Patrons of Amalia's Family Restaurant and Merton Custard already know they've got tasty fare. But both local restaurants received further vindication when they won first place for their products at 1029.9 THE HOG's fifth annual Sticky Fingers food competition and feast Oct. 24 at the Waukesha County Expo Center.
The event invites area culinary experts to bring a large helping of their favorite flavors to enter into four categories: wings, ribs, chili and frozen treats. Then they opened the floodgates to more than 1,2000 hungry participant who purchased tickets for an afternoon of eating and judging what tantalized their taste buds the most.
Owners of Amalia's downtown Oconomowoc family restaurant, Theresa and Manuel Perez, spent days before the event preparing more than 35 gallons of chili to be devoured in 1,700 handmade bread bowls Manuel prepared.
Theresa said the event was a blast, and Amalia's was a sticky hands-down favorite from those who sampled the chili. She said even the health inspector onsite for the event was impressed.
"He said he was so impressed by our setup, he had to come back and try the chili," Theresa said.
She was still gushing with excitement over the event the following Thursday, and now that she's been able to rest her arm from stirring gallons of chili and Manuel has been able to recuperate from all his baking, they are thrilled with the results.
"It's bad when your arm goes numb; my arm was burning from scooping all the chili, but what an honor, what an honor. It was a great event, and the crowd was great. There were so many people, they filled it to the rafters," she said.
If you missed the competition, you can still taste the award-winning chili that has won similar titles in the Downtown Oconomowoc Merchant's Association's annual Chill-i-Fest, where Theresa said they've placed in the people's choice and judge's award. It's on the menu every day, Theresa said.
Merton Custard owner Linda Pawn was happy to bring back the fourth consecutive trophy for first place in the frozen treats category.
"It's a very exciting event, and it's fun to do. We love to see people happy; that's why we're in the restaurant business," Pawn said.
She said that for the past four years, Merton Custard has won first place; it placed second the first year of the sticky fingers competition.
The custard shop brought chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan custard and also offered sundaes. Pawn said they brought about 45 gallons of the frozen treats to cater to the crowd.
Pawn said she still gets nervous each year when defending the title, but the excitement makes it fun.
Both winners said they saw some familiar faces at the competition.
"Probably about 80 percent of the people are regulars. The more you enter, the more popular you become," Pawn said.
Theresa Perez agreed, saying she was even flagged down on the street by a man who hollered, "Awesome chili!"
"One guy we saw said he eats at Amalia's all the time. Another said they just moved to Oconomowoc and are ready to go" to the restaurant, she said.
SOURCE: Lake Country Reporter - November 8, 2010 - Paige Brunclik