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Chili success is matter of taste at state cook-off

October 20, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - All types of factors go into the making of a unique-tasting pot of chili, and one example can be found at Monica Parker's stove.

Parker, of Alexandria, Va., broils a red pepper, then floats it in her creation to allow the flavors to blend in. She then scoops the pepper out of the chili.

She also prefers using fresh garlic, saying it gives her chili a fuller flavor.

Other chili cooks rely on powdered spices, like Kim Eckley of Frederick, Md.

Eckley achieved a zippy flavor in her chili at a contest in Berkeley Springs Sunday by using powdered forms of cayenne and white pepper and other spices.

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Eckley's chili turned out to be the winner in the third annual West Virginia CASI Championship at Coolfont Resort.

CASI stands for Chili Appreciation Society International, an organization that holds chili cook-offs around the country.

Cook-off contestants compete for points toward a victory at the national competition in Terlingua, Texas. This year's national contest will be Nov. 1.

Cheers went up from relatives when Eckley was named the winner.

She said her chili recipe is simple, adding that the ingredients were no different than other contestants were using.

"It really comes down to the judges and what their preferences are," Eckley said.

The secret to a good pot of chili is technique, such as timing the addition of spices and making sure that the meat is tender, longtime chili cook Beverly King said at Sunday's event.

Hotter is not necessarily better, said King, who lives near Washington, D.C.

"It's not supposed to blow your head off," King said. "It's supposed to have bite."

The cook-offs sanctioned by Chili Appreciation Society International raise more than $1 million for charities, said Alan Dean, executive director of the organization.

The beneficiary at Sunday's cook-off was the Humane Society of Morgan County. Money was raised through the event through a $10 entry fee for contestants and a $10 entry fee for the general public.

For $10, spectators could eat all the chili, salsa and chips, hot dogs and other food they could eat.

It was hoped the event would raise more than $1,000 for the Humane Society, organizers said.

In addition to the Chili Appreciation Society International contest, the fourth annual Chili Cook-off was held. That event was referred to as a "freestyle" cook-off, meaning cooks could use whatever ingredients they wanted.

In the CASI cook-off, contestants are prohibited from using beans or other fillers.

The winners in the Chili Cook-off were Jackie Lewis of Great Cacapon, W.Va., in the hot category; Pat Zappala of Berkeley Springs in the mild category; and Mike Williams of Winchester, Va., in the meatless category.

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