RIGA - We waited nervously for the judges, constantly stirring the edges of our balti curry in an attempt not to disturb the garnish. As one of the last contestants we knew that our curry would have to not only beat the other competitors, but also break through the inevitably burnt-out taste buds of judges who had just eaten 12 of the spiciest dishes Riga has to offer. We hoped that our home-made naan would tip the balance.
After making their way around the tables, the judges disappeared into their alcove. The director of the event, Ieva Gruzina, told "The Balti Times" (our attempt at a clever play on words 's we served a balti curry dish) that they were having such a difficult time deciding on a winner that they required another sample of each dish and wanted to include honorary prizes for a number of the dishes.
We didn't end up winning the cook-off and were awarded the "Zatlers Award" 's the most likely curry to send you to the hospital. While our dreams of eternal curried glory were smashed, the event went smoothly and turned out to be quite fun.
We were taking part in a curry cook-off sponsored by the British Chamber of Commerce in Latvia. The BCCL hosts events such as these once or twice per month, which provide a chance for businesspeople, journalists, political commentators and other interested people to network and compare notes on the business environment in Latvia.
In this respect, the curry cook-off was clearly a success. Businessmen mingled with each other over free beer and performances by a belly-dancer. Business cards traded hands and it seemed as though some people were getting ready to strike a deal on the spot.
BCCL-sponsored events range from highly formal 25 lat (36 euro) per plate dinners to the relatively inexpensive, relatively laid-back atmosphere of the curry cook-off.
The BCCL's next event will be a strange mix of highland games, teddy-bears, barbeque and birthday party, to be held in the town of Sigulda, 53 kilometers northeast of Riga.
Sigulda is celebrating its 800th birthday from August 9 - 11 with a number of concerts, plays, historical programs, art exhibitions and something called an "upside down" children's festival.
The BCCL is most interested, however, in the Highland games that will be taking place at Turaida Castle/Museum on the other side of the Gauja River. The games are made up of six strength related competitions including the traditional caber toss, which basically involves throwing a telephone pole as far as possible. Competitors from Latvia, Scotland, Holland, Iceland and Ukraine will take part in the events. The event will also feature Scottish dance, songs and bagpipe music.
In conjunction with the Scottish events the BCCL will host a barbeque and teddy bear picnic on land owned by BCCL board member Steve Austwick. The barbeque will provide a relaxed and festive atmosphere, and another chance for businesspeople to schmooze. The teddy bear picnic, meanwhile, will offer a safe, fun environment for their children to play.
Those wanting to know more about future BCCL events, and developments in the business landscape, can pick up a copy of the magazine it publishes four times per year or contact Ieva Gruzina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for Sigulda 800 events: www.bilesuparadize.lv
Tickets for BCCL barbeque and teddy-bear picnic: www.bccl.lv