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The State of Chile and Where to Find It

Hello to fall and cooler weather, beautiful changing of the leaves, football on the television and chili on the stove or in the slow cooker.

Many states and aficionados enjoy bragging rights about the best chili in their regions. It’s amazing how many variations of chili recipes there are, including even the spelling of the word “chili,” in some cases. And so many opinions on the best toppings and accompanying starches with America’s beloved bowls.

Chili was likely “invented” in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1880s and was more akin to chili con carne, a beef stew with chunks of meat swimming in spices like cumin and chili powder, plus red chilis; sometimes the dish is called “red chili.” Unlike most traditional chili recipes, red chili doesn’t have tomatoes or tomato sauce.

“Chilli” in Illinois has 2 “Ls,” and there isn’t a confirmed reason for the alternate spelling. In the mid-1950s, the state’s chilli restaurants began to flourish. Ground beef, canned tomato sauce, spices including chili powder and Tabasco are the key ingredients.

Cincinnati’s chili has influences from its Greek immigrants. While the chili has beef, cumin and chili pepper, Mediterranean spices are added, like paprika, allspice and sometimes cinnamon and chocolate. Another variant from more traditional chilis, Cincinnati’s stew is served over a bed of spaghetti noodles and covered with shredded cheese.

It’s no surprise that New Mexico’s chile has to be made with Hatch chiles, red or green, which gives the dish a smoky and sweet flavor. Pork is the meat of choice plus tomatillo peppers and spices. New Mexicans prefer the spelling as “chile.”

Michigan’s bowl has chopped bacon and red wine or beer in the mix and beans are sometimes included. The state calls its hotdogs “Coneys” and the meal comes with a topping of chili, mustard and onions.

Some of the southern states, Florida and Georgia, for example, add orange and grapefruit juices to the pots to make “citrus chili” and are served with sliced avocado.

When America turned to a healthier lifestyle in the 1970s, vegetarian chili became a popular dish. A meat substitute is sometimes included but beans, veggies and sweet potatoes, with the usual spices, made a meatless staple for the weight conscious.

As for the toppings, the choices are endless no matter the bowl. Cilantro, cheese, onions, jalapenos, sour cream are just a few of the choices. Crackers, cornbread or tortillas are common starches to accompany most recipes.

The good news is that no matter the origin or taste, there are no wrong choices or ingredients to make a bowl this fall.

For tastings, chili cook-offs and other chili-like events in the Front Range, here are some to get your chili ON:

September 3
Tony’s Meats & Market, Pueblo Chile Roast, The Village at Castle Pines,
11 a.m. – 3 p.m., live roast, while supplies last;

September 10
Big Chili Cook-Off, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Evergreen;
Nick’s Garden Chile Fest, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Aurora, free admission;
Westwood Chile Fest, Noon – 7 p.m., Morrison Corridor, Littleton, free admission;
Brighton Chile Fest, Noon – 6 p.m., free admission,
Chili on the Divide Cook-off & Pint in the Park, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., Elizabeth, admission: $10 + $1 tasting ticket;

September 17
Superior Chile Fest, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., free admission; reusable chili cup for sampling is $5. This cook-off is an International Chili Society sanctioned cook-off. The winners will go to the 55th Annual World Championship Chili Cook-off in Myrtle Beach, on September 23 – 25.
2nd Annual Chili Cook-off, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Greeley. Sampling is $5.

September 23 – 25
Pueblo Chile & Frijoles, Friday:
3 p.m. – midnight; Saturday: 10 a.m. – midnight; Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., admission: $5, daily, children 12 and younger are free;

October 1
Golden Beer Tasting & Chili Cook-off, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., admission: $30 before September 29; includes more than 30 chili samples and 90 beer samples. Three categories: red, green, and other;

November 5
5 Alarm 5K & Chili Cook-Off,
10 a.m. – 1 p.m., Resolute Tap & Cellar, Arvada;

By Hollen Wheeler



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