The last few days have had me laid flat due to a sickness of the season. Its in these hours of restricted movement and mental frustration that my mind meandered to the respite that a warm bowl of chili can bring on these fatigued days. Call it medicine of the soul or a bowl of warm memories past, but in any case possible it is a moment where your body and mind can take a break and relax in the warm waves of flavor.

I have a book of chili recipes from across the Nation, one recipe from every state. Having read through the descriptions and recipes each one has there is a consistent idea for what makes a chili – that it fits with those it feeds. Arizona has a high spice, Texas with lots of chunk beef, Alaska uses mild flavors and Oregon uses seafood. In each of these places it is what that population calls chili – and if anyone from there says its not is likely that their family is a transplant who calls their ancestors version the quintessential ‘chili’.

This makes competing in Minnesota a difficult task as our population is a wayward mix of old and new, immigrants of places historically warm and cold, both recent and ages prior. How to appease this crowd? This year I am going with a feeling. That feeling when you bite into a spoonful and all you get in your mouth is the flavor of a memory. A time that reminds you that you are loved, that there is someone to wrap you up when you are sick, or bring you  that bowl of warm soup. We don’t need to be like Cincinnati and add noodles, or Ohio and add vinegar. What people come for and eat is to be reminded of who they are in that most childlike of times; crouched on the couch wrapped in quilts and letting the steam from the bowl sitting warm in your hands help erase all feeling in your head.

I hope that you all can make it on Saturday so you can get a taste of that feeling, and fill your insides with warmth and comfort. Just don’t forget the beers to pair it with 😉

Learn more about our event here.

February 27th, 2016 – Turtle Bread Longfellow

6:00 – Happy Hour
6:30 – Tasting and Judging

Ticket to enter: Bring to enjoy and share – a 6-pack or growler, a plate of cornbread, or another chili accompaniment. These events continue to be free as long as the organizers and participants leave happy and full of merriment and imbibition. Not too hard to do with this crowd. Continue Reading for more information:
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The competition was a great success this year. The average scores the contestants had were placed higher at this competition than previous ones – either the chefs are stepping their game up or you all are just loving what we make more and more! In total we had 42 people complete the scoring process, with many more in attendance to just taste what was made – including our competitors! Here is the highlights:


Highest rated chili overall, and the winner of the trophy: #1 Trevor with an average of 3.5/5

Runner up for the trophy: #6 Zane with an average score of 3.4/5

Hottest Chili: #3 Doug with an average heat rating of 4.1/5  [the highest average we had!]

Crowd Favorite, and the winner of the belt: Trevor, with 8/42 Votes [This category was very close across the chilis!]


Would you like to try your hand at being our guest chili competitor next year? Head over to this form and submit your name in the random entry. Multiple entries allowed. The winner will be selected and announced at this year’s Ribfest in August.

We tried a new online scoring system that worked wonderfully and allowed for quick tabulations of the votes. Our fellow statistitian Brad may have some insight posted soon, but for now we just wanted to get the results out to those who could not make it.

Thanks for coming,  and we will see you at the Ribfest in August (if not before then at the bar!),

ManCuisine.com Competiting Members – Adam, Brad, Doug, Isaac, Jeff, Trevor, and our guest competitors.

To begin: There have been a few vodka drinks after a rough day which has my mind on the process of cooking with alcohol. It is no secret I have tried in the past to use Summit’s delicious winter ales and porters in my chilis with the intent to bring out the mindset that my steaming pot of food will bring them warmth and merriment on cold winter nights. There was a year that I used tequila in a batch only to be praised for its warm flavor and downvoted for the same reason by others. Looking out the window today and with the soft memory of sun on my face from the walk this afternoon I began to doubt my previous tactics to win out the crowd this year in the chilifest competition. This year I plan to win, not just to try my hand at an idea I think will win.

Over the years of working with my family and friends to bring us all together and have a night of food and happiness I have come around to the idea of competing. For those who know me, I am not a competitor – in any sense of the word. In the halls of history I place my winnings in the same rooms that I hold minor trophies for small bowling accomplishments and that time I won the best decorated derby car in cub scouts [but not the fastest!]. Cooking has always been in a different part of my house, not in the modest trophy room I keep undusted.

It brings me to those strands of memory in which I was taught to cook; brought in to experience what it means to bring the ingredients into a dish and what those meant to the overall meal that it provided our hungry family. It was customary that as soon as you had a head over the counter that you would help cook a meal for those in the house. The best part was the ‘secret ingredient’ in which we were able to pour one part of a vial, a jar, or a random container in the cupboard, and see if the family could place what we had added. For those of you who have been to the Chilifest in the past know this from Joan’s needed explanation of their ‘secret ingredient’ every year that may give the men an edge.

