Chili Cookoff and BBQ Dinner in Alameda

There wasn’t a horse in sight, but the lobby of the historic Officers Club (“O’ Club”) on the former Naval Air Station in Alameda was dotted with cowboy hats: big, small, felt, and straw.

Over one hundred community members with big hearts and deep pockets turned out in western attire on Saturday evening (January 26) for the Kiwanis Club of Alameda’s 20th Annual Chili Cookoff and BBQ Dinner. All proceeds (from admission and beverage tickets sales, live and silent auction, raffle, and corporate sponsorships by Alameda businesses) will benefit Alameda organizations.

There were dozens of silent auction items, including a bottle of Veuve Clicquot with Ice Jacket, 4-hour ride along with Alameda Police Department, and a limited-edition (number 50 of 100!) etched wine bottle with the lyrics to the 1989 hit song, “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi.

Happening at the same time as the silent auction was chili tasting! Upon entering, they give you one long narrow wooden spoon that looks like a tongue depressor and a list of all the chili cookoff contestants. After trying all 7, you vote for your favorite.

I was the plus one of one of the chili cookoff contestants, so naturally I voted for them (but also because it really was one of my favorites. It had a nice balance of meat and white beans. It was flavorful, but not too spicy!)

There was a vegan chili, which was my second favorite. I think it had tofu in it. It felt light on the tongue, but full of flavor and not overly spicy.

One chili chef revealed their special ingredient was Mexican chocolate, while other chefs had elk and venison, and even a no-bean version! Another chef provided mini jalapeño cornbread muffins, which was a nice touch.

One chef handed me a sample and said, “Enjoy your chili, Darlin’” with an affected southern accent. At first I thought he knew my name and I was immediately charmed. I soon realized he addressed every cowgirl that way. He did not get my vote.

But when it comes to BBQ ribs, I will easily give my vote to Back Forty Texas BBQ, who provided the evening’s buffet of chicken, brisket, garlic mashed potatoes, green salad, coleslaw, and sweet rolls.

We enjoyed dinner while the live auction of big-ticket items, like travel packages to Tahoe and Kauai, took place. One teeth whitening package donated by a local dentist sold for $200 – a bargain!

Afterward, we were entertained with two energetic dances: a youth group performed a contemporary dance to Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock,” followed by a young-at-heart dance group who performed a toe-tapping line dance.

Kiwanis-sponsored Key Club members (local high schools’ students) ran the selfie station, scooped ice cream from tubs contributed by the legendary Fenton’s Creamery, and served slices of cake. One of the students placed a handwritten sign next to the chocolate cake that was all gone by the time I got there: “we won’t judge if you want the frosting!”

After the winners of the chili cookoff and the raffle were announced, they dimmed the lights and opened up the dance floor as the dj played the crowd-pleasing hit, “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

And in case you’re wondering, the cookoff contestants I was cheering on won Third Place Judges’ Choice and Third Place People’s Choice for their chili! 🌶

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