Last year I showed up hungry to be a judge at the Henniker Rotary Club "Fire on the Mountain" Chili Fest. Rookie mistake. It makes you gobble up the first entries too fast and you risk filling up with many more samples to go. Fortunately, I had veteran chili tasters and foodies Mike Morin of WZID and Chef Nicole Barreira to slow and guide me through the process.
I love to eat, but I rarely cook, so I had no idea what was in most of the chili I was gobbling. Fortunately, Chef Nicole is more than the pretty face of Cactus Jack's and T-Bones. She is a legitimate corporate chef who understands food and was able to identify the ingredients and flavors of each entry. And Mike Morin is more than just a pretty voice on the radio. He has entered and won cooking competitions himself.
I am not sure what I added to the judging panel, other than an insatiable appetite, but they have invited me back for this year's Chili Fest at Pat's Peak on Sunday, Aug. 25. A ticket, $10 for adults and $5 for children under 11, lets you sample as many as 40 different types of chili. But that's just part of what makes the event so great. There are other vendors of food and crafts, a children's activity center and beer wagons — all at the beautiful Pat's Peak resort accompanied by live music by Jeff Dearborn and Contoocook Blues Society.
I liked all the chili I sampled last year for different reasons. We judged each entry on appearance, aroma, uniqueness, texture, taste and aftertaste.
If you like to make chili, this is a great place to try it out in a competition. There are no restrictions on ingredients. Amateur entries only need to bring three to four gallons for sampling. There are cash awards for top-finishers as well as People's Choice Award and best display. There is also a separate division for restaurants and other professional chili makers.
For more information and how to enter the competition, visit chilinewhampshire.org.
Bring a backpack
There's nothing worse than finally getting into summer mode when "Bam!" you are assaulted by back-to-school commercials. Well, you won't find refuge here either.
Last year, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats distributed 3,000 bags of school supplies to children in Manchester. The supplies were collected by Manchester Christian Church and distributed at a Manchester Goes Back to School event at the Fisher Cats stadium.
This year, the church has accepted a bigger challenge: 4,000 bags of school supplies. They will be distributed to children in need at the Manchester Goes Back to School event at the baseball stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Filled bags will be collected at the Manchester Christian Church services over the next three Sundays and at the Fisher Cats game Sunday, Aug. 11, at 3:05 p.m.
If you would like to help, a list of needed supplies and volunteer opportunities may be found at outreachatmcc.com.
Red backpacks to fill were distributed at the church Sunday, but you can contact the church at 622-9677 to pick up any leftovers
NH365.ORG Event of the Week
I was driving down Beech Street on a recent Wednesday night and noticed people outside the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire building who looked like they were selling tickets for an outdoor show. I just thought I was seeing things. I wasn't.
Since the beginning of July, a New Hampshire theater troupe called Theatre Under the Stars has been performing Shakespeare in the Park(ing lot) on the JFNH grounds on Wednesday nights. The theater group's website says it is the only professional outdoor classical repertory company. Its mission is to put the "Shake" back in Shakespeare by presenting "Bare Bones Bard" with minimal lights, sets and props and no sound amplification.
The website says, "We perform under Renaissance conditions: Rustic stage, minimal to no rehearsals, (mostly) natural light, gorgeous costumes and actors who really understand and connect with the words, each other and the audience. If we connect then you connect. It's as simple as that."
Add a bring-your-own-picnic dinner and it sounds like an absolutely lovely summer evening in the Queen City. This Wednesday's production of "Romeo and Juliet" promises eight actors performing 20 roles in 75 minutes.
Tickets are $5 for adults and free for kids under 12. While families are encouraged to attend, there is a PG rating to deter smaller children who may not be able to sit quietly through the whole production.
Additional scheduled performances include "Interactive 3D Musketeers," on July 31, when the actors will freeze the action at crucial plot points and let the audience decide which way the story should go, and "Love's Labours Lost" on Aug. 7.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to bring a blanket or low lawn chair.
I am so excited we have outdoor theater here in the Queen City again. I love it so much that I recently drove to Portsmouth's Prescott Park to see "Annie" and stayed through a thunder and lightning storm delay.
You won't have to wait through any rain delays at the upcoming performance of "Romeo and Juliet." Theatre Under the Stars moves inside the JFNH building during inclement weather.
For more information, visit www.shakespeareinthevalley.com.
If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.