A hungry crowd filled Florian Hall on Sunday evening to serve as judges in a chili cook-off that pitted 11 neighborhood civic associations against each other as each vied for recognition as Dorchester's top chili chefs. The event was a first-time fundraiser for the Dorchester Day Parade Committee, one of several new events being spearheaded by mayor of Dorchester candidate Craig Galvin and a group of "campaign" volunteers including Ashmont resident Nancy Anderson.
Attendees circled the room ravenously sampling chilis that ranged from vegetarian to meat-lover in composition out of dainty plastic bowls. After choosing a preferred stew, each satiated critic was asked to place a sticker on a white paper scoreboad next to the name of the association whose recipe they had preferred.
Organizations not confident enough to rely on their cooking alone or looking to edge out a close competitor could also purchase extra stickers from the parade committee; the terms of such purchases, Galvin admitted, were negotiable.
Some attendees were whispering of foul play.
"Some kids are cheating," said one pint-sized source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I saw some kids picking up stickers off the ground and putting them next to the name of their moms' groups."
Scandal aside, stews prepared by the Ashmont Adams Civic Association and Pope's Hill Neighborhood Association emerged as early favorites, and in a final tally the Pope's Hill concoction edged out their close competitor, 69 stickers to 66.
The secret of a chili pleasing to the mild palates of Dorchester residents, said Corrine Ball, was meat, meat, and more meat."My husband says the more meat, the better," said Ball of the recipe that brought her association top honors, and a pot o'chili trophy styled after the Beanpot trophy of college hockey lore. "Everyone says ours is the heartiest."
Bill Richard, who was spooning out grub for Ashmont Adams, said his team had followed a similar philosophy.
"The secret was a bunch of us cutting the meat last Friday while we watched the Sox game," said Richard. " The stew beef tenderizes itself as it cooks."
Several feet away, the Ashmont Hill association was bucking the trend with the evening's only vegetarian offering, an extra-spicy offering from chef Jay Larson.
"It's healthy, it's earth-friendly," said Debbie Munson, an Ashmont hill board member "You don't need meat to be tasty."
That may be true, but on Sunday you did need meat to win.
There are several other parade fundraisers before Dot Day on June 3. Today, April 26, is the annual $10,000 raffle at Florian Hall. At press time, tickets for the raffle were still available. The dinner and drawing begin at 6:30 p.m.
And on May 11 Galvin is championing a new fundraiser dubbed the "War to Settle the Score," a boxing match at the I.B.E.W. Hall in which wannabe pugilists can step into the ring to bury old grudges for a generous donation to the parade committee. Galvin is still seeking challenges to fill the fight card. He can be reached at email@example.com.