The ladles were out at Issues—a magazine store known for its comprehensive international selections—for their 5th year anniversary party that featured a chili cook-off. Local vibraphonist Mark Clifford, who leads a band called Drms, set the mood by performing outside the shop, which is located at 20 Glen Avenue, right off of Piedmont Avenue.
There were 12 chili entries to try for the cook-off’s “esteemed panel” of judges: Justin Yu, chef and owner of the downtown Hawker Fare restaurant; Janelle Hessig, an animator who created Tales of Blarg; and Max Schaaf, the skateboarder and chopper scene icon behind 4Q Conditioning, where custom choppers—motorcycles that have been redesigned or built from scratch—are made. The patient line of customers and local residents made up the votes for “Peoples Choice” awards.
The palate wasn’t a simple one. Slow cookers were filled with everything from “Vegan Chili Con Carnage” made with several types of beans, carrots, zucchini, smoked paprika, and nutritional yeast to “Vegan Peanut Butter Pintos” which included pinto beans, organic peanut butter, roasted heirloom tomatoes, poblano chili, dry mustard, and molasses, to a chili-based desert with mango, strawberry, chili pepper, and Japanese sweet beans served over warm cornbread.
Aaron Harbour, an Oakland resident, came in first place—twice—winning for the spiciest chili as well as being the panel’s top pick. His chill was called “Spicy Pork Belly Chili” and was made with leeks, pork belly, applewood bacon, Szechwan peppercorn, and Korean hot pepper powder. Alex Martinez came in third place with the panel and secured the “People’s Choice” award for his “Triple Double Chili” which included pasilla peppers, red beans, cross-rib roast, ground pork, and a corn salad garnish.
Joe Colley and Noella Teele, the co-owners of Issues, opened the store in June 2007 after experiencing how difficult it was to find an international music magazine in Oakland. Issues has grown into Oakland’s premiere magazine store, selling between 2,500 to 3,500 different publications that include Hi-Fructose, a local independent magazine, Apartamento, an interior and design magazine from Italy, Esopus, a twice-yearly art magazine, Crap Hound, a magazine of clippings, and London based Tank Magazine, an international fashion magazine. They also sell books, t-shirts, vinyl, cards, jewelry and an assortment of gifts.
“I was thinking of an exciting way to commemorate the 5th anniversary,” Teele said of her decision to host a chili cook-off. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. I thought with the weather it would be perfect.”
“It’s great to see so many friendly faces,” Colley said. “People that have been so supportive. We really appreciate it. We had this ridiculous idea and it seems like it’s going to work. Everybody’s having fun. We’re doing the best we can—we’re not seasoned, no pun intended.”