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By Virginia Dean
The Spectrum Teen Center played host last weekend to the 24th annual Chili Cook-Off with 10 vendors set up on the Green in a competition for the best chili according to public tasters.
After the final count, in the Individual Division, “Rockin’ Red Hot” made by the Woodstock Union High School Student Council took first prize and in the Restaurant Division, “The Worthy Burn” by Worthy Kitchen.
“We are thrilled to repeat as winners,” said Keri Bristow, Student Council co-advisor. “Our secret ingredient was collaboration as five people made their best chili, and we co-mingled it.”
Marie Anderson, the other Council co-advisor, agreed.
“We are very happy and proud of our position,” Anderson said. “First place for the second year in a row! I concur with Mrs. Bristow. Our secret ingredient is just several family recipes co-mingled together with care.”
The Cook-Off was organized and managed by local residents and Teen Center co-Directors Heather Rubenstein and Joni Kennedy.
“We were so glad that it didn’t rain,” said Rubenstein. “And everyone showed up. We had a lot of great volunteers this morning. We were set up and ready by 9:30 a.m., and people just kept on coming.”
Kennedy was of the same opinion.
“It was a beautiful day and the weather held out,” said Kennedy. “There seemed to be a lot of traffic and people in our beautiful town. We were really excited about it. It was great.”
First place winner, The Worthy Kitchen, with its “Worthy Burn” chili, was made with classic ingredients according to one of the restaurant’s co-owners, Jason Merrill. Elements included Black Watch Farms beef, smoked tomatoes, kidney beans, chipotle, roasted garlic, onions, masa hanna, and some secret seasonings.
“We’re flattered that the public chose us,” said Merrill. “We love supporting our local community and farms.”
Streaming across the Green, visitors hopped from vendor to vendor during the 3-hour event sampling chili morsels followed by homemade corn bread, Tostitos and even dried plantains. Their travels were accompanied by the singing and guitar sounds of Clayton Reed.
“Wow,” said Abby Kaija, one of the servers at “Rockin’ Red Hot.” “My mouth’s on fire!”
WUHS Senior Ted Morley concurred.
“Boy, that’s really hot,” he said.
Runners-up in the contest included Melaza Caribbean Bistro with its “Ultimate Caribbean Pulled Chicken Sofrito Chili” and The Spectrum Teen Center with its “The Burn” chili.
Third place winners were the Woodstock Terrace with its “Rockin’ Chili” and Zack’s Place featuring “Zack’s Place Chili is Hot.” Fourth place was the Thompson Senior Center with “Chiliardiac Arrest” and Woodstock Nursery with “Brainiac Beef Chili.” Coming in last were Long Trail with “Double Bag Chili” and ArtisTree with “Chili Artisans.”
Awards included small trophies and bragging rights, Rubenstein said.
Local resident Beryl Spencer and her Border Collie, Mollie, were pleased with the event.
“I enjoyed it very much,” said Spencer. “Thankfully the weather cooperated.”
Spencer said she preferred the “Chiliardiac Arrest” by the Thompson Senior Center.
“It had more bite”, Spencer said.
According to the Center’s chef, Ryan Martin, the ingredients included pork, beef, veal, onions, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, jalapeno and ancho peppers, and time and effort.
At the Woodstock Nursery tent, vendor and local resident Audrey Richardson said their “Brainiac Beef Chili” had lots of cumin powder in addition to the standard ground beef, black beans, fresh tomatoes, salsa, kidney beans, curry powder and spices.
“We came up with the name because our kids here in town are so smart because of good and hearty farm ingredients,” Richardson said.
The only vegetarian, gluten-free chili on hand was “Chili Artisans” by ArtisTree cooks Diana Mellar, Finnie Trimpi, and J.J. Overstreet.
“Our secret is roasted butternut squash,” said Mellar who added that the other items included a base of low sodium vegetable stock mixed with three beans, cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapeno, a variety of peppers, cinnamon, hot and sweet paprika, chili powder, curry, and ground coriander seed.
For those racing around to soothe their fiery palates, Tita’s Chocolate Sauce of Bridgewater lived up to its slogan of “Make Life Sweeter, Eat Dessert First.”
“You’ve got to have dessert,” said owner and server Tita Manice, who was serving hot fudge sundaes with vanilla ice cream. “People love it.”
Cost of the event was $5, the proceeds of which will benefit the Teen Center.
“This is the best $5 I’ve ever spent,” said visitor Fiona Rae of West Sussex, England.