The words “Instant Coffee”, “Bacon,” “Chorizo”, “Hominy”, and even “A slight dose of MSG” have been announced at these moments that the cooks have been questioned. And these are the ones that I remember from the lineup of winners in our almost 10 years of friendly competition. My ingredients have been “Tofu”, “Curried Beans”, “Pork Shoulder brined in Porter”, and the aforementioned “Tequila”. The comparison to those who don the belt of victory to my outlandish ideas have reigned me in,

Don’t view this is as a bash on the judges who have voted me low due to my venturous nature. I have loved every chili that I have created. This is a call out to those who have had and enjoyed my reaching into the cupboard to explore those flavors yet unexplored in our competition. You are the real MVPs. This year my head is above the counter but my mind is on the trophy room. I can use all the secret ingredients I want but I know that what wins is not ‘warmth and merriment’ but the spoon that brings in the flavors even the smallest of children imagine when the soup is dropped off in front of them.

Get ready judges, this spoonful’s for you. See you on Saturday.

Isaac

With the rush of the yearly Chili Cookoff Event behind us and the digestive systems back on track it might be good to give the highlights of the evening and tell the tale of the seventh annual event. Imagine that, out first post for this yearly celebration described a get together at Trevor and Missy’s place with six chilies and one judge (Scott).

From the first event!
From the first event!

Let’s do this in order. The group gathered as the bakery closed. The cooks came in the back door and slipped their chili into a soup warmer. Three warmers gave NINE chilies all numbered anonymously and waiting for the crowd.  Guests started arriving with a six pack of beer/ cider/ soda/ water with some folks walking through the door with a side dish. Isaac navigated the closing of the restaurant inviting the last couple customers to join us for the event. Somehow none took him up.

The crowd is always a great mix of ages, lifestyles, occupations, and connections to the cooks.  We’ve had some issues with the concrete sequential nature of the crowd in the past with many somehow needing to start with chili number one and tending to drain the lower numbered buckets first. The instructions to dig in were given with an extra suggestion to start anywhere and a quick plug for GS cookie sales. Both the chili eating and the cookie sales went well.

Here’s some details on the nine chilies (in no particular order)

Cook Chili Comments and Ingredients
Adam Adam claims that his secret ingredient was tomatoes
Brad This chili have homemade salsa and mole sauce
Carson Carson’s was the guest chili inspired by his dad’s chili it boasted beer and tabasco
Doug Doug often has the most heat. This year he worked with the amazing Habeneros
Isaac Isaac stepped up the meats using chirizo, turkey, beef combined with great northerns
Jeff Jeff went for Texas style chile using chunks of amazing brisket
Kyle Kyle went with ground turkey and plenty of heat (won the heat award)
Trevor Trevor’s winning entry added hominy and pumkin among other surprises
Turtle Bakery The Turtle donated at great chili made by one of their cooks
Cornbread diversity
Cornbread diversity

Eating started at six with the results announced around eight. All chilies went well with nearly equal amounts of each taken during the night. Something for everyone! Trevor won the event this year with Kyle winning the heat category.

The cornbreads were a new event this year and will certainly be continued next year. Here’s some details on the selections. Just like the chilies, each one was unique and well eaten.

Cook Cornbread Comments and Ingredients
Joan Joan made the mix with creamed corn and olives
Lisa Lisa baked the bread in cast iron with jalepenos
MacKenzie Macenzee blended cheddar cheese, creamed corn, and Jalepenos
Missy Missy had pumkin puree added to the bread
Pam Pam slipped in nutmeg and walnuts
Trina Trina used pumkin bread spices including ginger to make a sweet bread

Thanks to everyone who showed up.

Hope to see all of you at the Ribfest event next summer.

Nine Chili selections!
Nine Chili selections!
Cornbread diversity
Cornbread diversity

The 2013 ManCuisine ChiliFest is in the books! Another great turnout and easily the best combination of chilies we have seen yet. Nine entries including eight member entries and an invited guest covered the whole range from ground beef wonder through big chunk brisket. Nothing this year was silly hot but all the chilies had some kind of heat meets flavor. The drawing for next year’s guest gave the nod to Brandon, we’ll look forward to his creation

The winning recipe this year was Trevor’s with his Chili taking all categories but heat., The heat category went to Kyle with his ground turkey extravaganza. Trevor’s chili was a modification of last year’s continuing his hominy along with beans and a mad mixture of ingredients including rib meat that somehow tasted like chicken, but then, doesn’t everything. Trevor’s winning recipe is below.

