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Chili gives 3-event weekend oomph

Of chili, Country in the Park and a women's gala, one is the talk of Pinellas Park. The fare was tasty. The themes? Less tasteful.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- One thing's clear after last weekend. People love chili and country music. They're less enthusiastic about women's festivals.

Chili and music lovers flocked to the first two events in Pinellas Park, making the first-time chili cook-off a fundraising winner and giving the 10-year-old Country in the Park its most successful year ever. Fewer attended Sunday's Serendipity gala celebrating women, but the charity event still made money.

"Chili was the draw," said Pinellas Park firefighter Ray Hansen, who organized Friday's Chili Blaze 2000. "Once it was gone, the crowd started dispersing slowly."

Estimates of attendance ran from 4,500 to 6,000, which city officials said was remarkable for a first-ever event.

"I know there were a lot of people there. It was a madhouse," Hansen said. "We ran out of ballots like 10 minutes into it . . . we ran out of (4,500) sample cups 30 minutes into it. We ran out of chili 90 minutes into it."

Firefighters raised about $7,000 in gross receipts. Hansen estimated a $5,500 profit. The money will be used so children from the region can attend the Tampa Bay Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp in Brandon for free.

"That was right where we were planning, so that was good," Hansen said.

The crowds were ready for country music Saturday. An estimated 29,316 folks gathered to hear country music star Jerry Reed and others picking and singing. That's about 15 percent higher than last year's attendance, Pinellas Park public information officer Melanie Hasburgh said.

It's unclear how much money was raised for charities because a final accounting will not be available until the end of the month, Hasburgh said.

What Serendipity lacked in attendance it had in spirit and good will, said Billie Noakes, who organized the event.

Noakes attributed the small turnout to first-year growing pains. She intends to reprise the festival next year and expects a better turnout and more interest then.

But the talk of Pinellas Park on Monday was the Chili Blaze as some justified their wins and others teased them about having an inside track with the judges.

"We won three trophies and it wasn't fixed," Pinellas Park council member Rick Butler said. Butler was referring to the three trophies he won with fellow council member Ed Taylor and city employee Jerry Garner for the concoction at their "Irish Wake" booth. The three had dressed in suits and stood in front of a coffin with a dead alligator on top while people signed a funeral book to get samples of Taylor Funeral Home's "You Don't Want to Know What's In It Chili." As they advertised on a fake tombstone, it was "chili to die for."

The three won in the Corporate Class, the Best Booth and the Hottest Chili categories.

"I'm referring to it as the trifecta," Taylor said. "We set a benchmark for spice temperature. There's going to be stuff out there next year that's nuclear."

Other winners included Gene Lightfield for the Most Unique Chili and the Wing House for the People's Choice. Pinellas Park firefighters Joe Greene, Ed Burgess and Don Schultz won two awards, in the Firefighter class and for the Overall Championship, with their Deerhunter's Delight.

"The recipe was found on the Internet," Greene said.

His girlfriend downloaded several recipes, and the three firefighters chose the one that seemed to be the most interesting.

"All of a sudden, we're getting the award," Greene said. "It was pretty amazing really. We weren't expecting to win anything at all."

But perhaps the most-talked-about chili was the Open Class winner, R.G.'s Plumbing of Pinellas Park.

"It was called "A Pot of ?' because we served it out of the toilet bowl," said Marcia Seeders, who owns the plumbing business with her husband, Ralph.

The Seeders almost upset Taylor's group for the best booth award, Hansen said.

"It was witty and whimsical, which is what we are into," Hansen said of the Seeders' decision to use a new toilet as a serving dish.

Mrs. Seeders said this is the first time she has entered a chili cook-off.

"I was never so shocked in my life winning that trophy. . . . Never in a trillion years did I think we'd win that," she said.

While she expects to enter next year's competition, she won't be able to duplicate the recipe. She started out with 10 pounds of ground sirloin, added some medium salsa and "just started throwing stuff in there."

"That's how I cook," Mrs. Seeders said. "Every time I make something, I make it different."

