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Recap: The Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-off

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Recap: The Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-off

By Carly Browning

Chili Fest fell on a typical winter Ithaca day. Snowy, cold and full of good food. People come from all across the Finger Lakes to take part in the Great Downtown Chili Cook-off. They come to taste chili, drink wine, eat sweets and judge facial hair. After my four years of tasting chili, I have my own ideas about what makes the best chili. For me, it needs to be thick, full of beans and veggies—it needs to have spunk. And here’s where my definition falls short for others: I’m not so big on the spice. Load mine up with sour cream and cheese and I’m a happy girl. But I got curious. What else should be on this list? So I went out to ask some Chili Fest goers what they think makes a winning chili.

By far the biggest common requirement in a chili is the level of spice. Guess I’m not in the majority there. People say they want a chili that brings a good heat and packs a punch. The it’s not chili if it isn’t spicy mentality. Some people wanted more than that, though. They want a chili with a good bean-to-meat ratio. A chili that’s thick and smoky, with lots of flavor. Watery chili just won’t cut it. What about a meatless chili? The festival was not without it’s vegetarian influence, either. Several vendors boasted delicious vegetarian chili that easily kept up with their meat-filled competitors.

Each booth of chili held their own, inciting favorites all over the festival. But only one can be crowned victorious. The winner of the 2015 chili cup is Just A Taste! Other winners include Smash Truck for Best Vegetarian Chili, Wagner Valley for Best Local Beverage with their Oatmeal Stout, and Life’s So Sweet for Best Other Chili Item. For a full list of winners, visit the Downtown Ithaca List of Winners.

Carly Browning is senior at Ithaca College and writing intern for Edible Finger Lakes.

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Photos by Justine Gray

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