cook-off.
Considering that I had been working out this recipe in my mind for over a month, on Chili Cook-Off Eve I was less than prepared. I had actually used up most of my ingredients on my practice batches, meaning I had to wait until payday to go shopping. A late night poker game on Friday, followed by four hours of work and dinner with the in-laws resulted in a look at the clock showing 7:00 PM on Saturday and the realization that I didn't even have a list started.
But with my trusty companion, My-Sugar-Na, at my side, we made it to El Rey and back by 8:30 PM, and the preparation had begun.
By 11:00 PM, the chili was boiling ever so gently in the Nesco, and all three of the children participated in the late-night tasting. Like the Three Bears of chili tasting, one thought it was too hot, one thought it was not hot enough, and one thought it was juuuuuuuuuuuuuuussssssssssst right!
By 10:15 AM Sunday, the chili was nestled in the back kitchen at Taylor & Dunn's, and after a quick trip to a coffee shop to kill time, it was Noon and I was at the bar watching the Vikings and Bears.
But I wasn't eating chili. Odd, because this event was scheduled to go from Noon to 3:00 PM. Within a little while, though, there were 14 pans of chili and thousands of spoons and bowls for my tasting pleasure. The first bowl was from pot #5 (mine). It was quality control. I had tasted it Saturday night, but the next day can sometimes toy with the spiciness. But after tasting my batch, I felt I had nailed it. It was everything I had wanted in my chili. Then I tasted pot #8 (Should've Brought the Invasion's). It was pretty good. "Certainly not as good as mine", said I, "but worthy of consideration".
After that, I tried every one of the other 12 chilis. Some were very good. Some were disasters. By far the spiciest one lacked a good mouth feel (It kind of tasted chalky... I don't know how else to describe it).
Then I tried #11. It looked good in the pan. It looked of shredded beef in a heavy sauce, not necessarily a chili. My-Sugar-Na proclaimed it to be the best (she thought mine was too spicy and had too many beans). Then I tried it; it tasted like shredded beef in barbeque sauce... like someone opened a container of Lloyd's and added a can of chili beans.
Each person that entered the bar (whether a contestant or not) paid $10 towards the charity, and was eligible to rate the 14 chilis. At 3:00 the votes were tallied and.....
In 3rd place....
(Sponsor's Name Here)'s Non-Internet Chili!
Considering I had only made two batches in my life before entering the contest, I was thrilled. I won a $25 gift card for Taylor and Dunn's.
In 2nd place was someone else, and in 1st place, well; as stated in the title, if I don't recognize first place, then I was really in second. One hint, though. Lloyds. My high lasted all of about 38 seconds before the unrecognized winner was announced.
But most importantly, $1750 was raised for the Milwaukee Community Service Corps, which is what this was really about. A couple of people from the Corps were there, and they seemed quite appreciative.
I am still bitter. Who enters barbeque beef in a chili contest and calls it chili?
But like a closer in baseball, or a goalkeeper in soccer or hockey, I need a short memory. I have entered Bunker's 3rd Annual Chili Cook-Off (Side note; what happened in 2008 that all of these restaurants started chili contests?) starting at 11:00 AM.
Come on in and try my chili. It's good. It's 2nd place good.
And if I get my way, I will put some lobster tails and drawn butter in a pan and call it chili. Then I'd be a cinch to win.