Thursday, September 21, 2006
Rollercoaster...of Chili. Say What?
Ohio is home to several large rollercoaster-based theme parks, including Cedar Point in Sandusky and King's Island near Cincinnati. Taking an early fall mini-vacation, I headed out to the land of large rollercoasters and WKRP. My main goal was to ride the legendary wood coaster The Beast, and his "offspring," the fearsome, looping Son of Beast. Sadly, the son is being grounded for hurting some passengers earlier this year, so I had to settle for the old man, and trust me, he's no joke. Wilder than any ride around here, including Ride of Steel, the Grizzly, Volcano or Apollo's Chariot, but not quite as crazy as 395 at 6:30pm. However, the theme park is full of places to get chili, which didn't strike me as the usual fare. Chili + rollercoasters + overstimulated sugar-filled kids = a strange color of sick.
Cincinnati-style chili is a relatively mild mix of meat, tomatoes and chilies, but, rather than going for heat or spice, they make it sweeter by adding cinnamon to the mix. Usually served over a plate of pasta with cheese (3-way), onions (4-way) and beans (5-way), or on a small hot dog with similar toppings called a Coney, Cincinnati chili is very smooth and easy-to-eat, pretty much perfect for kids and not too rough on the ole' G.I. tract. This chili is not going to be used for some Herculean eating contest, where consumption of the brew comes with a waiver and a medical warning.
The Queen City has chili joints like we've got Starbucks, tapas and Peruvian chicken takeouts. There's at least one at every interstate exit, usually next to the Steak 'n Shake or the massive grocery stores out there, like Biggs or Meijers. You'll see two major chili chains, Skyline and Gold Star, with shops throughout southwestern Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, along with a smaller Kentucky-centric chain, Dixie. You'll find canned and frozen versions of all three shops' wares at the massive grocery stores, and rumor has it that a couple of local grocers here carry them from time-to-time.
If you like a meatier chili, you'll like Gold Star a bit better. The meat seemed a bit heartier and substantial. Skyline has a good seasoning, and though the recipe is secret, I thought I could taste some bay leaf and allspice in their mix. Dixie is a good mix of the two, though I'll confess I couldn't eat their offering fresh from the store, as two 3-ways and two Coneys from both Skyline and Gold Star had me craving anything BUT chili by that point.
If you want to try this version of chili, you can mail order some from any of the store's websites, or swing by any of the Hard Times around here, where they also offer spicier chilis, like the tasty Terlingua Red as well as Cincinnati style.