Who is Austin's Big Cheese?
Chile con queso is right up there with well-stuffed breakfast tacos and slow-smoked brisket on the list of Austin's signature dishes; everyone's got an opinion about who makes the best version. For four years now, event promoter Adi Anand has hosted a contest to answer the burning question: Who makes Austin's best queso?
Sunday afternoon, a crowd of queso-loving Austinites formed a line outside the Mohawk that stretched all the way down one block of Red River and wrapped around the hill up E. Ninth. Once inside the bar's enclosed patio area, they paid $5 for bags of chips and visited more than 20 serving stations spread out over three levels. Beer, cocktails, and live music lubricated the proceedings. It brought to mind the early days of another iconic local culinary competition, the legendary SPAMARAMA, when it was held at one of the early Soap Creek Saloon locations in South Austin.
The challenge was to create a queso dish in one of four categories: Meaty, Spicy, Veggie, and Wild Card. Contestants representing restaurants, catering companies, social clubs, and even individuals stayed busy serving up samples of myriad melted cheese concoctions from crock pots and steaming chafing dishes. The only thing missing was a local chip sponsor - signing on with this party would be a great opportunity for some local company
Based on our experience, there were a handful of really superior entries, a large middle ground of edible but unremarkable fare, a couple overwhelmed by salt, and a few in the Wild Card division that were too far outside my acceptable flavor tolerance, such as a queso ice cream with candied jalapenos, a too-chocolatey mole queso, and an espresso queso with sugary churros. I wasn't an official judge, but I was pleased to note afterwards that my favorite during the media preview came out on top.
Meaty and Best Overall: Freedman's Brisket Queso
Spicy: Queso Beso
Wild Card: Cream Team
Congratulations to all the winners!