It’s a Mobile tradition a quarter of a century in the making! The 2014 version of the American Cancer Society’s Chili Cook-off is happening March 8.

I recall a much younger chili cook-off at Cathedral Square, where I got up at 4:30 a.m. to slave over two giant pots of my beautiful red stuff that was too good to take first place. I did win a “People’s Choice” award, though I’m not sure that is a sanctioned title. Maybe someone on our team went by a trophy shop and had it printed to make me feel better.

Then the event moved to Bienville Square, where it found a home for years. I have spent many a cool Saturday morning judging in this location (which is good work if you can find it), drinking beer and slurping tiny cups of red, white and green for the purpose of grading on a 100-point scale. The past few years the contest has been, much like my Drew Brees Wranglers after judging, busting at the seams.

So what is the most popular fundraiser to do? Move to a larger location, of course. This year’s cook-off will find a new home at The Grounds at the corner of Zeigler Boulevard and Cody Road. Sure, it is a little bit of a hike from MiMo, but folks like me have never minded a small sacrifice to raise money for early detection of such a horrible disease.

My pops has spent the past year getting treated for a malignant brain tumor that had him as goofy as his eldest son for a few months. I am pleased to announce that he is almost done with all of his treatment, save a couple of outpatient excursions, and is way smarter than he ever was. I think he also has more hair now than he did in his 30s. Silver lining? I’ll take it. So to say this year’s ACS soirée hits close to home is an understatement of the highest degree.

Of course, there is always live music, refreshing beverages, as much fun for the kids as there is for mom and dad, and awesome chili. The real fun lies in the hunt for the best pot. Everyone is excited about this year’s post-judging musical act Super Funk Fantasy, so get ready to lay down the boogie. Support the worthy cause, and I will see you there.

Uncle Ben pulls his rice

If you have recently purchased smaller packages of Uncle Ben’s rice, avoid the freak out. A recent recall of the rice giant’s Mexican Flavor Infused Rice only affected the wholesale sized 5-pound and 25-pound bags. It did not involve the brand’s supermarket products, which are manufactured separately. Thank goodness it only affected the larger cafeteria-style versions.

Three different Houston, Texas, schools experienced “allergic like symptoms of mild flushing and rash.” I am sure sack lunches were the norm while Uncle Ben and company straightened out the debacle. You never forget the first time you experience high school cafeteria food poisoning. In this case, it wasn’t the fault of the lunch lady. The problem originated further upstream.

Uncle Ben is working hand-in-hand with the FDA and immediately pulled his line of all infused rice products from the supply chain. At the time of this writing, there were limited amounts of the rice on sale through websites and at some wholesale stores. I would give this one a couple more weeks. Until then, kids, choose the Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes.

Rouses Markets have begun opening (somewhat)

Since we last spoke, the much anticipated Rouses Market opened its first two Mobile County stores, on Theodore Dawes and Old Shell Roads. Even the morning television newscasters were buzzing about the Louisiana chain making its way to these parts of our parish, I mean county.

The other three in Baldwin County are soon to follow, maybe in the next week. Keep your fingers crossed.

With these new stores, a recently opened Publix, and a Whole Foods in the works, we may be entering a Renaissance period for Mobile area grocery stores. Let us not forget about the current favorites. I still adore the produce, beer, sushi and lunch takeout of our beloved Mac Dixie. You also are likely to find me searching the meat department of Food Champs to see what Tony the Meatcutter (that may be a mafia name) is slicing up. I enjoy the 10 percent over cost. Oh, and Greer’s and Food-For-Less are also bringing a lot to the table. Looks like with the new competition everybody wins!

Mardi Gras warms the heart

No matter how cold the recent weeks have been, Mardi Gras is here and street vendors are cranking out the goods. My favorite street vendor is near the corner of Broad and Government streets. Head southwest just a bit to enjoy better-than-ordinary street fare. It’s been my spot for the past couple of years. I like to hit Callaghan’s for an early pre-parade drink and then mosey on down to secure my spot for Joe Cain Day. I don’t leave until all of my money is spent. Delicious.

Be safe in the Azalea City. Buy local while you are here. Recycle!