Mark your calendar! Next Foragers Festival is January 16-19, 2020
Fungus Face Off to be Held at Big Sur River Inn Saturday, January 18 2020
The historic Big Sur River Inn serves as the host and backdrop of one of the Big Sur Foragers Festival’s most popular events, the "Fungus Face-Off," set for Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
The Face-Off at the River Inn, set under the oaks overlooking the Big Sur River, features celebrated local chefs competing for the best foraged dish, and will include food tastings, fine wines, craft beers, raffles, a silent auction and more.
This event sells out early, and tickets will be on sale through EventBrite starting July 2019.
The River Inn has a significant presence in Big Sur history and lore. The inn’s history goes back to 1888, when Jay Pheneger acquired a 160-acre parcel from the federal government and gave his name to the creek that bounds the River Inn on the south.
Homesteaders Barbara and Michael Pfeiffer bought the property, and in 1926, Michael, and Barbra’s son John took over the land on which the Big Sur River Inn now stands. The inn was opened in 1934 by his daughter Ellen Brown. She opened her living and dining rooms to the public and began serving hot apple pie, which is still served today and gave the place its first name, Apple Pie Inn. Lodging units were built and Big Sur’s first resort was established.
In 1943, Ellen’s sister, Esther Pfeiffer Ewoldson and her husband, Hans, took over the operation. Esther replaced her mother as Big Sur Postmaster and the Post Office was moved to the River Inn, situated where the front office of the motel is now.
With a lot of help, Hans built the General Store and lodging units 10 through 15. He rebuilt the dining room and “fixed it up fancy.”
The Pfeiffer and the Ewoldson families started a tradition at the Big Sur River Inn of fine food, excellent service, and warm hospitality. In 1988, the Perlmutter family, along with a small group of close friends, formed a partnership to carry on that tradition.
For the second year, the Big Sur River Inn extends its tradition of hospitality to host the Big Sur Foragers Festival.
The Foragers Festival has traditionally served as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. The community's non-profit health center will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to continue to support the presence of local health care services in the Big Sur area.
The four-day festival affords Big Sur area restaurants the opportunity to host the culinary expertise of notable chefs, who will be preparing unique fare ranging from rustic to elegant, paired alongside the central coast region's amazing selection of wine and beer.
In addition to the Fungus Face-Off, events will include:
- A Thursday Night Fundraiser at Lugano's Swiss Bistro. Details to come.
- Friday night winemaker's dinners as locations around Monterey County include Il Grillo in Carmel-by-the-Sea
- Saturday Foraging walk led by local experts. "Wild Mushroom Walks and Talk”
- Sunday we are finalizing several brunch fundraisers around Monterey County.
- Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
Bernard's Winery, Chappellet, Mesa Del Sol
Big Sur River Inn, Montrio Bistro, Rio Grill, Tarpy’s Roadhouse
Chris Vacca at Hyatt Carmel Highlands California Market at Pacific’s Edge
Carmel Berry Company, Sweets of Eden, The Bitter Ginger
And the 2019 winners were…
Chef Kenny Woods and Chef Tony Baker Win Top Awards at Fungus Face-Off Competition at the 2019 Big Sur Foragers Festival
Chef Kenny Woods of 1440 Multiversity of Scotts Valley was one of the big winners at the 2019 Big Sur Foragers Festival, winning Best of Show at the popular Fungus Face-Off competition for its Kanpachi Crudo.
The “Fungus Face-Off,” was held Jan. 19, 2019, at the Big Sur River Inn.
Woods’ crudo featured currants, ramp veloté, sea grape, cordycep mushrooms and pinot noir salt. Woods also served agnolotti pasta with burrata, morel mushrooms, crab, winter truffle, agrodolce garnish, arugula flower from the garden and midnight blossoms, spruce salt, freeze-dried green apple and fresh truffle. He finished off with a panna cotta featuring Douglas fir spring tips, pine nut and blood orange.
Judges called his dishes, “most eye-opening and really delicious,” and said there was “a lot of complexity to each dish.”
In addition to Best of Show, Woods also won the People’s Choice award, the first time in Foragers Festival history that one participant has won both awards.
Winning “Most Imaginative Dish” was Montrio Bistro of Monterey’s Tony Baker and Justin Robarge’s Roasted Rabbit Consommé. The dish featured a rabbit rolade with grand porcinis, chopped carrots, celery and green onions. The dish also featured golden chanterelle and porcini mushroom caviar made with agar (seaweed gelatin).
Judges exclaimed, “Great imagination!” and “Beautifully presented.” One even remarked, “What, no bacon?” with a wink and a nod to Baker’s renowned artisan Baker’s Bacon.
Winning “Best Use of Foraged Ingredients” were chefs Elizabeth Murray and Raphael Ferrenbach of Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. They presented a Chanterelle Pop Tart that featured cooked chanterelles, duxelles cooked with sherry, butter, thyme and black pepper in a puff pastry with duck mousse piped on top and a lion’s mane mushroom, also on top. The dish also included a meringue flavored with candy cap mushrooms, chocolate truffle with yuzu and juniper and caramels of candy cap.
One judge said the pop tart was “One of the best dishes I’ve had,” while another said with the use of lion’s mane was, “so beautiful visually and delicious.”
Four chefs took home Honorable Mention awards, including chefs Steven Siglin and Michael Hartman of Bigsurific of Big Sur, Eduardo Coronel of Rio Grill in Carmel and Ben Spungin of Alta Bakery and Café in Monterey.
The Siglin/Hartman dish was a locally foraged mushroom tart with candy cap -infused jello. The mushrooms used, lilaceps (Cypress Agaricus), only grown under Monterey cypress trees.
One judge said about the dish: “Passion and thought and intellect that went into everything was delightful.”
Chef Cornel’s dish was a Huitlacoche Wild Mushroom Tamale with red mole, chanterelles, and corn fungus filling. Judges said: “Oh my god, that was good!” and “I never knew corn fungus could be so tasty!”
Chef Spungin’s dish was a celery root potato pancake with chanterelles, curly mustard and black truffle vinaigrette topped with candy cap powder.
Also named were winners of wine awards, including:
McIntyre 2017 Chardonnay – “Beautifully balanced, with fresh citrus and golden apple, supple texture.”
Mesa Del Sol 2013 Sangiovese – “Elegant structure, pleasing tannins, great texture, lovely dark fruit, moderate alcohol.”
Scheid 2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands)
Wrath 2016 Swan Pinot Noir (Monterey)
Baker & Brain “Escolle” Pinot Noir (SLH)
Mesa Del Sol 2013 Zinfandel
Honorable Mention :
Comanche Petillant Naturel
The Foragers Festival has traditionally served as a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. The community’s non-profit health center will receive the proceeds from the foraging events to continue to support the presence of local health care services in the Big Sur area. This year more than $31,000 was raised at the event.
The four-day festival affords Big Sur area restaurants the opportunity to host the culinary expertise of notable chefs, who will be preparing unique fare ranging from rustic to elegant, paired alongside the central coast region’s amazing selection of wine and beer.