I had the fortune of being invited to judge a chili cook-off at the National Aquarium on Wednesday. Don’t worry. There was no dolphin stew. But while the sharks, eels, and rays were lazily circling the waters, the crew at the Aquarium was chowing down on 12 wonderful chilis and four outstanding winter soups made by staffers. Oh, yes, many were wearing purple for the Ravens at the sixth annual in-house event held every January, though there were a few brave Pittsburgh fans in black.
But chili is a great equalizer so, instead of heated debate about Sunday’s game, there was just heated discussion about the best chili. And it was all for a good cause. Proceeds (staff members paid to sample the chili and other homemade goodies) benefited the Aquarium’s employee assistance program and animal enrichment fund, which builds toys for the animals.
I’ve never seen so many slow cookers percolating at the same time, even one with Green Bay Packers’ logos on it (though the user had a disclaimer on it that is wasn’t hers). With names like Heaven and Hell, Smokin’ Drunkin’ Vegetarian Chili, White Lightning, and Papa Tom’s World Famous Chili, there was some serious eating to do.
The Aquarium announced the winners later in the afternoon. They were: overall and best meat chili: Kenny Johnson (custodial services) for his Titan’s mix; best poultry chili: Cory Bandy (marine mammals) for White Lightning; best vegetarian chili: Ed Furlong (IT) for Bruno’s; best soup: Cortez Lewis (security) for Chicken, Chicken-Bang, Bang (gotta love the name).
Yes, I sampled them all. My favorite? They all were really good, but I did lean toward Papa’s Tom’s spicy concoction and White Lightning. But this weekend, I’ll be making my own steak and black bean version, wearing my Joe Flacco jersey. Go Ravens