ChiliFest Returns to Challenge Tallinn Tastebuds; Winners Announced ({{commentsTotal}})

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The irregularly held ChiliFest was held this Sunday in Tallinn, with a pair of Swedish newcomers claiming the people's choice award with a classic purist's Texas chili and Texas Honky Tonk winning hottest bowl. The judges' best overall went to "Rob's Black Bean Chili."

Fan Gary Planthaber has the roundup of the results here.

The culinary event, which was first held in 2005, was held outside the Ancho Mexican Food & Drink Bar at Müürivahe 17 in Old Town.

"We've held it based generally on who's in town, who's busy, and who can organize it," said Chuck Czepyha, an American expatriate in Tallinn and one of four co-organizers. "It's our opportunity to introduce proper chili con carne to Estonia."

A dearth of acceptable chili in Estonia is what got the event started in the first place. Before the first cookoff, Czepyha complained to another future organizer, Michael Bhoola, about the bad chili in Tallinn he was being served at local restaurants.

"I was ranting about it," Czepyha said. "It was pretty pitiful, the choices that were available at the time."

Bhoola, then a chef at the Pegasus restaurant, was intrigued, and started making his own chili versions and serving them to Czepyha to sample. That spurred the organization of the first ChiliFest.

Chili con carne ("chili with meat" in English) is a Mexican-American dish that comes in all sorts of varieties and levels of hotness, usually referring to a stew containing chili peppers, meat, and often - although controversially for purists - tomatoes and beans. Geographic and personal variations of dish are common in the US, from a cinnamon-tinged kind eaten over pasta in Ohio to more or less straight stewed peppers in New Mexico. Sometimes chili is used as an ingredient in other food creations.

ChilFest had various categories for entrants, including the judges' choice for Best Chili, the people's choice for Best Chili, the Best Vegetarian Chili, the Best Presentation, Hottest Chili, and Freestyle Chili.

Czepyha said the freestyle category was created after a couple of women entered a recipe involving "a kind of mushroom stew" in the 2005 ChiliFest.

"Whatever it was, it wasn't chili," he said. "But now we have the freestyle category, for those who don't get the chili thing."

Those competing in the Hottest Chili category had to eat a bowl of their own chili to prevent total spice excess.

The event on Sunday was free to the public.

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