|1/31/2013 11:18:00 AM|
Chili choices warm option for
combating weekend's frigid weather
By PAUL RIGNELL
The Lindstrom Community Center was filled for the annual chili cook-off competition and potluck dinner, Friday, Jan. 25.
A total of 12 home cooks prepared containers of chili they hoped would please the palates of tasters who awarded honors for “most unique chili” and “best ‘hot’ chili,” along with a prize for top chili overall.
Any guest at the event could vote for favorites, as long as they were willing to sample most or all of the varieties. Several area businesses ensured there would be plenty on a buffet table to feed masses, by providing multiple pans of lasagna and potato casserole, along with salad, coffee and dessert. The dinner is open to the public and is a gathering for the hot air balloon pilots. Guests came from hours away including pilots and crews who would be launching hot air balloons from North Center Lake Saturday.
Russ Lucas, from Dodge Center, Minn., returned for Celebration of the Lakes with his “Fandango” balloon. On Friday night, however, he was managing a dozen disposable cups each holding one of the different chili dishes that were up for judging. Since opening a commercial business offering hot air balloon rides over the state’s varied landscapes, Lucas has soared above the earth for as many as 150 trips in a year, he said. He was pleased to taste venison in one of the dishes last week. “My wife cooks the chili (in our home),” Lucas said, “but now I might have to start.” Venison was not the only specialty among the chili.
Competitor Tana Karnes, of Lindstrom, brought a recipe that calls for coffee and cocoa, for “more of a Mexican chili,” she said. Karnes adapted the recipe from a magazine article. “I make a lot of chili,” she said, “but this is a favorite.” She brought support and a few certain votes from a small group of friends including Sharon Loeffelholz, also of Lindstrom.
Loeffelholz said that she has been active in other festival weekend events, including as a “smoosh” team racer. Other Lindstrom residents at the dinner included couple Joe and Linda Rogers. Like Lucas, they spread out sampling cups in front of them. “We try to make this an annual thing,” said Joe. Linda said she enjoys cooking chili at home, often with as much meat as beans. “It depends on how I feel when I’m making it,” she said. “Sometimes I throw in leftover vegetables from the refrigerator.”
Friday’s winners each received a $50 prize. Lead sponsors are Lindstrom Foods and Bachman’s Photography. Donna Nowicki, of Center City, won honors for preparing the “most unique” chili while her son, Troy Nowicki, got the top marks from those judges willing to taste his “hot” chili.
Kathy Dunn, of Lindstrom, brought what judges picked as the champion chili. “This is something everyone should try once, to support the community,” she said. Dunn brought a recipe that she said she has cooked since age 20, though measurements are not by the book. “I don’t pay attention. I just know what I use,” she said. She makes chili once per month, always to feed at least eight people as it is certain to attract her children and grandchildren. But this was her first contest, with judging by non-relatives. “I was very excited,” she said.