I still don't know who the heck it was that called me Saturday afternoon at the Daily News and asked me if I was going to cover the chili cookoff at the Estherville VFW canteen.
But I shall be eternally grateful.
When the person mentioned the words "chili cookoff," my ears perked up and my taste buds stood out. Now here was an assignment I could handle!
So I hurried on down to find 14 dedicated chili masters vying for the coveted first-place trophy. It was the second annual event, with eight competing last year.
This year there were various versions of chili, of course, and if I had to pick a favorite there would have been a three-way tie, or maybe four-way or six, had I tried them all.
The first one I tried was by canteen manager Stacie Stoliker and her son Spencer Jensen, otherwise known as Team Awesome. It took the heat level to the comfort limit, but it was so doggone tasty you kept wanting more.
I don't know if any of you ever ate at the Frisco Inn in Sioux Falls, S.D., back when a Greek man named George (for the life of me I can't remember his last name, I think it was Annopolis or something) ran it up until the late 1960s or 1970s. Anyway, he had the best loose meat burgers, hot dogs and chili in the Western world. It was a unique taste that I haven't had since.
Well, that was until I tried Connie Olson's chili, a phenomenal reincarnation of the Frisco Inn recipe.
I must have seemed like a chili taste tester, because they asked me if I would like to judge next year's entries and I heartily agreed.
The grand prize winner, by Jim and Rae Jean Tindall, had that classic chili taste with a moderate heat.
I had to ask Jim for his recipe.
"There's some Mexican stuff in there," Jim said.
Okay, I thought. I guess I'll just have to start experimenting and figure out how Jim and Rae Jean came up with it.
That sounds like a good project for Super Sunday.