Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Product Review- Skyline Cincinnati Chili

Every region has its favorite foods. Whether local restaurant specialties or produce that's unique to the area chances are you can associate a food of some sort with everywhere you've been. Think of Hawaii and you probably think of pineapple. Coastal states from Maine to Florida to Texas on the Gulf coast boast seafood those of us in the landlocked states cannot imagine. I live in Iowa and we are always associated with Iowa corn, especially sweet corn, and juicy and delicious Iowa pork. We're famous for it. Pork tenderloin sandwiches bigger than your dinner plate are served all over Iowa and different cities have different favorites. Here in Des Moines the most famous local dish is hands down Steak DeBurgo. While many restaurants have their own version, the original recipe belongs to Johnny and Kay's in the old Hyatt House hotel.

Having traveled extensively and lived in numerous places I've experienced lots of different regional favorites. One that always intrigued me was Cincinnati chili. A couple years ago a friend opened a small restaurant here and that was their big feature- pizza and Cincinnati chili. I'd heard of this chili and knew how it was served but it was something I had never been all that interested in trying. The lingo was so foreign- a two-way, three-way, four-way. Who thinks this stuff up?

Fast forward a few years and I am finally introduced to Cincinnati chili from an expert- my friend Katie. Having family in Cincinnati Katie visits there all the time and of course, gets her chili fix. Skyline Chili, Katie tells me, is THE home of original Cincinnati chili, and besides having lots of locations for their restaurant, they also package and sell the chili for you to make at home. During one of her visits to Ohio, Katie stocked up on Skyline Chili and shared some with me when she returned home. She sent me home with several cans of Skyline and thorough directions on how to prepare it the right way. Spaghetti. Beans. Chopped onions. Shredded cheese. Lots of shredded cheese. The plan was to go home and have the traditional Skyline Four Way, spaghetti, red beans, chopped onions and a mountain of shredded cheese.

Dinner time came and I heated up the chili. It has an unusual smell- not like chili I am used to, but a sweet cinnamony-clovy fragrance. The meat is very broken down, as one of the unusual techniques in making this dish is to start with uncooked ground beef and cook it in the liquids, which breaks the meat down into tiny pieces- no big clumps of burger. The consistency of the chili is also very thin, again unlike the thicker robust chili I am used to. Once the spaghetti was cooked it was time to plate up our Skylie chili. Pile of pasta in the bowl, pour over the chili, add beans, chopped onion and top with a pile of finely shredded cheddar cheese.

The verdict? It was ok. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either. I missed the heat and the chili flavors I am used to. The cinnamon and cloves were definitely big in the flavor profile and it just was not a combination with the meat and tomato and onions and beans. I put what I thought was a big pile of cheese on the plate, and Katie said it wasn't enough cheese- but honestly any more than that would have been way too much for me. 

On another night we tried Skyline on chili dogs and I liked it even less. The consistency of the chili is too thin for my taste, and made the bun too soggy. Maybe I'm just stuck in my ways but I missed the richness, thickness and spice of chili con carne on my chili dog.

So Skyline, I like you just fine, but you didn't change my life like I thought you might, and that's perfectly ok.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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