When I say organizers of a new local chili cook-off have really gone to the dogs, I'm sure they won't be offended.
That's exactly what they intended.
All proceeds from Saturday's inaugural "Wagging Tails Chili Challenge" at Olde Main Plaza in St. Albans will go to Dog Bless, an animal rescue organization serving the Kanawha Valley.
This weekend's cook-off is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, but unlike most ICS events, this one will bypass traditional red and green chili categories in favor of a "homestyle" competition where anything goes in terms of ingredients.
Cooks can make standard red and green chili, or opt for something different (white chicken chili, vegetarian chili, whatever) and can also use "fillers" like beans, pasta or rice — ingredients strictly forbidden in non-homestyle competitions.
The public can sample chili between noon and 3 p.m. by purchasing tasting tickets for 50 cents each. The winning chili cook will receive $500 and a trophy during an awards ceremony inside the historic Alban Theater. A "People's Choice" award also will go to the cook that collects the most tasting tickets during public sampling.
"If you cook a great pot of chili for tailgate parties or if your friends say your chili is the best, we hope you'll join in the fun and sign up to compete," said event co-chair Susan LeFew. "We're also excited to announce that the winner of the Wagging Tails Chili Challenge automatically qualifies to cook in the 2014 ICS World Championship Homestyle Chili Cookoff."
There is no fee to enter the competition, but competitors must be members of the ICS Homestyle Division, which costs $20 for a one-year membership, payable on-site. The event is co-sponsored by St. Albans Riverfest and the City of St. Albans.
Also this week, Mountaineer Montessori will host its second annual spaghetti dinner Thursday night to benefit the school's "Lighting the Way for Education" campaign, which helps fund scholarships and special programs.
The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Temple Israel (2312 Kanawha Blvd. East) and will offer vegetarian, gluten-free and meat options, featuring local ingredients from Sandy Creek Farms.
Dinner includes a salad, entree, dessert and beverage, and can either be enjoyed on-site or picked up for carryout.
Guests also are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, which will be donated to Manna Meal as part a drive organized by the school's students. Items in particular need are dried and canned milk, canned soups, canned meats, pasta sauce with meat and dried pasta noodles. All canned goods should have pull-top lids.
Tickets for the dinner are $10 for adults and children 13 and older, and $5 for children 12 and younger. For more information, call 304-342-7870 or
Finally, I want to share an awesome recipe from another recent cooking competition, although this one took place in The Big Apple.
During the Food Network's New York City Wine & Food Festival, the "Blue Moon Burger Bash" pitted some of the country's best chefs against each other in a grill-off to see who makes the best burger.
And this year's winner cooked up a whopper that I will be trying at home.
Chef Paul Denamiel walked away with nearly a perfect score for his French Onion Soup Burger made on an English muffin.
"The crunchy texture from Thomas' English muffin combined with sweet onions, a juicy burger and creamy bechamel sauce makes the French Onion Soup Burger one of the most popular entrees at my New York City restaurants, Le Rivage and Little Prince," Denamiel said. "But I was still surprised to win since there were so many talented chefs."
I'm not a bit surprised. Just look at this week's recipe. Sounds amazing!
Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfood...@aol.com or 304-348-4830. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.
French Onion Soup Burger