SoNo Fest- Chili Tasting Meets School Fundraiser

A lot of people trying a lot of chili… and will be sleeping with the windows open tonight, said one of our friends, ha.

And the Genius Award in the category of Fundraising goes to (drumroll)… The Originators of The SoNo Fest and Chili Cook Off Fundraiser for McKinley Elementary School in San Diego.

The South Park/North Park community has a gold mine here. You buy your little sampler pottery bowl for $20 and get to taste five chilis. Want more? Buy another five sample pass for $15 and reuse your bowl. Bring your bowls back from the previous year, too, if you like.

All of the tax deductible proceeds from this event go to benefit the Spanish, art, and music programs at McKinley Elementary… to the tune of over $50K last year.

IMG_9555I realized really quickly that the best strategy for tasting the best chili is the most simple- when my bowl is empty, I try the chili from the nearest booth. It is that simple- they are all are delicious!! One of my favorites was the Duck Confit, Lardon, Sausage and White Bean Chili from Café Madeleine for a non-traditional chili. I’m not the biggest chili fan… OH MY GOSH THIS WAS DELICIOUS!!

IMG_9557My overall favorite was a Pork Belly and Smoked Brisket from The Deck at Moonshine Flats. An unbelievable, savory, meaty, flavorful taste and overall the best chili I’ve ever had. So there. Eat your heart out, every other place. This is something that is served in Heaven, I am sure.

IMG_9558Another out of this word chili came from City Tacos, and may well have been completely unplanned. When they ran out of their Albondigas Chili, they substituted Carnitas. I am already a huge fan of carnitas, and this sample was pushed over the top when topped by chicharrones and tortilla chip strips. I KNOW, RIGHT??? CHICHARRONES!!!

Finish that beer, there is more chili to taste!!

“Into the fun zone we go,” declared the ID checker we entered the Beer Garden. When one of our group (we’re looking at you, Johnnie!!) was holding up the Chili Sampling (Round 2!) with their unfinished beer, we decided to institute a new motto: Drink for Those Who Can’t… as in, if you can’t finish fast enough, we are now going to help finish it for you!

Music at both ends of the festival, student pottery available for purchase from the incredible gallery that is partly responsible for the SoNo Fest, unique vendors, and a handful of food trucks rounded out the sights for the day. Food trucks? I guess if you think you don’t like chili, you still will find some great eats here.

Thorn Street Brewery, a festival sponsor
Happy puppy, happy drinkers inside Thorn St. Brewery– nice people, too. If you two see this, hi!!
Inside the San Diego Ceramics Connection, major sponsor and partly responsible for the SoNo Fest
Buy my son some bow ties, Deedee, go ahead! Find these great ties online at

More gratuitous chili photos:


Food Tourism in San Diego- Big Kitchen Café

San Diego’s South Park neighborhood has unique shops, home after home of the quintessential California bungalow, and a boatload of eateries. One of the neighborhood and San Diego’s favorites restaurants includes Big Kitchen Café where you can stop in and enjoy some great grub. While you eat you can try, and fail, to take in all the memorabilia posted everywhere- from the Whoopie Goldberg signed wall (where she used to wash dishes) to the Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead photos, and hundreds of personal photos. You will never take it all in.

Busker out in front of Big Kitchen
Busker out in front of Big Kitchen
Roasted Garlic, Onion and Potato Frittata. T'was yummy.
My Frittata. T’was yummy, with lots of roasted garlic.

We had a couple of good breakfasts. The Husband had good bacon with his biscuits and gravy and I really liked my roasted garlic, onion and potato frittata. The home fries were cripsy potato chunks with a generous amount of chopped herbs. Dee-lish. And halleluia, the coffee was fab, too.

I’m really glad a friend recommended this spot when we were looking for somewhere to eat breakfast while we waited for The Boy to finish an activity. Thanks a bunch to Deb E. for the suggestion!! We even found a great gift for The Girl at a shop next door…

See? I wasn't kidding!
See? I wasn’t kidding! Click the pic for the Amazon link if your family has as goofy a sense of humor as ours.

When you see a book titled “Farts Around The World,” and it comes with a sound machine, you just DON’T pass this stuff up (I think I will let her brother buy it off of me and give it to her for her birthday- it makes the PERFECT sibling gift, n’est-ce pas?). I can post this here, she never reads this blog, lol.

(I swiped the featured photo- the one at the very top- right off of the Big Kitchen’s Facebook page, don’t know who took it, but I definitely didn’t want to take credit for someone else’s stuff…)