Tag Archives: Sweet Cheeks

Activity Time: Chili Cook Off at Church

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Winter time and colder weather remind us Texans of a favorite comfort food: chili. So when I heard about the First Annual Chili Cook Off held by Church, I was all over it. Church, which I have written about before on this blog, is a cute restaurant in the Fenway area that has religiously-themed dishes and drinks. Next to the restaurant is a music/event hall, which is where the cook off went down.

Starting at 1:00 pm, I was unsure exactly what to expect in the portions of the chili that guests were going to be trying, as the posters for the event left a lot to the imagination. However, once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of chili each guest was given – as it was at least a scoop from each station. On top of that, almost every contestant (to which there were around six or seven official competitors) jazzed up the dish with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese and in one case, pig ear.

Overall, I enjoyed getting a chance to sample some fantastic chili dishes. I love Chowder Fest in the summer, so why wouldn’t I have liked a Chili Cook Off? The downside was that the event was incredibly crowded. According to the Boston Globe, there were around 250 people that attended. It doesn’t seem like a crazy number, except that the entire event was held in a small space. Once the crowd piled in, it was hard to move from station to station – and it got hot fast (especially after eating several bowls of chili).

While I haven’t been able to find out who won the actual “People’s Choice Award,” I can give you my thoughts on the dishes:

Sweet Caroline’s – traditional style of chili with big chunks of hamburger and beans, loaded with chives, sour cream, small tortilla chips and cheese. I voted for this one because it had a good level of flavor, was a thicker chili and provided a good amount of ingredients.

Fenway Park – chocolate/cocoa powder base sauce with meat and beans, loaded with an avocado, sour cream, tortilla, etc. I didn’t know Fenway had chili but I thought it was great! I’ll absolutely order this when it’s on the colder side at Red Sox games.

Church – chili three ways: mole chili, turkey chili and traditional. My biggest hang up was the mole, as it was way too sweet and didn’t have any spice on it. I tried it first, so I don’t think I gave the other chili’s a fair shot.

Sweet Cheeks – non-traditional turkey chili with a white base and some sort of cilantro/pesto type sauce on top. I really enjoyed this one, as it had big chunks of turkey and lots of flavor. Also, I got to meet Top Chef’s Tiffani Faison, who checked the chili’s flavors before scooping!

Thorntons – traditional chili with large beans and shredded beef. This was my least favorite of all the chilies I tried. There wasn’t a lot of flavor and the base was really watery. I will be going to this restaurant for brunch (which apparently they have everyday)!

Jerry Remy’s – traditional chili with lots of meat and no beans. We Southerners talk a big game about “no beans” being the right kind of chili but honestly, it had spice and not a lot of flavor.

Tasty Burger/Citizens – traditional chili with a modern twist that was decorated with pig ear and a fancy cheese. It was a good effort but I personally didn’t enjoy this one as much.

As I said, I enjoyed the concept of the event and had it not been so crowded, I would have absolutely stayed longer. However, I felt rushed to try the food and get out. I would say that the highlight of the day for me was meeting Tiffani – though to spend time on a Saturday eating chili is absolutely heaven.

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Restaurant Review: Sweet Cheeks Q

Courtesy of Sweet Cheeks Q Site

As a former Texan, I’m cursed. No really. I have incredibly high standards when it comes to barbeque and Tex-Mex/Mexican food. The Bostonians I’ve met are always willing to provide recommendations for places to try – places that they LOVE. It’s hard to for me to try these and then report back that I didn’t really like them. (Honestly though, since I’m half Southern/half Mid-Western, it’s really tough for me to tell someone I didn’t enjoy their favorite BBQ joint as much as they did.)

I’m not saying that I have never found Mexican or BBQ that I liked, it’s just really hard to compare to the source. It’s the same with Boston’s seafood or clam chowder. There is probably no way that you’d find such incredible dishes in the South or Mid-West. It’s just not what they’re known for.

However, I was incredibly excited to find out that former Top Chef contestant Tiffani Faison’s had helped start a restaurant that focused on Texas-style BBQ, I was over the moon excited to try it.

Despite having to wait about 20-30 minutes to grab a table, I came pretty hungry – and the food came quickly! My table started with the homemade biscuits which came with honey butter, the hush puppies and fried okra. The biscuits were my absolute favorite part of the apps we ordered, with the fried okra coming in second. It just reminded me of being in Texas and I couldn’t get enough.

For my main course, I had the ribs with black-eyed peas and potato salad. The ribs were really good – and Sweet Cheeks provides three different sauces on every table: hot, traditional and vinegar-based. I went with the traditional but if you like spicy sauces, you’ll probably enjoy the hot version.

All in all, the trip was awesome. The wait was absolutely worth it, even if at the time, I was dying for food. I loved the atmosphere. Even the bathrooms were funky, as the woman’s contained framed photos of Dolly Parton, burning candles and a sticker vending machine.

I’ll definitely be returning for a BBQ fix and hopefully, comparing it to a few other joints in the area like Blue Ribbon. Next time, I’ll try to save room for dessert. The key word being TRY.

Update: This post was originally written in early January. Since that time I have been back to Sweet Cheeks, and tried the pork belly (OMG) and the pecan chocolate pie turnover (whoa!). All I can say is that I ate way too much – and it was still totally awesome.