Dining With Denise Neil

Good luck deciding between chili, beer and garlic during this busy Wichita foodie weekend

This time of year is always packed with big food and drink events that usher in the fall season.

But this year, several big ones have landed on the same weekend.

You’ll have to use your time wisely if you want to get the maximum flavor out of all the chili, garlic, beer and brats this weekend has to offer.

Here’s a list of the major events going on this weekend.

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A record number of chili teams have signed up to cook for this weekend’s Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff. File photo

Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff

Saturday, Douglas between Waco and Main in front of Century II. Beer sales and activities start at 9 a.m., tasting starts at noon

What could be more fall than eating as much chili as you can stomach for $5? Wichitans will get that annual opportunity on Saturday, when the Wichita Wagonmasters put on their annual chili sampling event and fundraiser.

The Wagonmasters will again stage the event on the new location it tried last year, on a closed-down section of Douglas in front of Century II. For years previous, it had happened on three blocks of Douglas between St. Francis and the railroad overpass.

Head “chili dipper” Shaun Shaun Isham, the Wagonmaster appointed to organize this year’s event, said that participation is at a “record breaking” level this year 80 teams have signed up to make chili for the event. They’re a mixture of serious competitors vying for a spot in the World Championship Chili Cookoff next year in Des Moines and less-serious groups of co-workers or friends cooking for fun. (Shameless plug: For the third year in a row, Dining With Denise will have a booth at the cookoff, and I’ll be passing out free Dining with Denise aprons.)

Attendees who buy $5 tasting kits at the gate will be able to try samples of the chili the teams make and vote for the best one. Fifteen teams also have signed up for the event’s salsa contest, and they’ll also be passing out samples. On the off chance that attendees don’t get their fill, they’ll also be entitled to one full bowl of chili plus all the fixings prepared by the Wichita Wagonmasters, a group of local businessmen who help promote Wichita and organize charity events throughout the year. The Wagonmasters will be set up on Kennedy Plaza.

New this year: Thanks to a change in state law, the festival will be able to serve craft beer along with the 3.2 stuff they’ve offered in the past. Aero Plains Brewing, Wichita Brewing Company and Walnut River Brewing will all be set up and selling on Kennedy Plaza. The law also will allow the Wagonmasters to serve hard seltzers from their beer tents.

The event also will include a kids zone with free ice cream from Hiland Dairy and an expanded touch-a-truck area. Also on the schedule: a corn hole tournament and live music from Epic. Money raised will go to The Good Life Grants to support local charities.

Midwest Beerfest

Grand tasting 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Kansas Star Arena, Mulvane

Wichita’s original beer festival returns this weekend, and it will once again be staged at the new home it found last year: The arena of The Kansas Star Casino in nearby Mulvane. The new location worked out well last year, said Mark Douglass, the chairman of the Wichita Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food and a beerfest organizer, and until the fate of the festival’s longtime home — Century II — is more clear, the festival will likely stick with the casino.

The festival will invite ticket holders to sample 314 different craft beers regional and national breweries. A few of the local breweries will be there, too, including Wichita Brewing Company, Walnut River Brewing, River City Brewing Company and Aero Plains Brewing, he said.

New this year: The festival is encouraging a new generation of culinary students from USD 259 high schools to compete by making small bites that attendees who pay $8 extra can sample. Eight teams will be cooking, and a panel of judges will decide who made the best bite. The two winning teams will earn scholarships that will pay for their ServSafe training. This contest replaces the festival’s longtime chicken wing sampling event.

The event also will feature a cornhole competition, food trucks and a silent auction. Proceeds will go to AIWF Culinary Arts Scholarship programs.

Tickets are $45, $15 for designated drivers and are available at vendini.com. Cash-only sales also will happen at the door.

All things garlic will be celebrated during a two-day garlic festival at Eberly Farms. Courtesy photo

Orie’s Garlic Fest

11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Eberly Farm, 13111 W. 21st St. North

You like garlic, you say? This two-day event, now in its third year, will root out the casual garlic fans from the hardcore ones.

Not only will it feature 30 different varieties of garlic for people to purchase for culinary purposes and for fall planting, but it will also offer a variety of unique garlic-laced foods to try, including garlic ice cream, garlic cookies, garlic fries, garlic hot chocolate and garlic lemonade. Nortons Brewing Company has even brewed up a special garlic beer, and it will be passing out samples to attendees.

The event is put on by Orie’s Farm Fresh, and its a celebration of all things garlic, said farm owner Megan Greenway.

People can see cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs like Josh Rathbun from Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, and they can also listen to live music, take the kids on a hay rack ride and eat. In addition to all the garlicky foods, Eberly Farms will also be selling its signature barbecue.

Admission is $10 for adults, free for children 17 and under. For a complete schedule of the two-day festival, visit the Orie’s Garlic Fest Facebook page.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.