In addition to the chilies, packets of corn bread were distributed to the spouse/ significant others and each hacked the basic recipe to provide corn breads ranging from great classic jalapeño pepper recipes to one with ginger and pumpkin spices. All were wonderful and the corn bread challenge will certainly become a yearly event.

The Turtle Bread Company on 42nd was a great host again this year. thanks for all the support. Please consider the Turtle Bakery sometime for a great breakfast or for some good coffee and bakery goods when you are near any of their locations.

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Winning Chili 2013

2 lbs boneless pork rib, cubed
1 lb smoked Bacon
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (don’t drain)
1 large can of hominy, drained
1 can dark kidney beans, drained
1 can yellow corn
10 diced mini sweet peppers
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large red onion, large chunks
3 jalapeños in adobo sauce, diced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 packet Sazon Goya powder
Pumpkin purée (half can)
chipotle chile powder
cayenne chile powder
cumin
Cinnamon
adobo seasoning
oregano (mexican, common, or both)

Just a quick posting on the great evening we just had at the Minnesota Mild Chili Bake Off. The six of us threw down the gauntlet in the best collection of chilies yet. Isaac’s coordination with the folks at Turtle Bread resulted in a great location for the 39+ people in attendance. The social hour had a room to itself with plenty of room to properly mull and converse waiting for the main event. Guests did not disappoint with better than ever side dishes and brews provided by those in attendance.

Once things were ready and the time was right the crowd began sampling and judging the goods. Seven chilies were presented with one being a reference chili provided by a professional chef. The crowd made their way through the selections in a little over an hour with much discussion of the variety this year. Two of the chilies were legitimately hot and one a curry-based chili. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey were all present with starches ranging from garbanzo to hominy.

Lisa collected the judging sheets and Kyle tabulated them and announced the winners. Look for a later post with details and recipes from the winners, but briefly: Doug Trevor, Kyle, and Isaac took away honors in various categories with Doug taking overall winner and Trevor securing second place just .01 points behind. Good comments on all the chilies and a great crowd to spend time with on a warm February evening. Exciting to see so many familiar faces show up at the door! It was also good to not have a snowstorm on the day of the event.  Getting to and from last year’s event was a bit of a struggle for all.

Here’s some comments from Scott H.- one of the attendees:

I’m sure no one was surprised that the Man-cuisine Chili Cook-off was a literate event. You had to expect that the invitees would use words that have multiple meanings and that definitions would be demanded and discussed. After all, the hosts do. Great things happen when people who are passionate about food and language get together.

It was my first time in attendance and I was trying to get my head around the rating system. I asked Trevor if he could define chili. He got a look on his face that was simultaneously far-off and focused. I’ve come to understand this is a trademark Johnson expression that means that one of the great questions has been addressed and that the gears are turning. “No”, he replied, “I can’t give you a definition of chili.” This from the defending champion. 
I’m sure the contestants have contemplated the question. Embedded in the judging was the psychology of our own, individual, ideal chili. People were talking about it in line and at the tables. Must chili have beans? What meat is implied in chili? Would a noodle fly or would that make it goulash? What is the role of heat in the quality of a good bowl? It seems clear to me that there is a viscosity factor. The thinnest entrants (2,4 and 6) seemed more like soup and didn’t fare well in the final standings.
The meanings of the criteria were also debated. Umami was nice because it cannot be assessed without really thinking about it. It belongs to the essence of chili, but what does it taste like? Marketability yielded opposite definitions; some saw it as a rating of universality (could this soup be sold to the masses) and others saw it at a rating of originality (would people go out of their way to eat this special bowl). 
In the end, the labels a judge applied to the numbers revealed their root feelings. “The one with mushrooms”, “the gray one”, and “the Indian one” all described number 5, Isaac’s third place finisher. “The dark one” (1, Kyle’s), “the one with corn” (3, second place, Trevor’s) and “the one with two meats” (7, Doug’s, the champion). These seemed to rank higher in the end, perhaps because they stood out in way that was describable…unique but within the realm of our imaginations.
Record keeping and the revelation of recipes is not part of this tradition, which is too bad, because I’d like another taste of almost all of these. So, as I wade into my own kitchen to prepare the Super Bowl meal, I’ll rely on my own tried and true chili concept.

Look for recipes here soon. Keep warm!

