Edgerton's Chilimania offers best, hottest recipes
EDGERTON It started with a plastic sampler cup, a tiny spoon and a dream: to taste as many chili recipes as possible at the 21st annual Chilimania chili cook off Saturday in downtown Edgerton.
It ended with us searching for three rolls of antacid tablets.
Along the way, the Gazette strolled Edgerton’s Henry Street, tasting some distinct and unique chilies, some of which were entrants Saturday in the Chili Appreciation Society International’s Wisconsin state championship.
The festival midway was crammed with dozens of booths manned by experienced chili cooks from around the county. Bands played, and the scene teemed with chili lovers ready to for a free public tasting of the best and the hottest.
The Gazette tried about 10 varieties of chili, and then we surrendered to the burn. That was probably a good call.
Now, we open our chili-stained notebook to share details about a few of the recipes—and the cooks—who spiced up Edgerton’s annual ode to onion breath and gastric distress.
-- Sample No. 1: We came roaring out of the gates when we tried San Augustine, Texas native Bill Bishop’s chili. It was a real Texas chili, thick and bursting with fresh spices. Bishop wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Northern chili tastes like tomato sauce. Real southern chili has a kick,” he says.
Bishop’s slogan for his chili is: “Ooh! That’s good.” Our impression was, “Ooh, that’s spicy.” But in a good way.
--Sample No. 2: We went native with Edgerton resident Gordi Rusch’s “Tailgate chili.” This chili cuts the heat in favor of sweet brown sugar and slow-cooked red and green peppers, plus sausage and steak. The secret is that Rusch grills it over wood charcoal.
Rusch’s chili philosophy: “You should be able to eat chili without making a face.”
We agree. His was mellow, sweet and smoky, like an autumn afternoon in Wisconsin.
--Sample No. 3: Reidsville, N.C. native Kenny Jones’ “near-famous, Damifino chili.” Jones comes to Chilimania annually to visit family, show off his award winning chili, and eat—of all things—cheese curds.
His chili was so good, we pitched the tiny plastic spoon organizers gave us, and drank the stuff straight from the cup.
We tried a few other chilies, but we finally gave up after a guy in a toga who claimed to be a doctor handed us a sample of stuff called “Chariots of Chili.”
We tried it, and promptly asked this doctor if he knew any gastroenterologists. He seemed amused. We were done.
To be better prepared for next year’s Heat on Henry Street, we’ve decided to bootleg in some milk. And we’ve considered seeding our breakfast cereal with hot sauce, starting in early August.
Chilimania, you may have beaten us this year. But we’ll be back. Maybe.