January 10, 2013
I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about the first ever Foragers Festival when the number on the website sent me to Ventana Inn & Spa and no one there could tell me anything about it or even call me back.
Here's what furnishes some comfort: While the Big Sur Health Center and its Director Sharen Carey get comfortable putting on a multifaceted function—"I've been carrying around a notebook with a list of last-second details," she says—Big Sur standbys Matt Millea and Matt Glazer have been rumbling around the South Coast connecting with 10 chefs there, and honorary Big Surian Tim Wood of Carmel Valley Ranch for good measure.
And when Millea starts talking about what the chefs are saying—things like chanterelle ice cream with Meyer lemons and lavendar, chanterelle bread pudding and short rib with porcini—my worries melt like, oh, a spot of chanterelle mushroom bisque on the tongue.
Carey tells me the mushroom walks have already sold out. In other news, Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle will be among the celeb judges Saturday, Magnus Toren will contribute music at the closing dinner and one visiting couple is making that same all-out meal as their wedding dinner.
Here's a peek at the participating restaurants and the schedule...I'm starring the Fungus Faceoff on my list because all the chefs appear there, it's a manageable $45 (likely less for the local Big Sur homies) and it's on the breathtaking Ventana patio above the ocean with live guitar to boot. (Weather looks promising, but there are tents and heaters if needed.)
More at 667-4210 or (better yet) www.bigsurforagersfestival.org.
All proceeds benefit the health center, including a percentage of Sierra Mar's special forager menu.
Participating restaurants: Big Sur Taphouse • Big Sur Bakery • Big Sur River Inn • Big Sur Affair Catering • Carmel Valley Ranch • Coast Gallery Cafe • Fernwood Resort • Ripplewood Resort • Treebones Resort • Ventana
Wineries: Baker & Brain • Mesa del Sol • Calcareous • Morgan Winery • Comanche Cellars • Silvestri • Chesebro Wines • Chapellet • Ventana Vineyards
Schedule (call the individual number listed to get on board; otherwise register on the website): Friday 5:30 PM • Foraging With Friends featuring Baker & Brain wines • Big Sur Bakery • $75 • 667-0520.
6pm • Foragers Barbecue and Libation featuring Firestone Brewery • Big Sur Lodge • $45 • 667-3100.
Saturday 9:30am-12:30pm • Wild Mushroom Walk and Talk • Santa Lucia Conference Center at the Lodge and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park • $35 (sold out)
1-4pm • Fungus Face-off chef showdown • Ventana Inn & Spa • $45
6pm • Forager Dinner featuring Truman Jones (Ventana) and Kory Stewart (Americano Restaurant) • The Restaurant at Ventana • $175 inclusive