Brian Jacobson

The 2007 WMSE Rockabilly Chili Contest packed quite the punch

By - Apr 1st, 2007 02:52 pm


As predicted, the 2007 WMSE Rockabilly Chili Contest lived up to its rollicking title on the opening day of April. Despite some inclement weather, the event overflowed the hall and showcased some remarkable 38 chili recipes from area restaurants and cooks. This reporter could only make it through 13 lucky bowls before my stomach wanted to crawl under the cool of the front porch to die. Many great exotic and innovative elements were sampled, along with a few misses and two comforting bowls of Wisconsin-style chili (minus noodles).

For the first time in the event’s five-year history, the “People’s Choice” award for meat chili ended in a tie between Wicked Hop and Meat and Metal! from 964 votes. Each chili recipe was a dark and thick brown affair, with a medium kick and a smoldering finish.

The winner in the veggie chili category was Stacy Stangarone of Annona Bistro, whose Sweet Potato and Black Bean chili was the buzz on the crowd’s lips. Despite the popular theory that a recipe closely following the middle of the road with the crowd’s tastes would win, in this category the unique idea appealed best. Stangarone’s recipe still tastes very much like a regular chili, but is lifted up to a higher level with certain key ingredients.

Crawdaddy’s alligator sirloin based chili was a stewed affair with a light taste. Alligator, by the way, tastes a lot like turkey. Rush-Mor/Palomino probably had the most elaborate affair with their green chili. After plating, the dish was topped with cornbread crumbs and a small lime that was then eyedropped with everclear and set aflame.

Mehrdad Dalamie, of VITAL Source and Bremen Café fame, racked up 22 ingredients in his spicy yet thorough concoction, while Solly’s Grille came through with a gorgeous piece of road food good enough for Route 66. One of the most consistent vendors was again Mary Krimmer from Soup’s On! who put out both meat and veggie versions of tremendous character and verve.

Koppa’s and Fuel Cafe were some of the first to run out. Sarah Kordus stood under the daunting banner of the reigning champions’ corner, and luckily her batch was as good if not better than last year. Another buzz had gone through the room about Fuel’s veggie batch, which bravely used relatively unknown wheat gluten known as seitan. Often used as an alternative to tofu, it gave the taster the distinct feeling they had just eaten meat-based chili.

Finally, one of my favorites was from the Riverwalk Bistro. Billed as “Chorizo and shortrib chili,” it was similar to the two meat winners but provided a little more texture and smokiness than the others I sampled.

The event appeared to perfectly serve the exposure satisfaction for WMSE and the vendors. Cold Pabst beer in cans was a favorite spice quaffer, steel guitar music ruled the airwaves and rumors were confirmed that WMSE is securing an even bigger venue for next year’s event. Keep watching for final complete tally results, and click HERE for a small album of pictures from the contest. VS

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