ALAMEDA -- Outside the Al DeWitt Officer's Club at Alameda Point, the night air was chilly. Inside the club, the air was warm and spicy, though it also had a chili side to it.
The Kiwanis Annual Chili Cook-off fundraiser on Saturday drew a packed house. People, eager to get their hot sample of five different pots of chili and bean dishes, bellied up to the tables with little spoons. What was scooped into those spoons ranged from turkey chili to chili with cinnamon, chili with chipotle peppers, chili with pork, chili with caribou and moose and several other creative contents.
While the hour of tasting continued, teams of chili makers, hopeful to grab the gold during the prize awards, worked fast to get samples out to crowds of eager tasters. Later, the tasters would choose their People's Choice winners, and culinary professionals would name their favorites.
But that would take a while because between decisions about bids at the auction tables jammed with wine packages, treats, gift certificates, and the dancing and cocktails, there was still one thing for guests to do -- sit down for an all-they-could-eat barbecue dinner.
It was a loud, happy event, with some cowboy style "yahoos" and other cheers as the tasting wound down to the last 10 minutes -- these sounds from the cooks drawing attention to their tables to urge late arrivals to grab a sample before the last minute ticked away. The other noise came from chatting guests catching up on neighborhood news, music over the sound system, and laughter.
In the end, club president Bob Larsen said, the awards for People's Choice, from first to third place, went to Ala Costa Centers, High Street Station and Eon Technologies.
The Judge's Choices, from first to third place, went to Alameda Fire Fighters, Will Brother's Chili Pepper Company and Ala Costa Centers.
Larsen said more than 280 people attended the event and while the receipts for bids and beverages and more have yet to be totaled, he thinks it may be the best cook-off yet in raising funds for charities.