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Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Chili

Allen Street Grill – Vegetarian Chili

Best Chili was added as a category this year because there are so many great vegetarian chili’s to choose from in our area. Allen Street Grill in State College has beat out the others with it’s Vegetarian Chili. It has a mild tomato base seasoned with ancho chili powder. Less brothy than the runner up and more consistent flavor wise, it is brimming with chunks of zucchini, carrot, red & green pepper, and onion that are just tender. They add in some kidney and black beans and top it with a garnish of fresh scallions. A hearty vegetarian chili for years whether you get a cup or as a base in the full blown Santa Fe Chili Bowl topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, tomato and onion and served with tortilla chips.

Bullfrog Brewery

With this region’s mild palate preferences, chili is rarely served very spicy unless by special request. Spiciest in the region is the second placed Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport. They have a beer infused Veggie Chili and the initial pleasant beer flavor adds a really special quality to it as the heat sneaks up on you. Like the chili at Allen Street Grill, it has a tomato base, veggies and beans but is less consistent in flavor because Chef Rico changes the recipe with the brews available on tap. We loved it when he made it with the Extra Fancy Stout. 

Elk Creek Café in Millheim as well as State College’s Otto’s Pub and Brewery and aardvark kafé and have all offered noteworthy vegan chilis but none have remained as regular menu selections. The latter and Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. of Selinsgrove both use a Textured Vegetable Protein in it for a toothsome texture and extra rib sticking bonus.

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Also noteworthy is Mad Mex for its tomatillo based Chick Pea Chili upon which you can opt for the vegan toppings of Tofutti Sour Supreme and Daiya Shreds. Bullfrog Brewery also has the vegan shreds as a choice.

I feel a bit more qualified than just a regular customer to judge this category having been awarded the mid-atlantic region’s second best for my vegan Pennsyltucky Chili. I feel so very happy to exclaim,”¡Felicidades! Allen Street Grill,” for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 Best Chili. It is a chili all vegetarians can look forward to warming them through the winter and offering great flavor year round.

Have you tasted a better vegetarian chili than this one? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Sssssteam Heat

A fence that once divided a front yard and the sidewalk in Centralia, PA.

Yesterday I took a nice road trip with my folks to what had been the town of Centralia, PA. For 50 years this poor ghost town has had a mine fire burning underground. It still had a population of about 1,000 in the early 1980’s but is less than a dozen today. I saw one house left standing on the eastern end of Wood St. I only knew it was Wood Street because of a hand-made sign tacked to a tree, all street signs have been taken down. All properties in the borough were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 (and all buildings therein were condemned), and Centralia’s ZIP code was revoked by the Post Office in 2002. The one house was that of but a few residents that continue to reside there in spite of the failure of a lawsuit to reverse the eminent domain claim.

Old highway.

It’s a sad story but the idea of an underground fire that has burned for half a century is just fascinating. There is a long section of highway (PA 61 and 54) that had to be rerouted in 1999. The abandoned section accessible on foot but there are warning signs throughout the town because sinkholes have been known to open suddenly.

The destroyed stretch of highway is less than a mile in length but is a buckled, warped and undulating mass of asphalt. It has been distorted by the heat of the underground fires to the point the pavement has cracked and broken into wide fissure that emit a spooky steam. Sometimes the ground can get quite warm and you can feel the bottoms of your shoes effected.

Less a fascination but still a curiosity is how is has become a mile long canvas for graffiti. This is literally street art, mostly spray painted and poorly crafted by coal region pubescent angst. Occasionally there is a rare gem of creativity to be taken in. Once we saw a small war of plastic cowboys and Indians being waged across a steaming cavern. The miniature scene was gone, washed and worn away as most of what I had remembered from May 2010.

Spray Dude!

If anyone ever plans to visit Centralia for photographic reasons, consider that the steam is much more pronounced during different weather conditions. I thought the cold would have made it stand out so we chose to return in the winter. Unfortunately, the breezy day and less humidity made it much harder to notice in any area. The ground didn’t warm our shoes as it had in May 2010 and all that we could get photos of were some interesting graffiti. I won’t say which ones I added but I left two.

Not sure the bandaid is helping.

It was really breezy and made spraying paint a challenge as the morning went on. We retraced our steps, check out the cemeteries, had a snack in the car and drove back by way of Danville. The town always has me hungry for soup. The hospital always has great veggie soups but today I wanted to take my parents to Brews n Bytes.

They are coming along with their repairs and had a couple of hot and spicy soups on the menu. My parents got the Potato Jalapeño and I chose a big bowl of the vegan Tomato Thai. I overheard the waitress sharing other soups they feature daily including Saturday being the chef’s choice. Tuesday is Black Bean, Wednesday was the Tomato Thai that I really enjoyed, Thursday is Indian Split Pea and Friday is Chili. It is going to be hard to ever travel though Danville without stopping for soup.

