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Chili cook-off returns to downtown Kissimmee, Jan. 18, plus a festival for chocolate lovers

Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 10:23 am


By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
About a million years ago (in News-Gazette time) we had a news-writer who opened up a can of Hormel chili and tried to pass it off as homemade at one of our office get togethers.
Maybe he could fool the not-so-discriminating palates of some News-Gazette staffers, but his chili would be scoffed at and ridiculed at the Sunshine Regional Chili Cook-off, set to return to downtown Kissimmee next weekend.
This is chili cook-off 18 and I have been a judge for almost every one of them.
It is actually a pretty big deal. The cookoff attracts upwards of 50 chili cooking teams (the aroma of all those spices literally engulf you as you walk toward the festival, first thing in the morning) all with their eye on the big prize, $1,500 first prize and  a trip to the world final’s, usually held in Nevada.
If you never have experienced it, you really should. There is lots of chili to sample (you can even vote for your favorite in the separate category, “People’s Choice Award”) as well as watch  live entertainment and more.
There is always plenty of house chili for purchase, but if you want to sample some of the competition chili, make sure you arrive early. The People’s Choice tasting starts at 12:30 p.m. and it doesn’t take long before the crowd of chil lovers devours it all.
This year’s main event, the International Chili Society sanctioned competition will include a new category — Homestyle.
This one really could be intriguing. It is defined by the society as the cook’s favorite combination of ingredients resulting in a dish seasoned with chili peppers and spices. My interpretation: the Homestyle competition will be a lot hotter than the regular compeition.
And believe me, when you are sampling upwards of 20 kinds of chili in one afternoon, the heat can get pretty intense.
Other competitive categories include Red Chili, Chili Verde, Salsa and the already mentioned People’s Choice.
There is more than $4,000 in cash prizes overall for all categories.
You can even watch the cooking process if you arrive early enough (the festival is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) since cooking is done on site. This year’s cook-off is in Kissimmee Lakefront Park.
Admission and parking are free.
Chocolate chili? It actually is a possibility. The strangest chili I have judged featured kangaroo meat and it was…terrible.
But next wekend is also the weekend for chocolate lovers as the Festival of Chocolate returns to Tampa at the Museum of Science and Industry.
The big chocolate event will be Jan. 18-20.
The chocolate festival organizers promise new vendors, more demonstrations, more tuff for kids and a feature Chocolate Experience each day during the festival.
One of the more unique aspects of the show — a chocolate fashion show, Cocoa Couture Fashion show, will be held on the Yumway Saturday, Jan. 18,  at 3 p.m. The show features 15 designers who have sewn, stiched and eaten a lot of candy bars for high fashion creations made out of chocolate wrappers.
Last Year’s Winner Pea-chocoloicious was made with 938 wrappers the 5,000 Monet inspired evening gown took the “Fan Favorite.”  Admission is included with entry into The Festival of Chocolate.
Last year’s event also included the world record for The Largest Cup of Hot Chocolate on the planet, 880 gallons.
This year on Monday, Jan 20, the show will feature The Inaugural Great American Candy Run, a sweets-themed obstacle course. Competitors will come face to face with a giant cookie pit, hurdle a peppermint patch or dive through giant dizzy donuts. It is an un-timed event for all fitness levels, ages and backgrounds.
Other events at this show include a live cake decorating competition (Sunday at 11:30 a.m.)
Saturday is Chocolate Indulgence Competitions as judges search for the best tasting chocolate in 7 different categories. If you purchase your ticket in advance, you are entered for a chance to win a spot as a chocolate judge.
Daily entrance to the chocolate show is included with paid admission to MOSI. Advance tickets are on sale for $21.95. Senior and  children tickets are discounted.
There is more information on line at
I haven’t tried ‘em so I can’t say for sure but Krispy Kreme has two new donuts in January and both have the word “cheesecake” in them so they must be pretty good.
The new donuts are Caramel Cheesecake Doughnuts and Chocolate Cheesecake Doughnuts and they are available at most Krispy Kreme locations (including Kissimmee) through Jan. 26. Here’s the description from the release:
Caramel Cheesecake doughnut: Creamy cheesecake filling, topped with caramel icing and graham cracker crumbles.
Chocolate Cheesecake doughnut: Creamy chocolate cheesecake filling, topped with rich chocolate icing and brownie crumbles.
There are three area Krispy Kreme locations including Kissimmee, 5310 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (192 / Mile Marker 11.5). Open 24 hours; and  Orlando, 4080 Millenia Blvd., Orlando. Open 24 hours.