By Steve Seitz
Jen Angus, left, and Gleb Vorodjeb of Albany, N.Y. enjoy chili at Woodstock’s annual charity chili cook-off.
WOODSTOCK — Chili aficionados flocked to Woodstock last weekend for the 26th annual charity chili cook-off.
For the eighth year, the money raised supported the Spectrum Teen Center, where teens are welcome to hang out, day and night.
Staff said the event usually raises between $1,500 and $2,000. Patrons were able to sample seven different chilies for a $5 ticket, then vote for their favorites to win.
“When it’s a chilly day, people need their chili,” said Spectrum co-director Heather Rubinstein-Vonada.
Contestants competed in two categories: restaurant and individual. For the second year in a row, David Diaz of the Melazo Bistro won for his Caribbean braised chicken sofrito chili, while the Woodstock Union High School student council won for its more traditional, and quite tasty, polyglot recipe.
“What we do is add everyone’s recipe together,” said Abby Kaijai, of the WUHS student council. “It somehow comes out delicious, so there is a method to our madness.”
Diaz said this was his fifth year participating in the chili cook-off.
“We’re doing this for Spectrum,” he said. “Helping the community is why we do it.”
Diaz’ recipe involves roasting and braising chicken with Caribbean spices and chipotle, and he also includes black olives in his version.
(Speaking as a lifelong chili addict, this writer can attest that he’s never had chili quite like this. It wins for excellent flavor as well as texture.)
The event drew people from all over. Jen Angus and Gleb Vorodjeb of Albany, N.Y. just came over leaf peeping, when they spotted signs for the cook-off.
“We’re here for the day, and just happened upon it,” Vorodjeb said. “So far, so good.”
“I like really spicy chili,” Angus said. “I’m the kind of person who puts hot sauce on my hot sauce. We lived with vegetarians, so I can make a nice vegetarian chili. For mine, I use hot sauce, meat and beans.”
Eric Fritz and Kerry Rosenthal represented the Woodstock Terrace assisted living community.
“We’re here to support the teen center,” Fritz said. “Local restaurants donate ten gallons of their chili, and then people vote. If we win, we’ll get a plastic trophy.”
Norm Frates represented the Woodstock Rotary.
“Heather Rubinstein asked us if we’d participate, and we said, ‘Sure,’” Frates said. “We’ve worked our tails off this year.”
Frates said the Rotary’s chili uses primarily Vermont ingredients, including the vegetables and beef.
“We do a lot of fundraisers,” said Spectrum volunteer Donna Waters of Woodstock. “Besides this, we cook at the high school on the Fourth of July.”
Co-director Joni Kennedy urges more businesses and individuals to participate next year.
Hungry? Here’s a basic recipe:
Depending on how much you want, break up and brown one to two pounds of ground beef in a four-quart pot. Add chopped onions and a clove of minced garlic while browning the meat, season liberally with chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Once meat is browned, add the equivalent in weight of red kidney beans and one 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes per pound, or one or two large chopped fresh tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. At the end of that time, stir in a small can of tomato paste, and sprinkle no more than 10 drops of Tabasco sauce, stir, simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Best appreciated with raw chopped onion and shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese.