In its short two-year history the Big Sur Foragers Festival has blossomed into a marquee event on the California culinary calendar, bringing together the region’s renowned chefs, brewers, winemakers and food lovers for an enchanting weekend of gourmet food and unbeatable scenery.
Activities include wilderness foraging hikes through Pfeiffer State Park and the Ventana Wilderness, the friendly Fungus Face-Off competition where notable chefs craft dishes using chanterelles and other local fungi, a silent auction and cooking classes featuring foods like sorrel, nettles and sea salt foraged from the region’s natural bounty. Last year’s Fungus Face-Off Judges’ Pick was a black trumpet mushroom tart with dock candy cap jelly, foie gras parfait, bakers bacon and pine needle syrup.
The weekend culminates with the Grand Chef Dinner on Saturday night; a multi-course feast paired with carefully selected wines. The spotlight is on the same local ingredients that inspired Chef Paul Corsentino of The Restaurant at Ventana to relocate to California from New York in 2014, which range from foraged mushrooms to wild caught yellowfin tuna and allow him to create dishes drawn from the land and the seasons.
Chef Corsentino will be joined by Suzette Gresham, co-owner and Executive Chef of Acquerello, a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in San Francisco. The Foragers Festival was founded in 2013 as a partnership between the health center and Ventana Inn, inspired by the former Chanterelle Festival and expanding to include all types of local, organic and foraged foods. Regional wineries, breweries and restaurants also participate, celebrating Big Sur’s legendary grassroots spirit and respect for the environment.
Event proceeds are donated to the Big Sur Health Center, which was founded in 1979 and has been serving the community for more than 35 years. The not-for-profit center is the only medical facility between the Monterey Peninsula and the city of Cambria, a span of nearly 100 miles of rugged coastline. Thus, the BSHC serves a critical role, serving more than, 3,000 people annually, with patients that include local residents, tourists and emergency personnel responding to natural disasters including floods and forest fires.
Sharen Carey, Executive Director of the Big Sur Health Center and a Big Sur resident since 1984, says that festival proceeds have doubled each year since the festival was created and this year the event has added two new venues. The 2016 Big Sur Foragers Festival will take place January 17-19. Individual event tickets are available, or treat yourself to Ventana Inn’s festival package, which includes luxurious accommodations and access to resort amenities.