On the chip: getting judgmental | AspenTimes.com

On the chip: getting judgmental

Snowmass local Gizmo judges homemade salsa Friday afternoon at the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest in Snowmass Village. The festival continues Saturday and Sunday. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE Chili Pepper & Brew Fest is here, and Snowmass Village is back! After weeks of the mall looking like a ghost town last time I went up there all the shops were closed and a tumbleweed rolled carelessly along the pavement the gustatory festival has brought the village to life. When I showed up to volunteer at 3 p.m. Friday, Fanny Hill was lined with chili-chef booths and beer vendors, and warm-up acts were on stage to kick off a weekend full of events where else can you wash down a bowl of Chernobyl Chili with a mug of Moose Drool? I was among some 26 judges charged with choosing the best from among 21 different salsas, but I was baffled at the task who am I to judge? I live on a diet of all that can be microwaved, cooked in a toaster oven or plucked from among the sugary gut-rot in the office honor box. Since arriving in Aspen and a lifestyle where, between hard work and hard play, theres no time to cook (and no money to eat out), Ive learned from my fellow reporters about showing up at benefits and openings. And I can talk about the art or the cause just enough to justify stuffing my cheeks wish cheese, crackers and pastries. And at Fridays contest, I balked at judging one free morsel against another a clear violation of the journalists code of gratitude for all that is gratis. But with each bite, my tastes matured. I fell into the critics role, and by the end cleansed my palate with a gargle of Diet Coke and paused after each loaded chip to look in the air thoughtfully before scrawling on my tally sheet. Finely chopped and runny with a hint of pepper. Nice try, but not enough spice, I wrote. In the end I chose the one with the most avocado and just the right spice for me, but among my fellow judges, some of whom came from Denver for the event, there was no agreement. Winners at the weekend tasting events qualify for the world championships for salsa, as well as green and red chili. And with a full weekend of events, including Saturdays performance by Ziggy Marley, I know where Im taking my lawn blanket and my appetite.For a complete festival schedule, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/a&e.

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