Since 2003, Matt Timms has been gathering New Yorkers to take part in competitive bacchanalias of stews, bacon treats, ice cream, and plenty more. Okay, so a bacchanalia of stew doesn't sound that sexy. But when opportunity knocks on your door to try 26 varieties of crazy chili to a soundtrack of heavy metal, you go.
Timms's takedowns are celebrated for their lack of rules of engagement (just bring enough to share). Sure enough, at this year's takedown you could find goat braised in Scotch, duck fat-fried potatoes, and alligator meat all advertised as chili. A couple chili verdes made an appearance that would do the Southwest proud, and more than one vegetarian chili that could make you forget years of veggie-"friendly" cafeteria abuse.
You could also find a classic bowl of red, with cuts of cow from oxtail to short rib to sirloin. (As well as all the usual chain rattling about the requirements for a true Texas chili—just in this case the chain rattler was born in Suffolk County.) Sweet spices dominated most samples, with cinnamon and ground coffee used more than you'd expect. While few competitors dared to dial up the heat to serious levels, they all demonstrated a commitment to spicing and technique that lie at the heart of chili-craft.
Judges picked Becky MacGregor's Bayou Chili as their favorite: a brew of short rib, andouille sausage, tasso, and bacon, adorned with a hush puppy. But the audience fell for Kevin Wallace's El Conquistador, which favored tender ground sirloin and chorizo topped with shards of sweet bacon. Check out the slideshow above for more photos, but take some Tums first.