Around 250 people came out on Feb. 8, to sample some delicious chili and enjoy the annual Loving Mugs fundraiser at the Penticton Art Gallery.
Hundreds of mugs were picked through, as attendees chose their favourite vessel for the night’s main course; samples of delicious chili from chefs around the community.
The night was filled with live music, laughter and conversation that filled the gallery.
“It’s a fundraiser, but more importantly, it’s a ‘friend-raiser’, it’s community building,” said curator Paul Crawford. “If the gallery can serve as that hub where we can all come together and share moments like this, then that’s best of all.”
The event is one of two fundraisers for the gallery that bookend the year, with the still currently more popular Soup Bowls event taking place towards the end of each year. While the popularity of the Loving Mugs is growing, Crawford said it still has a ways to go before it reaches the level of institution in the community that the Soup Bowls has.
The main focus of the night was on the chili, and by the end of the evening, the votes from the people settled out which ones came out on top. It was a stiff competition, with many of the chilis easily capable of claiming to be the best, from the heat-packed Highway 97 peach pilsner chili to the Dream Cafe’s mouth-watering white chili.
There were several different titles up for competition, but the People’s Choice award went to Cannery Brewing for the second year in a row.
“We got out onto the floor and everybody did awesome,” said chef Thomas Bridson. “It’s really cool that we got the People’s Choice again this year. Last year we did a Texas-style brisket chili, this year we did some smoked low-and-slow chicken thighs, house chorizo, and lots of Cannery beer in there.”
Bridson said that they’ll be headed back to the lab to try and figure out what Cannery will be doing for the next year in the hopes of picking up a hat trick and taking the top spot for a third time.
“Sometimes it’s just divine inspiration, and sometimes it takes three different books and a whole lot of notes on the phone,” said Bridson.
The other titles, each of which came with a unique trophy, were distributed to other chilis of the night.
Highway 97 took the Climate Changer award for beaniest chili, the most unique chili went to the Dream Cafe, the best vegan chili went to Stillfood Bistro, the Pepto Bismal award for the spiciest chili went to Slackwater Brewing, and the Best Toppings went to Match Eatery.
The night was filled with tasty memories, and the people who came also got to take those memories home with a recipe book and a mug of their own.
“It’s that lightning in a bottle, you just sort of catch it and live in that moment,” said Crawford. “That mug serves as a tangible reminder, and I tell people, ‘When you choose your mug, choose something that fits well in your hand.’ Every morning you have your coffee, you’re going to remember this moment.”