Chili Party - Help!
Okay guys, here's the deal. I'm throwing a chili party (sort of a payback for other friend's dinners.) Of course, the main attraction is self evident. I will serve a bunch of cornbread (thanks to some of your suggestions) and, of course, beer. But I need to flesh this thing out. Any suggestions, appetisers, drinks, desert, etc.. I appreciate your suggestions, really!
I imagine you already have plans for a bunch of garnishes for the chili: chopped onion, grated cheese, saltine crackers, finely chopped chiles, minced cilantro, crumbled bacon, and so forth.
You don't mention whether your chili already has beans in it, but if not beans are a natural; really, a must-have. Keep them relatively plain so they don't steal the spotlight.
Other than that, think about ways to provide some variation in color, texture and temperature. Chili, beans and cornbread are all warm and soft. So's cobbler, for that matter. You'll also want something to clear and refresh the palate. As another poster suggests, a plate of fresh, crisp veggies can do these things pretty nicely, and always goes well with chili. Carrot and celery sticks, radishes, jicama sticks, scallions, etc. Cowboy Crudites in other words, probably with some ranch dressing.
In addition to beer, I'd make sure to have lots of iced tea on hand, and perhaps some fresh cold milk in case one of your guests finds the chili too fiery (always an issue at my house).
For apps, if needed, what else but tortilla chips and salsa? The crudites can do double duty here as well.
Chili is simple, unpretentious food; I wouldn't try too hard to gussy it up much.
Chili by nature is kind of rustic and not fancy fare, so I'd do appetizers and desserts to match that theme. Veggies with a cool ranch dip, and perhaps some chips and guacamole. For dessert, to accompany the the bold and spicy flavor of chili, how about some chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. They're easy to make, rustic like chili and always a hit. Chili and chocolate are made for each other.
I'd suggest light appetizers such as crudites and chilled dips. For sweets, grab and go is probably the most crowd friendly. Try a pound or bundt cake that can hold up on it's own without the use of a fork. A great chili party idea would be to make the spicy tomato and bean base everyone loves, then set out shredded beef, chicken, and/or turkey, assortment of cooked vegetables, (zuccini, artichokes, mushrooms, etc.) so then people can "make their own bowl".