Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#21 Mushroom Festival - Grafton, IL - April 24, 2010

#21 Mushroom Festival - Grafton, IL - April 24, 2010

 The Skies were angry that day my friends.  It was almost as if Mother Nature Mother Nature felt my pain at this Mushroom Festival.  I had tried to enter the cooking competition, but was rejected as they were already to capacity.  I was also told that all entrants needed to provide 500 servings to enter. A difficult task to complete out of your kitchen and then transport for an hour to Grafton. 

 Here is the plate I received from the 12 chefs that showed up.  It was a fairly impressive array (although maybe not worth the $10).  From bottom kinda counterclockwise (my descriptions): 1) Cream of Mushroom Soup, 2) Mushroom and Garlic Bruschetta, 3) Boursin and Mushroom Phyllo Cup, 4) Chunky Mushroom Soup, 5) Mushroom Tapenade on Toast, 6) Mushroom and Orzo, 7) Mushroom Crepe, 8) Tomato and Mushroom Ravioli, 9) Mushroom Alfredo Pasta.  There were no real winners, just some that didn't make as many mistakes.

Maybe it was just sour grapes, but I wasn't happy with being left out of the cooking contest, and I wasn't too impressed with the creations. I really wanted a mushroom trophy. I will admit I admired the gumption of the mushroom crepe. I mean the poor lady made 500 mini crepes, held a mushroom filling, held a hollondaise sauce, and then created each one individually. It was way over salted, but she explained that the cream may have evaporated out over the 2 hour holding time. I can believe that, and I cast my vote for her. Also, please note that the experienced festival connoisseur has appropriate rain gear available in the trunk of his/her car at all times.
This wasn't much of a festival, as the tent on the left was the only vendor there. It was a sad Magic T-Shirt booth which sold airbrush mushroom designs.All I saw between that tent and the sampling tent was opportunity. I mean, no mushrooms for sale? No mushroom crafts? No hippies?
Now those of you that follow my facebook page know that I actually tried foraging for morel mushrooms before this festival. I scoured the wild for any glimpse of of the wild spores, but alas no luck. Ok, I really trekked through my parents' backyard, but in all fairness it is pretty wild and has a creek. On the left you can see some white mushrooms that I have found are Agricus. Edible but not morels. On the right I found some droppings. You can easily tell by the shape and size that these are clearly Lion droppings, and I got the heck out of there.

Festival Trinket of the Week:  Like I mentioned, there was only one flippin' vendor and I wasn't shelling out $10 for a bad t-shirt.  Instead, the stars seemed aligned.  As I took a break from my foraging, I came across this original signed mushroom art in my parent's basement as I beat my brother in Ping Pong. I have no idea why they would have ever bought such an item.

This is a classic from my childhood.  One of the first American families I remember being friends with in Lakeland, FL introduced us to the mushroom puff.  It's a simple recipe (with all recipes I have no actual measurements).  Saute about a pound of mushrooms in some butter. At first it will seem like way too much butter, but then the mushrooms will soak it up.  After that, add a package of cream cheese.  Simmer until combined.  Cool. Crack open some premade crescent rolls.  Roll out dough.  Distribute filling. Roll up dough.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Brush each top with an egg wash. Bake at 350 until golden brown.  Solid.

Video of the Week: Tim Buck Two playing what I believe is a Jimmy Buffet song.  Somehow I empathized with the chorus, "Wish I was somewhere other than Here".  The band was actually really good, and I believe that two of the members were even blind.  What's lost in this nonsense is the sweet belt 'o' harmonicas the guy on the left had on.   

So maybe this "festival" wasn't quite the winner I had hoped for.  I want to thank my brother for accompanying me on this venture, and for the record he voted for #4 the chunky mushroom soup.  In retrospect he may have been right.  It really didn't have a flaw, but I wanted to reward the ingenuity and effort of the three-step crepe executed in a tent.  I mean the lady carefully made 500 crepes and stored each one carefully on a sheet of wax paper.  That dedication and attention to detail needs to be rewarded (and she wasn't associated with a restaurant or its equipment).  I stand by my decision.  I had been working on a crystallized ginger and mushroom sweet dessert, which I think should have been given a chance at the least.  

My mushroom foraging didn't go very well even though I searched near a stream right after the rain just like this site had suggested. Oh well.  If you want to be an amateur mycologist then I would advise you first determine if you find this mushroom "humor" funny.  If you are still interested then you may proceed to what seems to be the go-to guide on all things mushroom related.  Either way, no matter what you decide, I implore you, nay beg you, to get this extremely serious morel mushroom sniper hunting hat. That's creepy. 

Maybe I was too hard on this festival, as it was probably more of an event to promote the accompanying winery.  In fact a glass of wine was included in the $10 plate fee, although I couldn't find a soda for the life of me.  This festival still has potential, even though I was discouraged to find this was the 7th year. Oh well they can't all be winners and once you have been to the  testicle festival, nothing seems quite as bad anymore.  Grafton, IL is a beautiful city along the Mississippi River, and it always seems more peaceful along the river.  Maybe I just need to relax a little and go with the river, always moving forward.  This dancing mushroom makes me feel at peace for some reason, although slightly hypnotized as well.

I can't believe I've made it through this whole post without a bad fungi (Fun-Guy) joke.  Well if you were hoping for some, here you go.


  1. Sorry it wasn't what you hoped for but the tray of the assortment of mushroom dishes looked good.


  2. Nice photos, glad you got to use some of the ones I took. This was a great post, and you had me until...the droppings. Really there is no place for that on a food festival site. But I did enjoy the photo of the different entries that you numbered. And there was a winner - your crepe choice was selected winner by popular vote!

  3. Thanks Bucky and Imron! Maybe the droppings weren't necessary, but good to know someone actually read it. Thanks for the pics, and hopefully we can go to a better festival soon.