I remember reading an article in Might Magazine forever ago by Mike Doughy (whom I actually just saw a few nights ago) detailing the kinds of fans in his show audience: there's the "Dude, you rock!" guy, and the girl who slips you painfully bad poetry. Then there are the people who remind you of your friends, who clearly get your jokes and like your songs and share your sensibilities, but of course they won't come up and talk to you because they are far too shy and don't think you should bug people you admire. I often fall into that category.
I would be lying if I said this event didn't totally overwhelm me. I generally don't spend a lot of time in crowds, and it was wall-to-wall. Amazingly, I overheard more manners than any time in recent memory. People bumping into you is almost a nice thing when you receive a smile and an "I'm sorry", and it didn't just happen once or twice, but many times over. We Milwaukeeans are a polite folk.
Also contributing to my overwhelming state was the number of participating restaurants, and the staggering variety of chilis. Given the sorry breadth of my late winter appetite, I only had room for exactly 5 chili samples. It is depressing, I know.
Roots: Best Heat.
Brewed Cafe: Best Veggie.
I gave them my vote for best veggie chili, and saved the vote for best display for these guys:
Noble Provisions Catering: Best Display.
Noble Provisions Catering. I didn't try their Old-Timey Chili - but wished I did... and these Cumin Corn Cookies looked like the perfect side accompaniment. (I'll have more pics of their old-timey nuances up on flickr after a bit...)
The final best pick that I texted in was this meat chili from The Old German Beer Hall. They caught me by surprise when I stopped in my tracks at the vibrancy of the sliced multi-colored chiles scattered across the top of their vat of triple bratwurst chili. Yes. Bratwurst Chili. We are in Milwaukee, and this was amazing. Not really too meaty, and fortified with both sauerkraut and Jack cheese. This was the sample that put me over the top. I was just plain full.
The great anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss did groundbreaking work when he observed that in turning the raw into the cooked we transform nature into culture; in other words, cooking is one of the ways in which we define ourselves as civilized creatures. Through our cooking, and our eating habits, we tell ourselves who we are.
Additional photos of this event will soon be posted on flickr.