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.

Mark your calendar! Next Foragers Festival is January 21st – 24th, 2021

This year's Fungus Face Off was 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:

  • 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.
  • Save the Date...
    Lugano Swiss Bistro! Join us at Lugano Swiss Bistro on Thursday, January 16th. The restaurant will be donating 25% of all sales on Fondue as well as all items off the menu including beer and wine on Thursday, January 16th to the Big Sur Foragers Festival benefiting the Big Sur Health Center. Lugano's will also have live music that evening. Dine, Laugh, Dance, Enjoy and Support the Big Sur Health Center!
  • Friday, January 17th dinner will be held at Deetjens Big Sur Inn 100% donation to the Big Sur Health Center Reservations should be done directly through Deetjens. Calling 831-667-2377 between 9:30 & 4:00pm
  • We are very excited to announce that Il Grillo Carmel will be holding a dinner on Friday, January 17th to benefit the Big Sur Health Center and in honor of Foragers Festival. Join us at Il Grillo on Friday, January 17th 6:30 p.m. as Chef Brandon Miller creates a 6 Course Mushroom & Truffle Feast paired with local wines! Seating is extremely limited for this special event...1 seating only for 24 people. Cost is $180 per person and all proceeds benefit the Big Sur Health Center.
  • Stay tuned for more details coming soon.

NEW!! Big Sur Wild Foragers Feast 🍄 🍄 🍄 🍄 🍄

Mushroom lovers rejoice! Two noted mushroom hunters and celebrated chefs Todd Spanier and Chad Hyatt will prepare the menu for the Big Sur Wild Foragers Feast, set for January 2020, in Big Sur.

This exclusive dinner will be held from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, at Big Sur Roadhouse, located at Glen Oaks Big Sur, 47080 Highway 1, in Big Sur.

The dinner features a six-course Wild Foragers Feast menu foraged and prepared by Spanier and Hyatt, with wine pairing by Beauregard Vineyards. Hyatt is both a highly knowledgeable mushroom hunter and a classically trained chef, based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and author of the wild mushroom cookbook, “The Mushroom Hunter’s Kitchen.” Spanier is known by many as the “King of Mushrooms,” and is considered to be a pioneer of the “sustainable” and “wild food” movements in California. Spanier also founded Chef’s Lounge, which helped create a community of local chefs, vintners, brewers, farmers, foragers and food lovers, and California Truffle Orchards LLC, California’s first truffle cultivation management company.

Tickets for this special dinner are available on Eventbrite, $300 per person (includes gratuity). Seating is limited, so don’t miss out!

Tickets on Eventbrite

Join us Saturday, January 18th  for a Foraging Walk and Talk

  • Big Sur Foragers Festival Foraging Hikes, led by Big Sur Guides, with well-known guest mycologists & chefs Todd Spanier and Chad Hyatt.
  • Beginner’s hike, with Todd Spanier will be approximately 2 miles of flat trail.
  • Intermediate hike, with Chad Hyatt, will be approximately 4 miles with (possibly) a couple of short hills.

Meeting place will be just north of River Inn where both groups will be treated to an amazing display of mushrooms and hear from our expert mycologists.  Exact location of the hikes will be determined in January once we know the weather and the whereabouts of mushrooms and other edible plants.

Space is limited to 30 people per Foraging Walk and Talk.  Hikes depart Saturday, January 18th at 9:00 a.m.  Tickets now on sale for $50 per person.  Purchase tickets through Eventbrite 

Wineries & Brew:
Bernardus Winery, Chappellet, Mesa Del Sol, Wrath, Comanche Cellars, Morgan Winery, Twisted Roots, Wrath, Scheid, Windy Oaks Estate, Morgan, Paul Lato Wines, Flywheel Wines, I. Brand Family Winery, Talbott Vineyards, Martha’s Hopyard, Carmel Craft Brewing Company, Firestone Brewery

Big Sur River Inn, Montrio Bistro, Rio Grill, Jonathan Black of Sierra Mar/Post Ranch Inn, Chris Vacca of Hyatt Carmel Highlands California Market at Pacific’s Edge, Keith Potter of Ventana Big Sur, The Village Big Sur, Coast Big Sur, Big Sur Bakery, Julia’s Vegetarian 

Enjoy Local Foodie Finds From:
Sweets of Eden, The Bitter Ginger, Big Sur Jade, Percy Pies

2021/01/21 12:00:00

Partner with us!

Wineries, Chefs, Restaurants and other Vendors are invited to partner with the Foragers Festival! Please click below and fill our partnership form.


The event 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.

Join Us

January 14 – 17, 2020
at Big Sur Foragers Festival
46896 Highway One
Big Sur, CA 93920

Thank You!

To all of our sponsors, donors and volunteers who make this even possible!