December 16, 2014 – Foragers are celebrating the recent rains—the holidays are approaching and visions of golden local chanterelles may finally become reality. No one would be upset if there were some morels and porcini thrown in for good measure, either. All of those goodies—and more—will likely show up at the third annual Big Sur Foragers Festival, January 16-18, 2015.
The festival is a reincarnation of the much-loved Big Sur Chanterelle Festival, according to Sharen Carey, the physician assistant who serves as Executive Director of the Big Sur Health Center. “We wanted to have a signature fundraising event,” she said, “so we went to board members from the chanterelle festival and ask them to help us revise and expand the event to include other foraged foods.” It’s been growing steadily since its inception in 2013, when they had 145 guests and netted $13,000 to 2014, with 275 attendees and a net of $23,000. This year they’ve already sold 136 tickets.
The party starts Friday night with a kick-off dinner at Big Sur Road House that will include pairings from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. If you want to help out without making the drive, many Monterey area restaurants plan to donate a portion of their profits on Friday night, including the Beach House, Rio Grill, Montrio, Tarpy’s, Abalonetti, Will’s Fargo, Kula Ranch, Haute Enchilada, and The Whaling Station. (This would be a great opportunity to try out the latter’s affordable new bar menu, if you haven’t done so!)
Saturday morning begins virtuously with two forager-led walks: one beginning level trek at Pfeiffer State Park, and one intermediate hike in the Big Sur Wilderness.
After working up an appetite, you can enjoy the fruits of the Fungus Face-Off competition in the afternoon. Celebrity judges include Wendie Brodie, Jim Dodge of Bon Appetit Management Company and Russ Parson, LA Times Food Editor. Competitors will also vie for a People’s Choice award. Those competitors—the list includes Tim Wood from Carmel Valley Ranch, Sean Garrett of Fernwood, Phillip Burrus of Esalen, and Johnny DeVivo of Porter’s in the Forest among others—should know that their host, Chef Paul Corsentino, is a bit of a ringer. Corsentino, who took the helm at Ventana Inn’s kitchen in March, has appeared numerous times as Geoffrey Zakarian’s sous chef on Iron Chef America. He said he’s looking forward to the event. “For me, just to be able to work these chefs is pretty cool.”
Corsentino’s also excited to welcome Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, award-winning chef proprietors from the acclaimed San Francisco restaurant State Bird Provisions to Saturday night’s Grand Celebrity Chef Dinner at the inn. It’s too early to predict what foraged items will be included, but it’s billed as “a memorable feast with an incredible wine selection.”
A multi-course Sunday brunch with wine pairings at the Big Sur Lodge will feature live music.
An exciting new event, the Foragers Kitchen master cooking class on Sunday afternoon, has been organized by Edible Monterey Bay to provide participants with tools and recipes for cooking foraged foods back home in their own kitchens.
Aubergine’s Justin Cogley, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs of 2013, will show you how to prepare sea vegetables, Affina’s James Anderson will demo wild mushrooms, Sierra Mar/Post Ranch Inn’s Yulanda Santos will show you how to make a granité out of redwood sorrel and La Balena’s Brad Briske will give lessons in cooking with wild nettles. Also on the program will Jacob Burrell of Big Sur Bakery, who will talk about foraging for and cooking with natural Big Sur sea salt.
Carey emphasized the importance of the benefit to the Health Center: “We provide services for everyone in Big Sur, regardless of their ability to pay. No one is ever turned away. The only reason we’re still here is we have generous donors.” Tickets for most events are on sale now at www.eventbrite.com, or you can visit the Festival website at http://www.bigsurforagersfestival.org.
Elaine Hesser grew up in rural Pennsylvania and started cooking at age 6. By age 9, she’d made her first dinner and at midlife, is amazed when high school graduates can’t scramble eggs. After the U.S. Army paid for her B.A., it also moved her to Monterey County, where she served on active duty at Ft. Ord and Ft. Hunter Liggett. She has a wide variety of interests, but is most passionate about faith, writing, and food – and encourages everyone never to stop learning and looking for truth.