THAT DIFFICULT DISCUSSION: Friends who love food, and love to food it up together, can have many a vocal, semi-colorful disagreement. A light beer or something IPA, when ordering a pitcher? Do you okay the bread basket on the table, or send it away? If you're going to share nachos, do you go guacamole or straight-up mole or a little bit of both? And do you take your chili neat, a la bare, with just the hearty stew gracing the cup, or do you load on the extras, which are so very plentiful for this palate-hot icon? You can still remain tight with your food bud, we bet, if she goes plain and you ask for a scoop of sour cream and a sprinkling of green onions, because the base matter is clear: You're both devoted to chili, as so many people are, and any festoonry, or lack of it, is not cause for a quibble. And how would even dare quibble while standing on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, on a nippy Saturday, enjoying that most autumnal of tummy-warmers? You'll be there on Oct. 25, we'll guess, if you're a chili-head, because that's the day when the boardwalk summons some of the region's most gifted chilians for a day of cups, spoons, beans, meat, tomato pastes, and dashes of secret spices and hot sauces. It's the 5th annual Chili Cook-Off, and even lookie-loos can get a taste.
OR SEVERAL: There's a delightful thing called a Tasting Kit floating about at the cook-off, and it costs nine bucks, and it scores you five taste tickets (plus a spoon and cup). Plus? You'll get to vote on your would-eat-again. (Shouldn't that be how every food item is judged in a contest, to some extent? The "yeah, I'd eat it again" vote?) The Haven of Hope Homes is the day's beneficiary.
IT'S NOT CLAM CHOWDER TIME YET... on the boardwalk, but bet your creamy-loving ways that that popular eat-up is very much on the way.