Hope & Anchor’s 2nd Annual Chili Cook Off came a month early this year, which caught me by surprise. I only had 2 weeks to test a different chili recipe. I initially wanted to tweak last year’s recipe by changing out the chile powder, beans, and beer, but it ended up tasting almost exactly the same. The 2nd test run was originally a turkey white bean chili that I altered to include veggie beef and pinto and kidney beans. It was supposed to be mole-like because of the inclusion of cocoa and cinnamon. It was good, but not great and the cinnamon really stood out, which was odd to me. I decided to be adventurous and come up with my own recipe using soyrizo (vegetarian chorizo), red bell peppers, and Bohemian lager (Trader Joe’s version of Bohemia?). If you’ve never had soyrizo, try it now! It’s vegan, it makes great tacos, and it’s extra good when you add diced potatoes and bell peppers. You can find it at Albertson’s and Walmart in the produce section for about $3.50-$4.00. Of course, Sun Harvest also carries it and sometimes has it on sale.
Hardly anyone was at Hope and Anchor when we arrived to set up for the cook off. About half an hour later (which is on time for El Pasoans), everyone had arrived, including a troop of participants clad in chef coats and matching silver crock-pots and hotel pans. There were about the same number of entries this year, but they all seemed to be different competitors and many of them were also competing in both categories. I thought it a bit unfair that several of the competitors were from restaurants. Restaurant participants included Nofish, Ernie G’s, and Ritas’s Texas Bar & Grill.
I apologize for not covering the event better, but I was busy serving my chili and being nervous, so I didn’t have a chance to take pictures and interview participants. Thanks to my friends, I was able to sample 3 other veggie entries. There were 2 that I could not even finish. They were more like stews because they had vegetables and beans with no faux meat. One of them tasted sour, like one of the ingredients was past its expiration date (I think I heard that this was Nofish’s entry). The chipotle sour cream was the only redeeming factor, although it was really watery. The last one that I tried was really good. Someone told me it also had soyrizo, but it didn’t taste like it. It also had beans and was topped with toasted panko flakes (Japanese bread crumbs). The panko added a unique crunchy texture to the chili, which also had an unusual taste, like it had coriander seeds. I love coriander/cilantro in all forms! I thought that chili should have won first place, but instead the sour tasting chili won. I heard there was another chili that had tofu, but I didn’t get to try it. Personally, I don’t think chili should have tofu or vegetables in it, although I suppose a lot of people would also be opposed to faux meat.
Even though the cook off was in its 2nd year, it still seemed disorganized. I did like the addition of an emcee, which made it seem more official. This year’s judges consisted of Robert Ardovino (owner of Ardivino’s Desert Crossing), Raul Garcia (owner of Rulis’ International Restaurant), and Karen Kaplowitz (2009 winner and instructor for the EPCC Culinary Arts Program). I would like to see a fan favorite award, because I heard very different reviews from attendees on both categories. The funny part was that I was next to the winner of the carnivore category, and she left her chili unattended the whole time. I think it would also be better if participants were assigned to tables, or if there was at least a designated section for the herbivore entries. It would make it easier for vegetarians to find the chili entries that they are able to taste. The best part of the night was learning that a total of $1900 was raised for the El Paso Child Crisis Center! The cook off raised $630, and both Hope and Anchor and the Joseph Karam Memorial Foundation matched the amount.
Big thanks to everyone that came out to support me, and congratulations to all the winners!
1st Place: Anthony Rodriguez
2nd Place: Lisa Martinez
1st Place: Mary Kathryn Foster
2nd Place: Ernie G’s Lounge