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Tastings: Last Chance to Try All SHEF Chilis for This Year

Annual SHEF Chili Cook-Off scheduled for this Saturday night, on the mountain in Bernardsville.

There are chili recipes with beans, and without. Some have all meat, some have none. There are variations that are mild, and others that will start a fire on your tongue.

Then there are chilis made with wild boar, venison or with an Asian-Indian twist. Those are some of the chilis that have been served at the annual SHEF Chili Cook-Off, a fundraiser for the Somerset Hills Education Foundation, which is back on for this Saturday night, from 6 to 10 p.m.

This year's social event, again at Upton Pine Estate on the mountain in Bernardsville, is the ninth year the down-home (Somerset Hills-style) celebration will be held. As of late Thursday, tickets were still available.

The Bagel Bin and Bernardsville Hardware are extending the hours they will sell tickets until noon on Saturday, the organizers said.

While SHEF's Chili Cook-Off is a major source of support for school projects and programs in the Somerset Hills School District, it's also a gala gathering that draws about 600 to 700 people to a rusticly elegant setting in an carriage house that's perfect for a party.

This year, again, the band Catz n Dawgs will provide music to dance to. And this year's entertainment lineup will include a "rodeo roper" where revelers can climb on a stationary horse and try to rope a (mechanical) calf. Who first for that one?

But along with the wine, beer, margaritas and a "silent auction" for prizes that will include trips and an in-home party with a Master of Wine, the Chili Cook-Off is still also about the chili.

Those lucky enough to have been to the event know that the variety is amazing. People sample as many of the chilis as they can, and then vote for their favorite.

owner Brian Moscetti, who has won multiple awards during the years he has entered the contest, said he comes up with a completely new recipe for every Chili Cook-Off.

Earlier this week, the Soup Shoppe was offering a variety of chilis in its shop at Riverwalk off Martinsville Road, including a green chili made with pork and white beans that was a previous "Peoples' Choice" winner.

Moscetti, being a little cagey about his recipe for this year, said he's brought out a smoker for this Saturday's entry.

Alice Rose, director of development for SHEF and chairwoman of this year's Chili Cook-Off, said that 19 teams had signed up to produce the large quantities of chili that will be served this weekend.

Chili contestants come from all over the Somerset Hills, including Bernardsville, Basking Ridge and Bedminster, and also from nearby Harding Township.

One of the return entries will be from Chanveen Vindra of Bernardsville, who provides an Indian version of chili, Rose said.

She said other versions will come from the Bernards Cafe, Bernardsville Electric, the Black River General Store in Pottersville, Dental Associates of Basking Ridge, , Gary's Wine and Marketplace in Bernardsville, Le Fashion Cottage in Bernardsville, the in Basking Ridge, the Soup Shoppe, the four shops in Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, Bedminster and Warren, the Claremont Tavern in Bernardsville, "Team Weichert" from Bernardsville, the Lamplighter Restaurant in Chester, the Station Pub & Grub in Bernardsville, the "Somerset Hillbillies," including Cliff MacTavish of Little Falls and John Farrell of Bernardsville, "Team Screwballs," including Steve Schwed and Rick Krueger of Bernardsville, Pat Wry and Bill Motyka of Bernardsville and Michael Allegra of Bedminster.

Tickets are $100, $150 or $250, with the top-priced tickets including access to a VIP lounge and Napa Valley wines tasting.

Those who can't pick up tickets ahead of time, but who wish to attend, should fill out the invitation online ahead of time, and pay at the event, Rose said.

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