Chef friends of the Accidental Locavore were asked to be judges at the 4th annual “Challenge Your Colon” Chili Festival, so we thought it was a perfect excuse to pig out on chili and possibly discover some good local restaurants. Other than the fact that beans are good for you, I’m not quite sure what chili has to do with colon health, but hey…
There were about 45 vendors competing for best chili, vegetarian chili and cornbread to be determined by the judges, and also voted on by the people. Possibly the judges got better, hotter or different chili than the crowd did, or maybe our taste in chili is really off the mark because only one that we liked even made the list!
Chili practically ran the alphabet of proteins, from alligator to wildebeest, and covered ground from traditional to Thai. Rabbit and venison made appearances, alongside more traditional beef in many cuts and all sorts of beans.
It was great to get a chance to talk to some of the restaurateurs and made us promise to expand our dining parameters. Somewhat like going from west to east in the city, crossing the Hudson isn’t an everyday occurrence, but since our favorite chili came from across the river, it looks like we’ll be taking a drive soon!
And that chili was? A brisket chili from Billy Joe’s Ribworks. Smoky and delicious, sadly it will have to be an elusive memory until next year. It’s not made as a regular dish at the restaurant because it would mean giving up a secret recipe, but if the ribs are as good as the chili, it’s worth a stop!
The aforementioned wildebeest chili was really from a wildebeest that the owner of Toma’s, shot in South Africa and transported back. While I’m no judge of wildebeest, the chili was really tasty and, like Billy Joe’s, not on the regular menu. What is on the regular menu, is an interesting looking array of tapas not generally found in these parts.
The most interesting vegetarian chili was a Thai Curry Chili from Mother Earth’s Storehouse, a local natural food store. A healthy vegan chili, the coconut milk and curry made it a winner for us (bonus points for handing out the recipe too)!
As is probably the raison d’etre for most of the restaurants at the event, we have now definitely put two local favorites on the must-try list. Farm to Table Bistro had the only straight-up meat (no bean) chili, individually garnished with cheese, sour cream and tiny strips of fried tortillas. Even though Frank usually shies away from any restaurant with “live” music, because Chris used to run Fat Tuesdays in the city, he might be coaxed into going on a Friday night for the jazz.
The other place, Schatzi’s, we’ve actually tried to get into, but turned away when it looked packed recently. They had another great vegetarian chili, this time with tomatillos and cilantro. We’re going to give it another shot on a Wednesday night when pirogues are the special.
So until next year…