Eats - Where to Get Great Chili in Washington

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By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chili looks disgusting, riles our stomachs and leaves us feeling heavy. Yet we love it. Especially in colder months. Lady Bird Johnson said it best in a letter she wrote to Frank X. Tolbert, author of the chili history "A Bowl of Red":

"My feeling about chili is this. Along in November, when the first northern strikes, and the skies are gray, along about five o'clock in the afternoon, I get to thinking how good chili would taste for supper. It always lives up to expectations. In fact, you don't even mind the cold November winds."

(Of course, eating chili at the White House meant having to keep the windows open in the Lincoln bedroom that night, but that's a different matter.)

Anyway. It's chili season, and we went looking for the best in the area. We called the International Chili Society first to ask what our criteria should be.

"Everybody's palate is different, but you want a well-rounded blend of spices that permeates the meat itself," says the society's executive director, Carol Hancock, herself a world champion chili cook. "Also, you want a great balanced ratio of sauce to meat, so you have a nice consistency. We judge on taste, aroma, consistency and appearance."

We've heard about places adding crazy ingredients. Like brown sugar?

"Bleh," says Hancock.

Italian seasoning or smoked meat?

"We wouldn't recommend that."

Lobster?

"Nooo."

What about beans?


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