Thursday, June 30, 2011

Benmarl Winery Chili Cook Off

The Benmarl Winery up in Marlboro, NY held its 2nd Annual Chili Cook Off on Saturday June 25th and I am darn glad that Tango Spice was able to be up in the Hudson Valley for this fun event. This was an ICS sanctioned event, so you just know the big guns were going to be out in force cookin' up some of the best chili on the east coast.

I had come up the previous night in order to get an early start. This also gave me a chance to see the vineyard and winery before the cook off crowds got there and the booths were set up. It was nice to drive on in Friday afternoon and take in the spectacular beauty that is Benmarl. Even to a person such as myself, uneducated about wine, the Benmarl Winery is quite impressive. Being America's oldest professional vineyard lends a feeling of long history as you walk the grounds.

A picture perfect setting for a chili cook off. Now the last post about a chili event was about us cooking up in Somers, CT. This time it was a little different, as Tango Spice wanted to be a part of this as a vendor Team Gad Zukes had the weekend off. Yep, as the cooks worked their magic over steaming pots of red & green, I was hawking my wares on the spice trail. I did take a little good natured ribbing from Mad Mike about not stoking' up a pot. All in good fun. Once again as I start to attend these chilihead events, I can see the family type atmosphere which surrounds the cooks. From the seasoned (well seasoned) veterans to the virgin cooks, everyone totally supportive of one another. Though they may be competitors, they are also friends and friends to be.

As had been the way of the weather for the past week, Saturday dawned dark & threatening. Of course as we all know, chili waits for no cloud and this is a rain or shine event. Trophies, cash & sacred chili honor are at stake! Getting to the site I saw that there were a good amount of the competitors already set up and I was able to get the Spice Mobile in and get my little corner all set up in no time. The cool thing about being there early is the chance to head out and say hello to everyone and get some cool photos before everyone shows up.

As the morning rolled on the cooks began preparing the green chili, then the red. Being in the clean mountain air which is now filled with the wafting aroma of peppers, meats, spices all cooking up in the deep pots sure can create an appetite. Then it happens. The clock strikes the appointed hour and the expectant crowds start to arrive. Benmarl is a destination place, the sort of place it is nice to go and enjoy the day, even if there is no cook off. This was apparent as a couple of 'brides to be' stopped in with their entourages. There were also families and friends who had come up for the chance to sample the people's choice chili. 

Throughout the day the clouds rolled in and out, yet spared us any rain. This was really nice, as the sun provided much warmth, then just as it seemed a wee bit too hot, a cloud would stroll on by to cool us off a little bit. Everyone was strolling around, sampling great chili. Also available for sampling was some of Benmarl's wines. For the non wine drinkers like myself there was a frosty keg.

Everyone knows that you should have some good music to go along with your chili and everyone was very much into the sounds of The Crossroads Band. A group of guys playing good, classic rock. Great group of guys for sure.

A big part of any ICS chili cook off is the money raised for a very worthy, local cause. I always like to tell people who have never been to a chili cook off, this is why these folks are so great. All along the good fun and great chili is the awesome work it does for the locals. The money you pay for your tasting kits is money you can feel very good about spending. During the Benmarl cook off, money raised was going to Fraxa research for the cure of Fragile X.

The entire event was really great. From the location to the cooks and the wonderful crowds it was a great day to be up in wine country.

Tango Spice will be back next year at the Benmarl. You never know, perhaps even Team Gad ~ Zukes chili will be there as well. Either way, I would hope that you'd be there as well.

The Winners Are!

Red Chili
First Place > Jim Heywood

Chili Verde
First Place > Vicki Buma Tankis

First Place > Roxanne Ballachino

For more information click the links below:

How about some photos? Yeah!

All Quiet Before The Cooks Arrive

Tango Hangin' With The Chili Folks!

All Smiles

Great Place To Be With Friends

Is This A Backdrop Or What?


  1. Ahhhhhhh finally getting some free time to catch up on some good reading, and what a good read this is! :) Glad you had a great trip and were able to be a part of something spectacular. You captured some great shots too -- Bravo!

  2. Good to see you Chicky, and thanks so much for stopping in.
    I have to say that the trip to Benmarl was a great one and I am sure to be going back again.
    You would so enjoy it up there too