Spicy Springtime: Petaluma Chili Fest

Heat, and hops -- as in beer -- are the center of the edible action.

SURPRISE QUIZ: Ready to answer a question of the most delicious sort? Okay, here's your quick quiz: When the weather begins to warm up, is the time right or not right for spicier eats? Answer... Well, it was a trick question, because the only correct response is to say that every time of year is the right time for spicier eats. True, downing something high on the Scoville scale on a snowy January day has a way of making you downright toasty, but peppers and summertime both boast a sunny spirit, making them feel simpatico. (Not to mention that a little sweating, around the temples, can cool you down when the mercury is rising.) The Great Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa, and Beer Tasting enjoys the best of both cooler temps and summer's highs by landing on a day plunk in the middle of spring. That's Saturday, May 7, and a plethora of area chili cooks'll be wielding the ladles, the beans, and all of the excellent add-ins that make each bowl an individual, and edible, work of art. Make for...

HERZOG HALL... at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. The afternoon-long affair costs $25 for an adult ticket, and that'll score you several tastings of both various salsas and chilis. Want to add beer tastings onto that? Your ticket comes in at $45. Sonoma Spice Queen, Brasil BBQ, and Spring Hill Ranch will be doing the stirring/spicing, while on-site brewhouses will include Petaluma Hills Brewery and Sudwerk Brewery. Call it a high-heat, hops-laden harbinger of summer eats/drinks parties still to come. And, yes, spicy foods will still be completely in style when the hot, hot, hot days of July and August arrive. But in May? Heat's not only in style; it hits the winter-into-summer spot.

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