Cincinnati Chili for the Wine—Er, I Mean Win


The Super Bowl is coming up this weekend, and LA is playing in it for the first time since the Rams came back to town. Though I’m not much of a football fan, I am a fan of LA, so I thought it’d be great to mark the occasion with another thing I am a fan of—food. And what better, more perfect Super Bowl food is there than chili?

Now, I’ve learned during my tenure at K&L that if you want to talk food, you talk to Keith. A highly accomplished cook, Keith doesn’t mess around. There are no shortcuts when he’s in the kitchen—he even makes his own chili powder. So when I started brainstorming my nod to the Super Bowl on the blog, I asked Keith if he had a good chili recipe. He immediately said, “Yes! I’ll make Cincinnati Chili in honor of Illya.” Illya is a Kentuckian from outside of Cincinnati, and this regional comfort food is near and dear to his heart. So make it Keith did, for the whole LA staff (and a winemaker or two who lucked out and happened to drop in on the right day).

Cincinnati Chili is a unique blend of savory and sweet flavors, a dish invented by Macedonian immigrants who intended it initially as a topping for hot dogs (which they called coneys after Coney Island hot dogs, also, incidentally, developed by Greek immigrants). If you think of the cinnamon-spiced filling in Greek moussaka, you perhaps can piece together a bit of its flavor ancestry. The two brothers also invented “the way” system of ordering, meaning you can get a Cinci Chili two-way (with spaghetti), three-way (plus cheese), four-way (plus onions), or five-way (plus beans). Of course we did the five-way. Is there really any other way?

As Keith said, it’s the kind of food you think you’re going to hate… until you try it. And it is the ultimate comfort food: carbs, meat, cheese, and a pandemonium of spices that somehow all fit together. Keith’s version, in particular, is divine.


We paired it with 2016 Baron de Montfaucon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which handled the job admirably. There’s a richness to both the texture and the fruit profile of this wine—think blackberry fruit leather, dried black currants, hints of licorice—but with enough acidity to make it buoyant and thirst-quenching. A great counterbalance for the complexity of the chili.


If you’d like to think more locally to Cincinnati for your beverage, another great pairing option is Tom's Foolery Bottled in Bond Batch #1 Ohio Straight Applejack. Made from apple cider sourced from Ohio, it’s got enough sweet baked apple and cinnamon spice to complement the chili, but a dry finish to make it food friendly.

Without further ado, here’s Keith’s recipe:

Cincinnati-Style Chili for Super Bowl Sunday
¼ c olive oil or vegetable oil
5 lbs ground beef
2x28 oz cans whole tomatoes, pureed
1 qt beef stock/broth, low to no sodium
1 lb yellow onions, chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and minced
2 to 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar (to taste)

½ cup chili powder (Gebhardt’s is a good commercial brand)
1½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
½ Tbsp ground allspice
½ Tbsp ground cloves
½ Tbsp ground nutmeg
½ Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp oregano
½ Tbsp celery seed
½ Tbsp freshly ground pepper
3 bay leaves

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like dark cocoa)

2 lbs dried spaghetti, boiled

Yellow onions, chopped for garnish
1 lb kidney beans
Oyster crackers

In a large pot, heat oil. Sweat 1 lb of the onions. Lightly salt. Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the ground beef, breaking it into chunks. Lightly brown meat but no need to heavily caramelize. While stirring keep meat moving and breaking apart. When meat firms up and begins to color, add the spice mixture and stir in. Lightly season with salt.

When meat has begun to cook through, add the cocoa powder, pureed tomatoes, red wine vinegar, and beef stock. Mix everything together. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Lightly simmer for at least an hour and a half, allow some of the moisture to evaporate, concentrating the flavors.

Taste and adjust salt and add a splash more red wine vinegar if needed.

Serve over cooked pasta with kidney beans, reserved chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, oyster crackers. Or serve over your favorite hot dogs.

Go LA!

- Kate Soto