Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eating Out...Awww Crap!

We interrupt your commonly late blog with a news update!  Pook is an idiot and needs to back up his data on a regular basis!  That's right, I've had my second hard drive blow out in the old EOF tower of power.  That's 1.5 terabytes of heartbreak.  The first was a Panasonic drive and this last one was a Hitachi.  So my words to you dear readers, stick with Western Digital if you want a drive that will last longer than 2 years, and back up your creative data at least once a week!

Sadly, all of my pics from the Fresno Chile Festival were sacrificed upon my altar of laziness and bad luck.  But nonetheless, I really enjoyed my experience there last weekend.  The car show had some gorgeous T-buckets, a post apolcalyptic VW Beetle, a few sexy muscle cars and some really wild conversion vehicles.  There was even a Tesla over by the Solar Cooking demo and competition.

Speaking of the solar cookery, I was also lucky enough to get jumped into the judging for the dishes these heliocentric pioneers were creating.  It was a wonderfully sunny day and the delicious dishes kept rolling out.  There was a currant banana bread and an apricot cobbler that were excellent.  Warm, moist, sweet and each highlighted the flavors of their dessert wonderfully.  The topper was an Indian rice dish with jasmine rice, fresh veggies and whole hunks of fresh spices like cardamom and strips of actual cinnamon bark.  You know you're eating something boldly flavored when a whole cardamom pod explodes in your mouth.  Each dish was delicious and I was extremely flattered to have the opportunity to try them out.

Also there were the TasteFresno sponsored salsa making contest and chili eating contest.  I skipped out on entering the salsa contest mostly because I had already done a guest blog for them and didn't want there to be any potential conflict of interest.  But I did certainly hover around the judges table to see what the Fresno folks were throwing down.  There were a couple fruit salsas and a more traditional style pico, but the winner was the Anaheim Amor green salsa.  Sadly the judges were so impressed with each of them that there were no leftovers for me to try while I was signing up contestants for the chili eating contest.

Fresno really impressed me with their ability to consume rather hot peppers without breaking a sweat or needing a paramedic.  It was a little early in the year to find any superhot peppers like bhut jalokias without ordering them from Australia, so the roster went: 3 Fresnos, 1 jalapeno and then a straight habanero race.  The folks in the first round were so tough, I had to run over to the green grocer at the event and buy another half pound of pods to see the contest through.  In both rounds, folks seriously dove into the habaneros.  So next year you can be sure that they're going to have to add a superhot variety or two to the contest to thin out the herd a little quicker and have folks diving for a milk fire extinguisher to ease their oral infernos.

And then of course there were the food vendors.  Everybody had some form of spicy offering available.  But alas, with limited cash funds and lacking enough local rep to Prima Nocta my own free samples, my sampling was limited.  One favorite would have to be the aguas frescas.  I wish I had thought to catch the name of their cart, but their watermelon fresca was out of the world.  Not too sweet, wonderful fresh watermelon flavor.  Absolutely perfect refreshment on a hot day.  And then there is the pearl of the day.  A Regina's Native Cafe fry bread taco with their kiwi mango salsa!  First off, it's HUGE!  I saw the uninitiated trying to eat it like a taco salad, but not this boy!  I folded that monstrosity up and unhinged my jaw for the first chewey spicy bite and fell in love.  The ground beef was lightly spiced, tasty and still moist.  The fry bread was nicely crispy on the outside and oh-so chewey inside. 

I can't say enough about how awesome their salsas are.  The kiwi mango has a great, sweet front with the cilantro and spices coming in right before the heat.  To the non-chilihead, the salsa would be about a medium hot, to myself it was a wonderful medium that I'd be giddy to put over ice cream.  I also tried their hot salsa, which I've got to say has an excellent heat.  It won't choke you or send you scrambling for a glass of milk (or Tuck's medicated pads), but instead spreads a life affirming warmth throughout the mouth.

So, even though I'm extremely bummed to have lost the pictoral history of the day, my memories of the event are still enough to salve the wicked pain of data lost.  And I was really happy to get to meet some fellow chiliheads and discuss the merits of superhots over at the Manchester GATE School's hot pepper display.  Folks were suitably impressed when they got to see 3 of the plants that will produce the world's hottest peppers and I got to turn them on to some of the resources that helped to fuel my own obsession with heat. 

If you didn't make it out this year, for shame!  But don't worry, I'm quite sure that you'll be hearing all about the Fresno Chile Festival mk. II next year.  And expect them to pay a little more attention to your favorite pepperfiend's advice when it comes to making sure that the pepperfans can come to feel the pain!