Big Sur Foragers Festival January 17th through 19th, 2014

A Culinary Exploration into the World of Wild Foods.

“The eating will be wild…” – LA Times

“A culinary exploration of delicacies…” – NY Times

Here’s what happened at the last (2014) event!

2014 Big Sur Foragers Festival Announces Fungus Face Off Winners

A celebration of an amazing array of wild foods was the centerpiece for the January 17 – 19th weekend of gourmet food, world-class wine and beer, entertainment, expert-led foraging hikes and the friendly chef competition with celebrity judges.

The event also 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 support the continued presence of local health care services. This year’s Big Sur Foragers Festival raised more than $20,000!

On Saturday, January 18, the “Fungus Face-Off” was held on the deck at Ventana Inn & Spa! There was a friendly competition among some of the area’s notable chefs featuring chanterelles and other fabulous fungi. Celebrity judges included Jim Dodge, Frances Wilson and Wendy Brodie. Attendees had an opportunity to taste along with the judges and to cast their vote for “People’s Choice”.

Participating restaurants were: Bernardus Lodge, Big Sur Bakery, Big Sur Roadhouse, Carmel Valley Ranch, Esalen, Fernwood Resort, Hyatt Carmel Highlands , Ripplewood Resort, the Taphouse and The Restaurant at Ventana.

The winners of the 2014 Fungus Face Off were:

• Most Inventive Use of Ingredients – Ventana

The culinary team at Ventana Inn and Spa created a Fungi Croquette: Yellow Chantrelle Mushroom and Black Truffle Gel “Explosion” with a Dried Black Trumpet, Crimini and Panko Crust fried to perfection!

• Most Unique Dish – Big Sur Bakery and Most Nutritious/Healthy – Big Sur Bakery

Jacob Pilarski of Big Sur Bakery had the prettiest display, with roasted carrots dusted with seeds, shallots and nutritional yeast and served with a dollop of wood sorrel cream cheese. The carrots were arranged artfully on a slab of wood, which foragers were invited eat off of in lieu of a disposable plate.

• Most Complex Flavors Dish – Ripplewood

Chef Carl Shadwell of Ripplewood, along with Jim Betts of Ripplewood Resort came through with a complex marriage of wild boar, truffled mushroom rilletes served with red onion quince marmalade, horseradish creme fraiche and apple on rye toast. Yum.

• Best Hot/ Spicy Dish – Big Sur Roadhouse

Big Sur Roadhouse’s Matt Glazer ladled out what he called a “lemon pepper chowder,” strategically-named so “the vegetarians don’t get offended” and which was, he says, “pork on pork on pork. It’s like four layers of pork.” Glazer gave the chowder an added umami boost with hedgehog mushrooms, black trumpets and yellow chanterelles, and delivered just the right acidity with juice from South Coast Meyer lemons.

• Best Table Display – Fernwood

Fernwood’s culinary team led by Chef Sean Garrett created a dish of couscous, nuts, seeds and house-cured bacon—enlivened by a drizzle of hibiscus syrup.  The dish was the most unexpectedly tasty of the day, as the little bowl of nuts and seeds looked like a squirrel’s breakfast. But the house-cured bacon, oh that bacon.

• Most Artistic Presentation of Dish – Esalen

Esalen’s Philip Burrus dished out the retreat’s staple rye bread—made with wild yeast—toasted and topped with herb salad, wild fennel aioli and pickled beets sliced impossibly thin.

• Most Easily Adapted to Home Cooking – Bernardus

Bernardus’ Cal Stamenov served up mouthwatering goat cheese polenta topped with sautéed maitake and yellowfoot mushrooms and crazy-good garlic brioche croutons. The polenta had a just a hint of rosemary to the mushrooms’ thyme, creating a sum so satisfying a return for seconds felt mandatory. Others, it seems, agreed—Cal’s dish won this year’s “People’s Choice” award. Attendees also felt inspired with the very approachable plate, voting it “Most Adaptable For Home Use.”

• Best Vegetarian Dish – Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Chef Matt Bolton made a tantalizing mushroom infused cannelloni that had the crowds wanting more! The dish included Wild mushroom cannelloni, pasta with herbs (chervil, parsley & chive). The filling had black trumpets, chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms spinach and mascarpone

• Most Local Ingredients – Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch—absent chef Tim Wood, who was back at the ranch making paella with visiting Spanish chef Jorge Matas—was serving up six different types of fungus—porcini, crimini, oyster, hedgehog, trumpet and chanterelle—atop a crostini with radish and mustard greens, and the result was a supremely satisfying velvety, garlicky fungal fusion.

• Best Cooking Technique –Taphouse

Taphouse’s Enrique Esparza, Steve Mayer and team had a succulent two-component dish, with prosciutto-wrapped wild Pacific shrimp grilled just right alongside a crostini topped with a cold mushroom tapenade and a squeeze of lemon.

Special Trophies:

• People’s Choice – Bernardus

• Judges’ Pick for Celebrity Chef of Show – Ventana

In addition, wine parings were donated by the following wineries:

· Chappellet

· Chesebro Wines

· Cholame Winery

· Comanche Cellars

· Heller Estates

· Mesa del Sol

· Madeline

· Mercy

· Dawn’s Dream

· Morgan

· McIntyre

· Filliponi

· Pessagno

· Scheid

· Wrath

This is a foraging event to benefit Big Sur Health Center, a non-profit community health center- 100% of proceeds will go to the health center to support the continued presence of local health care services.