October 20, 2021

A chili day in Dryden

Contest warms hearts in Dryden, raises money for Dryden Cafe

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Ron Cunningham of the Racker Centers dishes out chili during a chili cookoff Saturday at the Dryden Community Center Cafe.

DRYDEN — The aroma of bacon and cinnamon, meats and produce filled the Dryden Community Center Cafe on Saturday as customers filed inside away from the snow flurries.

Dozens of people showed up to judge five different chili recipes and then dig into apple pie. The 12th annual Chili Cook-Off and Apple Pie Contest was a fundraiser for the nonprofit café. People paid $3 to try all five of the chili dishes and then voted for which they like best.

Mike Albern uses whatever is in his kitchen to make his chili. This time, he used bacon, apple cider and cranberry juice to create a sweet and savory flavor.

“I try it out myself and I’ll add something and then try it again,” he said.

Nancy Hart, who chaired the event last year, decided this year to be a participant instead.

“I like layers of flavor,” she said. “I don’t like to have any one flavor dominate. I like it to have warmth in my mouth, but not too spicy.”

Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer judged the apple pies, but said he wished he had participated in the chili cook-off.

“Good chili for me is lots of heat,” Leifer said. “I’d probably burn someone’s tongue here.”

Leifer said he would be very open-minded when it came to judging everyone’s chili recipe and that he wasn’t looking for anything specific to be in them.

Dryden Mayor Mike Murphy judges apple pies Saturday during an apple pie judging and chili cookoff.

Sheena Monroe brought her daughter Amber, 12, to the cook-off. After tasting the first chili, Amber knew she liked it.

“It tastes just like my dad’s chili,” she said. “Sometimes I helped my dad make his chili. This one has just the right amount of chili powder.”

After tasting the chili and voting, people could eat apple pie for $1 a slice.

The winners

Apple Pie Contest:
1st: Shirley Price
2nd: Mew Thingruang
3rd: Mike Albern

Chili Cook-off:
1st: Jennifer Thomas and Vicky Barklow (Racker Center)
2nd: Tie, Tony Solerno (Dryden Rotary Club) and Rob Monroe (Dryden Cafe)
3rd: Pat McParlin (George Street Regulars)
4th: Mike Albern (Poets Landing)

The amount raised at the event was unavailable.

Albern also made an apple pie and said he got into making apple pies after eating a ton of pie as a child.

“My dad’s mom made a lot of apple pies, meat pies and peach pies,” he said.

He said the one spice he knew had to be in the pie was cinnamon.

Chili samples are judged Saturday during a chili cookoff at the Dryden Community Center Cafe.

Larry Cleek said he knows a little bit about apples. He grew up in Wenatchee, Washington, which calls itself the apple capital of the world. So when he judged the three apple pies at the café, he knew exactly what would make a good pie — a flaky crust, a little buttery flavor and a balance of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

“My wife accidentally made the perfect apple pie one time,” he said. “Then she could never make it again.”

Cleek also said he doesn’t have any types of apples he specifically prefers in pies, as long as they aren’t too sweet or mushy.