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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Team Sperone Wins Big at Chili Cook-off!

Today I have much to celebrate. First of all, it's my son Damian's birthday. Layne and I are so proud of him. He's grown into a fine man, a dedicated and skillful firefighter and a wonderful, devoted father. Not only that, but he and my precious grandson Kai are scheduled to arrive this week for a most welcome visit. Layne and I are looking forward to their holiday with joyful anticipation of a fun trip.

I'm also celebrating my chili team's 2nd place victory on Sunday at the Atenas Charity Chili Cook-off. Composed of our inspiring team leader, Marcial Artavia of Italian Sausage fame, his adorable, hard-working wife Sadie, our dedicated neighbor Jackie and Yours Truly, along with some key help from our husbands Neil and Layne, our group claimed the runner-up spot on our first time in the competition. In fact, Marcial knew little about chili fixing when we began preparing for the contest a few weeks ago. As reported in a previous blog post, team members spent several evenings testing our various recipes, trying out different ingredients and sampling the delicious results. Team members and neighborhood supporters contributed chili powder, a tablecloth, a huge cook pot, a portable stove and emergency tape. We printed some cool business cards and Marcial had an excellent banner made to hang above our table, all with an eye to promoting his line of Italian Sausage, named Sperone, meaning "spur" in Italian in honor of his grandfather's nickname. At the end of the day, however, it was Marcial who served as the ultimate chef, cooking up a three-gallon batch of the chili on Saturday night with some sous chef assistance from Sadie. Little did we imagine coming so close to winning the top prize but that final pot of chili was really first-rate.

A big turnout for the event
Sunday's event was a festive and hugely successful affair with well over the expected 1000 people in attendance and some 30 teams competing for the top prize. No word yet on how much was raised for the charity, Hogar de Vida, the local orphanage, but I feel sure it will easily top last year's $3500 donation.
Sadie at work at the Sperone table

The Sperone Italian Sausage team had a good spot right by an open door, which helped keep us cool, but the strong wind occasionally disrupted our neat space. In fact, at one point a gust blew over and spilled the small box of silver beans that had been deposited by attendees voting for our chili as their People's Choice selection. Poor Sadie scrambled around under tables and across the ceramic tiles trying to recover every single bean!
The lovely 2012 Chili Queen, with Sadie and Marcial

As the day wore on, we began to get the idea that we might have a shot at winning. People were coming to our table commenting, "Everyone is saying yours is the best," and asking for their sample. One of the judges, our friend Jonathan of Vista Atenas B&B, even came back to our table for seconds. We ran out far too early and next year we'll be cooking twice as much.

Teams had gone all-out for the competition, with fancy aprons and matching hats, pots of flowers or other table decorations. Competitors included teams from the bomberos (firefighters), the Marine Corps, Pure Life Development real estate, the Hot Meat group from Guanacaste with their crazy hotdog logo, Jalapeño's restaurant from Alajuela and of course, Texas expats who claim that chili con carne originated in the Lone Star State. It was truly a great day with live music, some dancing, a silent auction and a raffle in which our team member Jackie won a huge basket of goodies from chocolate to coffee to cheese, plus two bottles of good wine. What a day!

Team Sperone takes 2nd Place!
Thanks to all the amazing volunteers who helped set up the tables and signs, sell beer, wine, sodas and hot dogs, solve electrical and other logistical problems, plus clean up afterwards; thanks also to vocalist Francis Jones, MC Tina Newton, the management and staff at Roma Vista resort and especially Kay and Tom Costello, whose love and inspiration brought this event into being. It was such fun and so satisfying to know our efforts contributed to the important work at Hogar de Vida, a loving home for local orphaned, abused or neglected children. Bravissimo

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