 

Additional photos from the event: The discussion, the crowd, the entries, and the beer. (~Trev)

Below are some of the recipes (more added as they come in) along with what the judges said they did best. Feel free to send comments and questions about the recipes. Initial inspiration for these remarkable recipes range from a Brewery in San Francisco to a NE Minneapolis restaurant, and from Bobby Flay to Betty Crocker. (more…)

Neither snow nor snow nor lots of snow will deter the ManCuisine Crew from hosting a great chili event. This year’s remarkable contest was held during the largest recorded snowfall in February in Minnesota! Isaac made some great arrangements with his boss at the Turtle Bakery to host the event in the nearly finished new bakery in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. Great Venue- great chili. Seven chili’s in attendance including one ringer from the bakery. Twenty-four people made it out in the snow to help judge the entries and enjoy the good food and beverage.  We’ll be posting all the recipes and the winners of the various categories later today. Look for some web analytics to be added later in the week. For now, here are some images from the event.


Once again ManCuisine prepares for the annual Minnesota Mild Chili Bake Off. As the perpetual last place holder in the bake-off of years gone by I thought I should prepare the public for this year’s event in light of the places we have reviewed. An insider’s look at the competition may help those of you attending this year’s event to better prepare for the gastronomy ahead.  I’ll take the tact of walking the reader through the cooks.  First the dads:

Brad. Somehow his love of Scandinavian food has not yet allowed him to finish in the top five of the places.  This year we might expect him to further sabotage his efforts by trying to include herring in the mix. So very Ingmar Bergman. Brad’s style is similar to the style at the Convention Grill.  A bit dated, no surprises just good stable food served in a nice environment.

Doug, on the other hand, ramps up the effort always trying to find ways to live at the edge of the rules. Much like the end of chaos characterizes our shifts in climate Doug’s Chilis have shown great variety and extremes. Many were concerned that his uber-heat last year might lead to a change in the rules. Nonetheless we all cleaned the bowls without spoons to the point that a dishwater was not needed. This year the insider is predicting an apparently common ground beef recipe that turns out to be hot cuisine (haut cuisine?). Consider Mayslack’s when thinking about Doug’s chili. The floorboards are showing a bit of age but the food reveals attitude and substance.

Now the sons:

As instigator of the GNO/ Mancuisine group Trevor showed great promise in his ability to pull together odd collections of things into a meaningful and fun group. Often his chilies have revealed the same. King of the secret ingredient we might expect to finally see mango in a chili recipe this year. Not to be taken lightly, Trevor creates the score sheet that would impress even the folks on the Betty Crocker Chili Bake Off list.  This year the insider thinks Trev will work more in the pork domain, perhaps some Cuban collection of heat and tropics. Trevor is to Chili as Anchor Fish and Chips is to Mancuisine. Flavor, great atmosphere, and a good brew to wash down the rest.

Adam is the true Maverick of the group, not in a Sarah Palin way but in a 1960’s B&W TV show kind of a way. He dresses his chili dark, but it’s the good guy in disguise. He has nailed the winning combo with nothing more than ground beef, a can of beer, and a source of heat yet to be determined. Many think he has a secret chili garden in the closet running on hydroponics and cold fusion. The insider is confident that this year’s offering from Adam could include cheese, although that may be a bit too much of a tip to the Green Bay Packers. Adam is, without a doubt, the 5-8 Club of Mancuisine. Fun solid, and without pretense.

Kyle’s subtle approach often goes unnoticed until the sheets are tallied and he has emerged on top. Kyle brings serious California dreamin’ to the green things added to his chili. Brussels sprouts and even lima beans are not beyond possibility with Kyle although his trademark might be the slow burn heat he manages to assemble. Consistently inedible by the moms in attendance due to their lack of respect (or perhaps their healthy respect) for caliente! his chili often requires some side diary product.  The insider is a little confident in predicting that this year will be the year that Kyle brings on some central African chili with seafood. When comparing his cooking to restaurants imagine the Town Hall. Looks like most other places but the surprising brew selection and really tasty food surprise all the time.

Isaac has had the most variability in attempts at chili over the years. He exhibited genius last year by adding a chili from one of the four-star restaurants in the city to the collection as a base for comparison. Most likely to take a risk on a recipe that could blow away the crowd he is known for the tastiest of the blends but exhibits a wide range on the scoresheets. We do not expect this to change this year so look for some use of his new training as a pastry chef to enter into his work.  Perhaps a crem-chillae’ with hints of mint and chocolate. Our maybe a caramelized chipotle base with pastry bowls provided. Compare Isaac’s work in the bake-off to Lyndale Tap House. Great variety, not a miss, but on the edge of upper crust (it is Uptown after all).