Longtime Sonoma County residents, and even those who have traveled to Sonoma County through the years, may remember Ingram’s Chili Bowl. It was a very simple place that opened in 1951 on Old Redwood Highway in Santa Rosa. The seats were always filled and you’d often find lines of truck drivers and construction workers waiting to get a good, hearty lunch. It was a piece of America that hardly exists any more, a simple “mom and pop” restaurant making good food.
I was sad when I heard the news a few months ago that owner Jack Ingram died. Memories have taken me back to September of 1997 when I teamed up with fellow Sonoma County chefs Michael Quigley, Dan and Kathleen Berman, Mark Dierkhising and Michael Hirschberg for a fundraiser to help the Ingrams avoid being eliminated by a development plan by Home Depot. We turned the chili diner into a fine restaurant for the night, with white linen tablecloths, fancy silverware and wine glasses, and it was a lot of fun. We did manage to help the Ingrams survive that battle, but in 2000, Jack’s son had taken over the restaurant and decided to close it.
In honor of Jack, and small independent restauranteurs everywhere, I am posting this great chili recipe. It is very similar to the one that was served at Ingram’s Chili Bowl.
30 MINUTE CHILI WITH (OR WITHOUT) BEANS
Serves 8 – 10
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly black ground pepper
1/2 can (3 ounces) tomato paste
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 pounds coarse ground beef chuck (85% lean)
3 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
1 bottle (12 ounces) mild lager beer
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
Garnishes: Shredded pepper jack cheese, chopped cilantro, avocado, lime wedges and corn chips
In a Dutch oven or large (5-quart) heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste, chili powder, chipotles, cumin and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until mixture has begun to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes with their juice, and beer. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook over medium heat until chili has thickened slightly. Add beans, if using and cook till they are tender, about 5 minutes. Serve in bowls passing garnishes separately for guests to add at will!
John Ash © 2008