Table Talk: Eldorado wins big at the vegan chili cook-off : 77-square

The ninth annual Alliance for Animals’ Vegan Chili Cook Off and Silent Auction drew a crowd of some 160 people to the East Side Club this past weekend.

Attendees sampled chilis from seven local restaurants, and I was lucky enough to be one of the judges.

Most of the entrants made traditional chilis, some of which employed seitan for extra protein. The Green Owl made the mildest chili, full of red and green peppers, kidney beans and crunchy celery. A hearty chili from the vegetarian Dandelion Food Cart added chard into the mix.

Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace and Weary Traveler Free House made classic versions, the former with lots of onion and the latter topped with a sweet, dense cornbread.

Some competitors stacked the deck with elaborate toppings. Monty’s Blue Plate Diner offered a pureed green chili with visible hot pepper seeds, piling it with a tropical salsa of mango, red onion, jalapeño and cilantro.

Two years in a row, my favorite chili was made by Bunky’s Cafe. At the 2011 event, one of the owners made a Moroccan-style chili with garbanzo beans, topped with lemon and cilantro. It was different and delicious.

This year, Bunky’s chef Jesse Matz got carte blanche from his bosses, so he made a Thai chili. Bright red with a swirl of “cream” and what looked like a sprig of lemongrass, this chili had a lively heat and chewy wild mushrooms. I absolutely loved it.

But this year’s big winner was Eldorado Grill, which took home both the Judges’ and People’s Choice awards. Their version had tons of tomatoes, a gorgeous avocado topping and a pronounced smoky heat — if I hadn’t been surrounded by vegans, I would have sworn that creator Taylor Anderson had put bacon in it, it was that meaty.

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Table Talk: Eldorado wins big at the vegan chili cook-off : 77-square.

Annual Vegan Chili Cook Off – Save the Date

The Where and When

Vegan Chili Cook-Off and Silent Auction
Saturday, October 6, 2012
East Side Club, 3735 Monona Drive
5:30 – 10:30 pm

The Music

Live music: TBA

The Cost

Admission includes tasting of all 8 chilis, two bowls of chili, and two desserts – also chance to vote for People’s Choice Award.
$15 per person, tickets available at the door.

The Extras

Hot dogs, cash bar, and extra desserts available for purchase.
All vegan, of course.

The Judges

Jonathan Balcombe
Author of Pleasurable Kingdom and chair of the Animal Studies Dept. with Humane Society University

Lindsay Christians
Food, wine and fine arts writer for 77 Square, a Madison arts and entertainment weekly produced by The Capital Times.

Mark Dwyer
Horticulturist and Vegan Chili Cook Off Winner of Yore.

Dave Friedman
Organizer of Madison Area Vegetarian Meetup Group.

Alliance For Animals.