Chili cook-off set to delight taste buds

OCEANSIDE — Chili lovers will be gathering at Heritage Park on Nov. 4 for the annual Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off.

About half a dozen teams will compete in the annual cook-off. Judging will be done by a professional restaurateur, with first-, second- and third-place trophies given to top cooks.

A people’s choice award and trophy will also be given.

Event regulars say the best reward are the bragging rights that come with winning.

Last year MainStreet Oceanside, the North County Model Rail Road Society and Oceanside firefighters received top honors.

The city firefighters team is a crowd favorite. Firefighters have a tailgate chili cook-off before the event to determine which cook will represent the group.

This year the team is expected to bring its savory all-meat chili to the competition table.

Another top contender is MainStreet Oceanside, which in the past has cooked up spicy chorizo chili.

Cook-off rules limit teams to prepared chili, and side condiments of onions and cheese. Several years ago some teams stretched the rules and brought sour cream and cornbread to tip the scales in their favor. Since then the contest has been more closely monitored, making the win even sweeter.

Preparation of the tasty chili offerings begins days ahead of time, to allow ingredients to simmer and meld overnight.

Teams also decorate their serving tables to lure in tasters, many decorating to reflect the origin of the chili recipe being served, such as a Tex-Mex theme. Some teams go as far as wearing thematic costumes to match their dishes.

Cooks are happy to interact with visitors, and remind them to cast a vote for their team as the people’s choice winner.

To participate in sampling some of the city’s finest chili, visitors need to buy tasting tickets. It is advisable to arrive early. Chili is served until it is gone.

The event also features music, other food sales, kids games and tours of Heritage Park’s historic buildings. The North County Model Rail Road Society will have its interactive model train running.

In addition to the food and fun, the Friends of Oceanside Parks will recognize the Oceanside Police Explorers Program with a check for $1,000.

All proceeds from the cook-off support city parks programs, including summer concerts and movies in the park.

It takes place from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 4 at Heritage Park, 220 Peyri Road, Oceanside.

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