Mark your calendar! Next Foragers Festival dates announced... January 20-23, 2022
The 2022 Fungus Face Off will be held at Big Sur River Inn Saturday, January 22, 2022
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. 22, 2022.
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 2021.
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.
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.
- Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
Chef and marketplace partner participation is now being accepted. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating in the 2022 events.
Currently already confirmed for 2022 are:
Wineries & Brew:
Bernardus, Morgan Wines, Twisted Roots, Wrath, Martha’s Hopyard
Big Sur River Inn, Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant
The Festival was last held Jan. 16-19, 2020, at various locations on the Central Coast, just weeks before the pandemic hit. The Festival will observe all CDC guidelines for health and safety for the 2022 event. Activities will be announced over the next couple of months.
The Foragers Festival weekend is finally a wrap and there are so many people to thank for their participation in making the festival such a success. Everyone played an important role but there are a few special acknowledgements we’d like to recognize here:
Big Sur River Inn, our Face-off Host
Big Sur Food and Wine for supplies
Big Sur Guides for organizing and leading our foraging hikes
Hike leaders, mycologists//chefs Todd Spanier and Chad Hyatt, who also produced Sunday night’s dinner
Big Sur Roadhouse
Marci Bracco and her team from Chatterbox Public Relations
Matt Glazer of Glazer Hospitality
Lisa Haas and her team from Lisa Haas Design and Paint
Hal Latta for too many tasks to innumerate here
Knights of the Vine, particularly Richard Kehoe and Wendy Brodie of Art of Food
Jim Pinckney, Photographer
Il Grillo Restaurant, Carmel
Lugano’s Swiss Bistro, Carmel
Ventana Big Sur Smokehouse
Sven van Rooij and Vee-R Creative Ventures
Kendra Morgenrath, health center board member, and her team of community volunteers
– and, of course –
All of you who Attended and contributed at our various venues
And the 2020 winners are…
Winners of Big Sur Foragers Festival’s Fungus Face-Off, Major Fundraiser for the Nonprofit Big Sur Health Center, Announced
Chef Nick Balla of Coast Big Sur took top honors with his curried squash soup at the Big Sur Foragers Festival’s popular “Fungus Face-Off,” which was held Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at the Big Sur River Inn.
Balla was awarded the Judges’ Choice Best of Show for a curried squash soup with wild herb za’atar and matsutake mushroom oil. The soup was made with curried butternut and kabocha squash, Japanese sweet potato. The base is vegan, made with burnt arbol chili, coconut milk and oat milk and kombu dashi stock. The soup is finished with turmeric, ginger and burnt arbol chili.
The soup is garnished with a wild herb za’atar made with wild bay laurel, sage, lemon balm, fennel flowers and sumac with almonds and sesame seeds. The soup was topped with mushroom oil containing matsutake mushrooms, bay laurel and grapeseed oil.
The Face-Off at the River Inn, set under the oaks overlooking the Big Sur River, is a highly competitive event that featured several local chefs stretching their creative culinary muscles to come up with the best dish using a variety of mushrooms foraged from the Central Coast.
Taking home the People’s Choice Award was Chef Eric Piacentine of Big Sur Bakery for his savory mushroom custard, made with mushroom-crab broth with local chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms.
Winning Best Use of Foraged Ingredients was Sierra Mar Post Ranch Inn’s Chef Jonny Black. His three dishes included:
>Shiitake mushroom, toasted, rice, ginger and yuzu tea.
>Candycap and porcini mushroom biscotti.
>Big Sur Cheese from Stepladder Creamery on a rye cracker with a mushroom butterscotch topped with á la grecque mushrooms
Most Imaginative Dish went to Chef Eduardo Coronel of Rio Grill for his wild mushroom taco with quinoa, smoked avocado foam, lime and cilantro, in a truffle corn tortilla. Sharen Carey of the Big Sur Health Center, beneficiary of the Foragers Festival, called the dish, “Delicious and innovative.”
Wines were also honored, with “Le Souvenir” 2017 Chardonnay by Paul Lato Wines taking home the top honor for white wines. The grapes came from the Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria, 4 acres of hand-selected grapes from 300 acres. It was aged in 75% new French oak and 25% neutral French oak. The grapes were harvested at 23 brix and ABV is 14.1%. Paul Lato said he used “yeast from the sky” or all-natural yeast.
“The color was bright with beautiful clarity. It was well-balanced with excellent acidity. The nose was consistent with the experience in the mouth and had a lovely creamy texture,” wrote members of the Knights of the Vine, who served as judges.
The winning red was Ian Brand from I Brand and Family, a 2016 Grenache, Drossean vineyard, Chalone Appelation.
“The epitome of a Rhone wine in the style of Gigoudes – complex, smoky with Mediterranean fruit,” the judges said.
The Big Sur Foragers Festival was held Jan. 16-19, 2020, at various locations on the Central Coast.