* * *

THE WINNERS:

Here are three of the recipes that won awards in last Friday's Chili Blaze 2000:

Taylor Funeral Home's You Don't Want to Know What's in It Chili (Chili to Die For)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds meat

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups chopped onion

  • 1 chipotle pepper, soaked in 1 cup water. Pull open when softened, scrape inside, then discard hull. Use this liquid to add to the meat once it is browned and drained

  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste

  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes

  • 2 15-ounce cans of chili beans

  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce

  • 7 Tablespoons chili powder

  • 3 Tablespoons cumin

  • 1 Tablespoon paprika

  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flake

  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder

Directions:

Brown meat with onions and drain. Add garlic, jalapeno peppers and spices. Add tomato paste and reserved chipotle liquid to distribute spices thoroughly in meat. Let reduce as necessary. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and heat thoroughly. Add chili beans. Check flavor and spice temperature. Adjust to taste. One gallon.

Lowfat White Seafood Chili Topped with Fruit Salsa (courtesy of Tony Bartolo of the Wing House, Culinary Department)

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. fresh jalapenos

  • 4 large green pepper

  • 2 large white onions

  • 2 Tablespoons paprika

  • 1 Tablespoon cumin

  • 1 Tablespoon coriander

  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 Teaspoon white pepper

  • 3 Quarts seafood stock

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 bunch cilantro

  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 lb. grouper cut in 1-inch cubes

  • 1 lb. snapper cut in 1-inch cubes

  • 1 lb. (20-25) white shrimp

  • 1 lb. sea scallops

  • 1 lb. mussels, cleaned

Wing House Chili Rub

  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon salt

  • 1 Tablespoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3 Tablespoons paprika

  • 3 Tablespoons parsley

  • 4 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 Tablespoons garlic powder

  • Mix well, pour over the seafood.

  • Salsa

  • 4 ripe star fruit, diced

  • 1/2 cup diced, canned jalapenos

  • 1/2 cup diced red onion

  • 2 cups diced pineapple

  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

  • 1 Tablespoon honey

    Combine all ingredients, mix well and refrigerate overnight

    Directions

    Roast all peppers and cover until cool. Then remove skin and seeds, except for jalapenos. Finely dice onions and add to pot with oil, garlic and peppers. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add all spices and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add seasoned seafood, except the mussels, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add beans and stock. Cook uncovered for 1 hour. Add cilantro and mussels. Cook 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Reheat to order. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and the salsa. Makes 3 gallons.

    Deerhunter's Delight

    (courtesy of Pinellas Park firefighters C shift, who found the recipe on the Internet. Used there with permission from John Rynes.)

    Ingredients

    • 2 1/2 -- 3 lbs. beef sirloin tips, round steak, brisket or venison. (The firefighters used deer sausage.)

    • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh ground pork

    • 1/2 cup olive oil

    • 3 medium onions, chopped

    • 1 clove garlic, chopped

    • 3-6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped, or 1 4-ounce can of jalapeno peppers

    • 3-4 medium red sweet bell peppers, chopped

    • 1 or 2 green bell peppers, chopped

    • 1 medium zucchini, cubed

    • 1 8-ounce can tomato paste

    • 1 Tablespoon maiserena (masa) flour

    • 3 bay leaves

    • 1 Tablespoon salt

    • 1 1/2 Tablespoon cumin

    • 1 Tablespoons red wine vinega

    • 1 Tablespoons brown sugar

    • 1 Tablespoons fresh, ground black pepper

    • 1 1/2 Teaspoon dry mustard

    • 1/2 cup beef broth

    • 1/2 can beer (preferably Heilman's Old Style)

    • 3 ounces bourbon

    • 1/2 ounce tequila

    Directions

    Cut meat into 1/4-inch cubes and brown in a tablespoon of olive oil with one half of the chopped garlic. Take the meat from the skillet. Reserve the cooking juices. Brown the ground pork, stirring and breaking it up as it cooks. Drain and discard the fat. Mix cooked pork with the cooked beef (or venison) in a 10-quart kettle.

    In another skillet, saute chopped onions with the remaining garlic, chopped jalapenos, sweet green peppers, long hot peppers and zucchini in the remaining olive oil until golden. Then add the meat.

    Place the pot on low and add tomatoes, crushing some of them in your hand as they come from the can. Mix the flour with a little tomato sauce, tomato paste, bay leaves, salt, cumin, oregano, vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper, chili powder and dry mustard. Add one half cup of the beef cooking liquid, the tequila, bourbon and beer. (If using canned jalapenos instead of fresh, add them now.) Cook slowly for four to five hours, depending on the desired degree of thickness. Stir frequently to prevent scorching or sticking. Add beer to adjust consistency and correct seasoning to taste. For a much hotter flavor, add more jalapenos and crushed red pepper. Makes about 1 1/2 gallons.

    * * *

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