Sunday, February 10, 2008

Greg and Bonnie's Annual Chili Cook-off

Every Groundhog's Day weekend, my friends Greg and Bonnie host Portland's social event of the season, the Annual Groundhog's Day Chili Cook-off. It's an offshoot of another chili cook-off, held every year in Saualito. Portland's version has been going strong for six years now. Some years, such as this one, the event doesn't quite jibe with Groundhog's Day (this year, Greg and Bonnie were in Tanzania on the day of the whistlepig). But no matter, it gave us all an extra week to tweak our chili recipes...

Most of the usual suspects were there. Paul and Lance travelled in from points far flung with elk based chilis. Frank's 3-way Cincinnati chili made an appearance, and the veggie chilis were well represented with 6 entries.

In keeping with my tradition of unconventional chilis, my entry this year wasn't chili per se, but rather a somewhat postmodern interpretation of this most American of stews, which I called "Chili Deconstructed" (the most pretentious name I could come up with). The idea was to break chili down into its constituent parts, give each of those parts its own treatment, and recombine them in some unique way. I started with Spiced Pork Belly Confit, which I served with a champagne vinegar-dijon soffrito:

Beside that was a poblano pepper stuffed with a sort of spanish-rice mixture of Chinese black and Himalayan red rice, poblano, toasted almonds, onion, tomato, smoked paprika, pimientos, oregano, parsley and cumin, cooked down with turkey stock. Then an artfully spiralled dollop of black bean mousse (until my piping bag blew out, and the rest of the plates were finished off with a not-so-artful blob of black bean mousse). This was all served up with an ice cold shot of habaƱero infused vodka:

With a formula like that, first place was mine no problem, right? WRONG! I was up against elk chili, and elk chili is unbeatable. In fact, first place was a tie between two elk chilis. I was in a tie for second place with, appropriately enough, something called "Tom's chili." Here's one of this year's winners, Paul Ransdell:

And here's his chili:

I didn't walk away empty-handed, though. For all of my years of entering and not winning, but occasionally snagging second place, I was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award, or as Bonnie calls it, the "Susan Lucci award":

Ah, well. I've already come up with my idea for the next chili cook-off, and I've got a year to develop it. It will surely knock the mighty elk off its pedestal. In the meantime, here are some more photos from this year's event.

Here's Mazama legend Dean Lee showing the young-uns how it was done back in the day:

A remarkably unblurry Greg Fuller:

Last year's veggie winners Burke and Julia:

Fellow photographer Cathy Lusa (many thanks to Cathy, by the way, for her contributions to this post. I'll leave it to you to guess which shots are hers and which are mine):

And last but not least, John the Irishman and Jenni the Olympian:


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your award! Can't wait to hear what you come up with next...LGS

Anonymous said...

Hey this is the first time that Greg and I have been blogged about, if you don't count that posting about us that Perez Hilton did a few months ago! We always appreciate your awesome, creative efforts in the evolution of the world of chili.