The foragers are canvassing the woods as I type. Ventana Chef Truman Jones has surreal tastes plotted for his plates already. “Pickled, sauteed, in soup, crusted on fish,” he says. Hippie-chic chanterelle fashion is even gathering in the mists.
After word of outright cancellation – Big Sur Food & Wine chief Toby Rowland-Jones was finding his shroom trip less enjoyable in part due to his BSF&W demands – and then a shift in leadership, the Big Sur Chanterelle Cook-off is back Feb. 24-25.
Ventana has factored into the renaissance prominently, with Gallery at Ventana Manager Brigga Mosca, food-and-bev head Kara Stout and Jones directing.
“We’re going to get the most wide range and flavors and nuances you can get out of the chanterelle,” Jones says.
I’m guessing he didn’t mean art and fashion, though. But beyond those new elements (more in a second), the format will look familiar to the moist mushroom-lovers among us. A Friday community kickoff party happens at Ventana ($20 donation) with an eye on affordability, snacks, Heller and Parsonage pouring and Friends of Hot Box Harry playing.
“Hopefully, for the mushrooms, we’ll have rain up until that,” Stout says. “Then beautiful weather – it’s on the veranda.”
The opener will be trailed by the forager-led wild mushroom walk Saturday morning ($30), then the Grand Tasting ($50) at Pfeiffer Lodge, which unearths a list of eight South Coast chefs like Matt Millea (Post Ranch), Tim Hrusa (Treebones) and Matt Glazer (Big Sur Bakery) with wine plus auctions to benefit Big Sur Health Center.
Last year’s lineup was deeper, and led to things like the two-headed-talent at Bernardus (Ben Spungin and Cal Stamenov) doing chanterelle-white chocolate mousse and cured steelhead roe with chanterelles, croutons and garlic cream, respectively. Among other tasty experiments, Cy Yontz (Rio Grill) did a chanterelle tamal and Brendan and Michael Jones did hand-cut nougat topped with caramelized chanterelles.
Saturday’s free art show is stacked with a dozen artists doing tasty botanical pieces in multiple mediums (Peggy Olsen, Branham Rendlen, Erin Gafill, Polly Aiello, Rachael Short, among others); Manzoni, Chesebro and Parsonage pouring Syrah; and fashion curated by 12-year industry vet Mosca. Expect bohemian-earthy looks by Santa Barbara designer Jean Mendillo Babbe that sync with the redwoods and go gorgeously on Carmel High models.
A wine-paired, five-course awards dinner ($150) by Truman Jones follows, featuring things like cream of chanterelle with a grilled truffle, brie and chive sandwich; chanterelle-crusted halibut; and filet with chanterelle bread pudding.
“The Big Sur chanterelle is one of the best you can get,” Jones says. “Earthy, nutty, very robust, it pairs well with anything – it puts a star on the plate.”
Shoot for the stars all weekend for an all-inclusive $200. Learn more at bigsurchanterelle.eventbrite.com or 667-4242.
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“I will take any unwanted or unneeded meat or fish that you have available… Do you want to clean out your freezer? Been in there too long and you don’t remember what it is?”
So goes a local Craigslist post. That is the sworn mission of the Weekly’s new Inbox Lunch newsletter, arriving Wednesdays – only in reverse. It will shuttle only the freshest cuts, links to the best blog posts, local wine finds, nuggets of exclusive news, and a peek ahead at the paper’s foodie info, all bundled directly to your email address. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want in. If you got it this week, you’re wondering what our Craiglist lady’s doing with the meat, whether goat, goose, guinea or emu.
“I have four big livestock guardian dogs who are fed raw and have healthy appetites,” she writes. Aha.
• Before some of the most elite foodie peeps in the area grazed on alder-smoked salmon and caviar at immaculate tables for the Disciples of Escoffier induction ceremonies hosted by our local Les Dames d’ Escoffier (373-1851), there came a surprise. Carmel’s Mary Chamberlin would be ushered in by Auguste Escoffier’s grandson Michel along with local legends like Cal Stamenov and Didier Dutertre. “There were no culinary schools when I graduated,” she says. “To think I flunked jello salad in 4H.”
• Abalonetti’s (373-1851) enjoys a strong local following, and popularity among the tourist tribe, thanks to values that include a prodigious antipasto bar, deals on drinks ($3 beers all day) and mad calamari treatments (like the new lemon pepper). Now they’ve launched Fish and Chips Cafe next door. Great place to grab a $1.50 oyster.
• Maybe you saw me debut Carol Kuzdenyi – my truth and my inspiration – on the food blog. She’s the gray-haired Pagrovian whose hip-hop (yes) got her a slot on Ellen. She just completed an audition for America’s Got Talent. Hit the blog for more.
• News from on high: Hyatt Carmel Highlands is introducing Ritz, Bernardus and Montrio vet Gina Scalla as its pastry chef, and launching a “Meet the Farmer” Series Saturday, March 3, with forager Paul Huntington, starring Chef Matt Bolton’s clever takes on everything said forager finds.
• May 18-20 Cooking for Solutions tickets are on sale for the public (www.mbaq.org, 648-4888). Here come Michel Nischan, Carla Hall, Alton Brown, Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Michael Chiarello, Rick Bayless, Ben Sargent and Cindy Pawlcyn and the whole star-sustainable chef gang.
• A beloved mail-carrying Carmel Valley boy Steve Burnett needs help to fight cancer. Plaza Linda’s doing the food and drinks while UnDecided, Rose Merrill and Emily Villareal perform 4-8pm at Hidden Valley Saturday, Feb. 18. $20. 915-7710.
• “Falling in love is like eating mushrooms,” someone once said. “You never know if it’s the real thing until it’s too late.”