I got home in time to run a very nice 7 miles before 5 PM; it was my first sub 9.5 minute mile in quite a while. That blistering pace (for me) helped work up and appetite for a steamy dish that had been tempting me since it was announced on Monday, Aarvark Kafé was up and running again and I was determined to make time to get a bowl of vegan Chili. Jim picked me up at the end of my trail run and we drove straight to the restaurant.

Aarvark Kafé Vegan Chili (spicy on top, medium on bottom).

I was chilled upon reaching the restaurant (not from carrying Carrot Cake Cupcakes there this time) because of not stopping to changed out of my sweaty running clothes. Hot chili was just what I needed. Jim ordered the spicy and I got the medium but we share some of each. We both preferred the seasoning and added heat of the spicy version and told the chef since he is planning on adding it to the permanent menu. I hadn’t run with my camera so my only photo was taken with my phone. Trust me, the flavors and heartiness of this vegan Chili is much better than my photo can show.

From Centralia’s underground smoldering, Danville’s soup that was too hot for Mom, my burning lungs as I kicked it up around mile 4 of my run and a bowl of spiced vegan chili that was just right – the heat was welcome on this late February day.

Award Winning Pennsyltucky Chili Recipe

Pennsyltucky not only represented, we placed well! I knew it was good and the judges agreed; my Pennsyltucky Vegan Chili garnered second place in the first vegan chili cook off in the mid-atlantic region at yesterday’s Vegtoberfest in Baltimore.

For the many who tasted it and judged – thank you! For those who came by after we ran out (in an HOUR) or took my card for the recipe, this makes a gallon of it!
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Pennsyltucky Vegan Chili

“Pennsyltucky” is the Keystone-shaped heart of Pennsylvania with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on either side. Packed with Pennsyltucky ingredients like Butter Beans and Hershey’s Cocoa, this award winning chili was created and posted on Bacon is NOT an Herb vegetarian blog.

Chili Ingredients:
2 large Onions chopped
1/4 C Olive Oil (divided for the 2 sautes)
4 Garlic cloves minced
4 ears of Sweet Corn, cut off the cob
2 Tablespoons powdered Cumin
1 teaspoon Fennel Seed crushed
1 LightLife Gimme Lean® Sausage package
1 large Green Bell Pepper coarsely chopped
3/4 C water
1 Lime juiced
1 Cup of Peanut Butter & Co. The Heat is On
3/4 C Campbells Tomato Soup concentrate
62 oz (4 cans) cooked Black Beans
62 oz (4 cans) cooked Butter Beans
56 oz canned Crushed Tomatoes
1/3 C Hershey’s Cocoa

Instructions:
Break the Gimme Lean® Sausage into 1″ hunks and saute it with half of the olive oil (1/8 C). Do this in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat until the hunks start to get just a little color then add the onion, garlic and fennel. Finish cooking in the same manner until the hunks have a nice firm texture and the onions are starting to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a deep pot that can house a gallon of chili. Saute the corn for a few minutes than add the green bell pepper and cumin. When the green pepper is just getting tender, deglaze the pot with the water and lime juice.

Add the Peanut Butter & Co. The Heat is On and Tomato Soup concentrate and stir until completely blended. Add remaining ingredients and lower heat.

Bring the pot of chili to just before it wants to boil and add in the reserved Gimme Lean® Sausage mixture. Heat through and serve (or let it mellow 2 days in the fridge and reheat) with the below 3 toppings.

Toppings

Roasted Soy Beans
Ingredients:
1 C unsalted dry roasted Soy Beans
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Hickory Smoke
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon of fine Salt

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients until soy beans are well coated. Toast in a 350° for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Be careful they don’t burn. Remove, cool and crush into small pieces (I used a rolling-pin on the cooled beans that were secured between 2 sheets of waxed paper).

Cream
Blend a container of Toffuti Sour Supreme with the juice of 1/2 a Lime.

Top a bowl of the warm the chili with a sprig of fresh Cilantro, a dollop of Cream and a sprinkle of the Roasted Soy Beans.
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It’s a little complicated but really worth the trouble. My biggest regret was not getting to eat any myself and I plan on making a half batch soon!

Pennsyltucky Vegan Chili

To try it soon you are going to have to come out to Vegtoberfest and I guarantee you will LOVE MY CHILI!

It’s been a work in progress for years and, thanks to the counsel of a good friend this morning, I resolved some of making a good recipe also vegan. I combined 2 of my award winning vegetarian recipes to make my Pennsyltucky Vegan Chili!

It’s hearty, bright and has just enough heat to make your nose start to run but not so much that you break out on sweat on your brow.

I’ll share the recipe later but why wait? Come to Vegtoberfest and try them all!

Baltimore Bound!

I just found out that my Pennsyltucky Vegan Chili will be in the chili cook off at Vegtoberfest!

I am excited, overwhelmed and certain I am going to get zero hours of sleep this week with anticipation and everything on my mind. I am going to be swamped with pulling it all off in time for the trip and hope the lull in blogging will be understood. Hopefully it will make for a good post next week.

If you find yourself in Baltimore next week, come on out to Vegtoberfest and cheer me on in the chili cook off.

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