Spice to Meet You

Celebrity chefs keep flocking to the First State, and Wilmington crowns a chili champion.

Welcome to Home Skillet, a food and wine blog that always remembers to bring Gas-X to chili cookoffs. Below, a few of our area’s best events:

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Thursday, April 22: A week after celebrity chefs flocked to Wilmington for Meals from the Masters festivities, another round will invade the town Thursday for the Harry’s Savoy 22nd Annual Taste the Nation dinner, a benefit for Share Our Strength.

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Beginning at 6 p.m., a cadre of chefs will present a glimmering five-course dinner paired with specialty wines.

Celebrity chefs include Robert Bennett from American Harvest Baking in Cherry Hill, N.J., Nick Farrell from Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square, Pa., Patrick Feury of Nectar in Berwyn, Pa., Terence Feury from Fork in Philly, Jason Santos of Gargoyles on the Square in Boston, and of course, Harry’s own David Leo Banks.

For those who don’t collect Celebrity Chef trading cards, that’s a boatload of talent. They’ll be assembling luxurious dishes like sous vide Kurobuta pork belly with lime sugar, raspberry pudding, honeydew and pink pepper; and tea-smoked squab and citrus foie gras sausage with pickled Chinese radish salad, spiced cashews and lemongrass jus.

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One hundred percent of ticket sales from Taste the Nation—which run $200 per person—benefit the Food Bank of Delaware and the Ministry of Caring. They’ll raffle off a wheelbarrow full of wine and hold a silent auction, all to help end childhood hunger.

For more information, contact Meg Morgan at 475-3000.


Friday, April 23: Speaking of celebrity chefs, PBS mainstay Mary Ann Esposito, host of “Ciao, Italia!” will hold a cooking demonstration Friday night during a benefit for the Delaware Italian Language Summer Camp and the Delcastle High School Culinary Arts Program.

Thomas Sharp Conference Center at Delcastle High will be the setting for Esposito to demonstrate recipes from her new cookbook, “Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen.”

The event gets underway at 7 p.m. and tax-deductible tickets cost $50, which also covers a personalized copy of Esposito’s book and an hors d’oeuvre hour featuring recipes from the cookbook prepared by the students in the Delcastle High School Culinary Arts Program.

For ticket info, contact Jack Polidori via email at jackpolidori@yahoo.com.





Got Chili? As the ancient Chinese proverb goes: “No spicy means no nicey.” With that in mind, I hit the sold-out “Who’s Cookin’ Wilmington’s Best Chili?” contest last Saturday at the Urban Café in downtown Wilmo.

As I mentioned last week, I’m no stranger to chili contests, but this was the first cook-off held by the Elementary Workshop Montessori School, for whom the event was a fundraiser. I helped judge 16 chili recipes along with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, The News Journal’s Eric Ruth, Wilmington Communication Director John Rago, WJBR’s Paul Lewis, and Randy Currie from Currie Hair Skin and Nails.

We tasted everything from Texas “armadilli chili” (which claimed to use roadkill as its main ingredient. Thankfully, it was just ground beef—I hope), Indian-spiced “Namaste” chili, creamy white chicken chili, short rib chili, pumpkin chili and lots of great family recipes.

Ultimately, after much deliberating and several bottles of water (and in my case, Dos Equis), the judges and the audience decided on a few winners. This was no easy task, mind you, especially considering all the unique interpretations of chili the cooks demonstrated. Duck chili? Mango? When the dust (and the beans) finally settled, we judges tended to favor the chili recipes that tasted like, well, chili. To wit:


Kate Frawley’s Chili Con Kate, made with ground beef, turkey and pumpkin (yes, pumpkin) won the judge’s choice for best amateur submission.

White chicken chili from David Brown—different, sure, but not too far-out for most tongues—was the audience’s favorite.

               The evening’s big winner turned out to be our gracious hosts, the Urban Café. Café chef Carlos Richards won the pro chefs category with his traditional, smokin’, heat-packin’ chili. Richards clobbered more than a few outstanding, award-winning local chefs with his chili, and to be honest, it wasn’t even that close. Awesome job, Carlos, and congratulations to everyone who participated. I’m already licking my chops for next year.

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