Valerie here. Last Saturday was Fenn Valley’s 10th Annual Chili Cook-off/ Wine Lovers Potluck. Our own JR was competing, so Britt and I hit up map quest and decided who’s yellow bug we were going to take on our delicious adventure. (Yes, we both own yellow ’99 VW bugs, weird right?). The only entrance fee was an appetizer. I felt like we were planning to go to a family bbq. We brainstormed on what would be a good accompaniment to chili and settled on a nice bread plate with dipping oil. When we got there it was jam packed with cars, we had to park on the side of the road because not only was their parking lot full but the parking lot across the street too!
When we went in you could feel the excitement in the room, everyone looked warm and happy and were all sitting around eating from… wait… why does everyone have empty muffin tins? A nice couple in line behind us told us that it makes it easier to try multiple chilis without having to carry around a bunch of little cups. What a great idea! If only someone had told us. The lines were crazy, you weren’t sure which line you were in and when you got to the table it was a free for all. If you saw a chili on the other side of the table that looked good you just went for it. People were even hopping over from the table next to us! Suddenly we were all chili experts, “That one has too many beans.” “This one used too much smoke.” “When I make chili, I like to make a roux first to thicken it.” Britt and I grabbed three chilis each and fled the tables.
We walked around the corner thinking we’d see a table to sit at and instead found more tables laden with food. Of course, the appetizers! But even better was the first table we saw on the side, it was full of empty plastic containers, perfect for a makeshift tray. Britt and I equipped ourselves and were ready to see what the other people brought. There was a hundred different types of cheese balls, crackers, cornbread, a few gems here and there, “Cheesecake?!” “Eclairs?!” and a few suspicious items, “What’s that hot pink cheeseball with the green sprinkles?” (turned out to be icing, strawberry jam, and cream cheese…). The “cheesecake” also turned out to be cream cheese, cheddar cheese and raspberry preserves… I certainly give them points for creativity.
Anyways, it was finally time for the tasting. I never order chili at restaurants, but I must say, there were some that I wished I’d remembered which crock pot it came from. Of course we didn’t forget JR’s chili, he entered the “white chili” category. When he said “be careful, it’s spicy” I thought he was warning us because we were a couple of girls and he didn’t think we could handle it, but he wasn’t joking. Definitely the spiciest chili that I tried at the cook-off, but come on, we don’t eat chili for the beans. Chili is all about that spice that makes your nose run, and it did! I remember saying to Britt, “I know it sets my mouth on fire, but I can’t stop eating it!”
But wait! What about the wine?
Down in the wine cellar, where the cook-off was held, wine was sold by the glass but they only took cash so Britt and I went upstairs to the wine tasting bar. You got to choose up to 5 wines to taste for free! It was great! I tried:
- Blanc de blanc – a dry sparkling wine, really good. Not too dry, I base my sparkling wine on the criteria “would I drink a full glass of this and want more?” and I would.
- Capriccio – a mildly dry red. It was ok, but not my favorite wine. I did like it better than the Meritage though.
- Meritage 2006 – a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. I like cabernet sauvignons but I didn’t really care for this blend.
- Lakeshore Sunset – their version of a White Zin, fruity and semi-dry. A nice cheap sipping wine. I actually bought a bottle of this one.
- Cherry Wine – I almost bought a bottle of this too, but saved it for next time. Seriously, reminds you of cherry pie, without being too jammy. I’m not a fan of jammy wines, but this had a strong cherry flavor without seeming syrupy.
All in all I’d say a successful Chili Cook Off/ Wine Lover’s Potluck. I can’t wait for next year! I’m bringing a 12 cup muffin tin!