Plain talk about food: January screams “chili” — Chili Con Carne that is
by Colly Gruczelak
Jan 16, 2014 | 4257 views | 1 1 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Felton resident Adrian Furman is known at chili cook-offs throughout the state. Courtesy of Colly Gruczelak
Felton resident Adrian Furman is known at chili cook-offs throughout the state. Courtesy of Colly Gruczelak
With the winter’s sun dropping below the mountains, the temperature has been dropping into the twenties most nights. Chili weather calls for eating a bowlful of chili con carne, cornbread and a glass of Heineken beer by the fireplace at day’s end.

Chili is listed as the seventh favorite American comfort food; food you turn to when having the gang over for a Super Bowl party or remembering your mom’s chili, a staple at every family picnic.

Being a member of the Santa Cruz Mountains Gourmet Dinner Club, I, along with several of our members, judge the San Lorenzo Valley Chili Cook off. Believe me we have tasted the good and the bad.

Called “soup of the devil” by the priests in Spain who believed the concoction was an aphrodisiac, chili made its entrance as a staple for cowboys on the trail in the early 1800’s. In Texas, Latino women called Chili Queens would sit on stools in open air plazas, selling bowls of chili for 10 cents along with all-you-can-eat tortillas. In 1937 this 200 year old tradition, was shut down by health authorities.

In 1894, chili powder became available by William Gebhardt and is widely used today.

In the 1920’s Lyman Davis created the “chili brick” advertised by trucks carrying live wolves in cages, hence the name Wolf Brand Chili. These bricks only needed to be melted down and are still available at Smart and Final under the label of Dorothy’s all-beef chili.

The word chili means “peppers”, ranging from mild to eye- and mouth-burning hot. Chili con carne means “with meat,” no beans. The meat can be any range of pork or beef cuts; even poultry can be used. Chili with beans only is simply called chili using either pinto or kidney beans with peppers.

Growing in popularity among vegans is vegetarian chili which was a chili entered in the SLV Chili Cook off by the Visiting Angels team. Chili made with habanero chilies are usually called Four Alarm chili, so hot you can barely swallow, and then immediately, sorry you did. Trust me, you will be reminded of this chili for several days after eating

I sat with Adrian Furman of Felton the other day over coffee and chai at the White Raven coffee house. When we first met, we talked about cookie baking and ended with his love of chili and chili cook-offs.

I learned from this award-winning chili cooking expert that competition chili must consist only of meat, spices and gravy (no beans or grease allowed). Sauce should be smooth and velvety; no particles of anything should be seen.

A tall friendly fellow, with a white bearded chin, who, I might add, looks every bit the part of a winning chili cook, Adrian has been entering chili cook-offs since 1985. That year Adrian entered the Santa Cruz County Cookoff and had a 1st place win. Adrian was off and running.

In 1990 Adrian had a 1st Place win and $1,000 in the Mariposa Chili Cookoff.

Adrian’s biggest win came in 1993 in the South Shore Tahoe’s Hi Sierra Cookoff where again, Adrian won 1st Place and $3,000.

Last year Adrian was awarded the title of 2013 Grand Master Red Chili Cook,

In Palm Springs, California, one of only 75 who holds this title.

The next International Cookoff for Andrian will be at the Carson Valley Inn in Carson, Nevada where I wish him well.

If you have never made chili before, I recommend Adrian’s exceptionally good and quick recipe below. Use the amount of the chili powder recommended; you can always add more, but taking away is impossible.

Who knows, maybe you will enter the 2014 SLV Chili Cook off.

A great New Year’s Resolution: Make more chili!


Reno Red’s Quick Fix Chili


In a bowl, mix and set aside:


4 Tablespoons chili powder (Reno Red (avail. online or Gebhardt’s)

8 ounces tomato sauce

3 cloves minced garlic

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

4 ounces beef broth from a 15 ounce can


In a heavy skillet brown together:


2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Add to skillet the above chili mixture.

Cover and simmer 1 hour.


If a thicker mixture is desired, dissolve

1 to 2 teaspoons arrowroot (or cornstarch) in 1/4 cup beef broth and add to chili while stirring.


For chili with beans add:

One 40 ounce can of SunVista Pinto Beans (Safeway brand)

Simmer additional 30 minutes. Thin if needed with reserved beef broth.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Colly Gruczelak
January 25, 2014
I tried to reorder Reno Red's Chili powder but found the website down for reconstruction. You can order the powder by calling the manufacturer directly...The Stewart Chili Co.(281)334-8866 (Texas). I ordered some for myself today. Colly

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