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Posted November 19, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

First Chili Cook Off heats up

Woodstock Chamber of Commerce hosting food, beer event

By Amber Marra -- amarra@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Bryce Resort and the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce will be bubbling up some friendly competition at the first Chamber Chili Cook Off and Beer Tasting on Saturday.

Up to 20 cooks from as far away as New Jersey and throughout the Shenandoah Valley from Winchester to Staunton are anticipated at the event. Judges will be on hand to critique entries on taste, appearance, aroma and consistency, and winners will be selected in the categories of master chef, runner up, tasters' choice, spiciest, and most original recipe.

With a weather forecast predicting temperatures to hit 56 degrees during the day and dip to 36 at night, according to the National Weather Service, it should be a prime autumn day to sample warm chili and sip on one of the eight microbrews offered.

"Fall happens to be when we're a great tourist destination, so we see a lot of traffic because of the fall foliage," said Jenna French, executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. "It will be a great opportunity to showcase what we have to offer."

The beers flowing will be Abita Pecan Harvest Ale, SOS and AndyGator; Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Brown Ale; Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and Torpedo; and Saint Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale.

"We've done a few wine festivals and Shenandoah Uncorked was last weekend, so we figured people have had their fair share of wine," French said. "And beer just goes hand-in-hand with chili."

The prizes include free passes to Shenandoah Caverns, a Wal-Mart gift card, a free night at the Woodstock Hampton Inn's premiere suite, and a gift basket from The Market.

Though the competition will remain friendly, one of the contenders for the spiciest chili, Robert Henry, of Fairfax, intends on heating things up, but will still make sure that anyone wishing to taste his hottest chili will have to sign a release form first.

"Let's just say no one's gonna have hotter chili than this," he said.

Henry specializes in growing Ghost Peppers, or naga jolokia, at his family's farm near Woodstock. The pepper, which Henry says is native to India and is the hottest pepper in the world, has a Scoville heat rating of about 1,042,000, according to Henry.

It can be difficult to grow, but thanks to the farm's fertile soil Henry's Hot Pepper Bob business generated 200 plants worth this year.

"We came by it by accident that the soil and conditions by the river are really conducive to growing peppers," Henry said.

Not all of the competitors will be looking to singe the taste buds of Saturday's crowd. Charlie's, of Woodstock, will boast a buffalo burger chili and a white chili made with chicken.

"They're very good to eat, good to taste, and very pleasant for anyone to enjoy," said Charlie Billow, owner of Charlie's. "We just want everybody to have the chance to enjoy our food.

The cook-off starts Saturday at 6 p.m. at Bryce Resort. Tickets are $20 and are available through French at 459-2541 or woodstockvachamber@gmail.com. Registration for cooks has ended for the event.

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