Spicy Times: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off

It's an ocean-close rite of fall (and totally tasty to boot -- er, spoon).

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

TASTY THINGS IN CUPS: When it comes time to pit place-against-place in the whole "putting delicious foodstuffs in small paper cups" competition, our vote'll be squarely behind the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Hmm. Okay, a number of Golden State destinations do this very well, and we want everyone to be a winner here, so no place-to-place-pitting. Still, we must sing the Boardwalk's praises. Each February the sand-adjacent, quaint-a-fied hang-out-ery is the scene for a yummy, creamy, winter-perfect chowder cook-off, and October? Yeah, that's the month that brings the annual chili competition. If you love chili and chowder and consuming both within mere steps from the Pacific, we insist that you put the boardwalk high on your must-visit list. That is, if you like walking around tasting stew-type dishes out of small paper cups with small spoons for not a lot of cash. But doesn't everyone? 

YES... which is why the 4th Annual Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off is sure to be another savory smash. Teams'll do that big-pot, stir-stir-stir, toss in some more chile peppers thing they do, and you'll walk around trying a quintet of chilis made with love. The date is Saturday, Oct. 26 -- yeah, the last Saturday in October should probably be some kind of chili-perfect holiday -- and the place? Well, you know it by now. A tasting kit costs nine bucks, and that'll nab you five tastes (plus that essential spoon and cup). You can attend for free, sans tasting, but, please: You're going to want to try it all, or at least a tempting portion. If you can't make it, but still adore hot soupy goodness in cup-form, hang tight: the Clam Chowder Cook-Off is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2014. If your Valentine can wait a week, we'd totally make this our sweetheart's day out.

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