I entered the Horseradish Recipe contest at this festival for the second year in a row. This was my plate I entered, a horseradish marinated flank steak with a horseradish sour cream and a piece of honeydew melon. There were some very good competitors this year and I was starting to feel that my dish may not have been good enough to win. There were horseradish chicken wraps, a horseradish dip and horseradish chicken egg rolls. All of the entries looked amazing, and tasted just as promised.
The judging was intense as 3 judges slowly examined each entry for flavor, plating and overall horseradish flavor. Two judges ate only one piece and the final judge ate all five pieces presented. I'd hate to play poker with them with their stoic faces, and all of the staffers were talking about the chicken wraps. I was concerned and fully expecting maybe second or third.
The stars aligned and luck was on my side as my recipe was selected the winner of the competition. I am now the reigning back-to-back International Horseradish Festival's Recipe Contest Winner! It's vital to celebrate the small victories in life as they often get overlooked by the small defeats. The official website has already listed the winners here! (I'll post this year's recipe soon).
Amidst the recipe chaos there was still a whole festival out there. This year every vendor was required to produce one horseradish themed item. Now i won't take the credit for this but one organizer mentioned that I had made that suggestion last year. I would guess that half of the vendors "cheated" and just put a little horseradish in some of their normal items, but some booths really ran with it. Pictured is a Horseradish Pot Roast sandwich with Horseradish sauce and Horseradish pickles. It was excellent. The pickles started extremely sweet but then gave way to a spicy kick which worked wonderfully with the sandwich.
Loyal Festive Fan Nate (who first appeared at the Salisbury Steak Festival) took the photos of the competition and I thank him. He then had time to hit the links where they had a horseradish carved down to
Festival Trinket of the Week: There may be a trend emerging. This is a horseradish plant to join the rhubarb I picked up a couple weeks back. I hope to find a plant of the themed ingredient each week and have one of the most stocked indoor gardens in the Mid-West.
Video of the Week: Meet the Pickin' Chicks! It's hard to see but they are comprised of a foursome of girls between 10-14. I felt a little creepy when they started singing about how they were touched by someone, but then realized they meant God. They were very good and harmonized well while playing their instruments. Check them out at their website.
This festival is very special to me as it is a large inspiration for my penchant for festivals. Once I heard there was a horseradish festival I started looking for more food themed festivals in the region. Next thing you know, Festive Festival Festivities is born and I'm driving around to some of the silliest festivals around. Add in the recipe contest, and this festival may be the crown jewel of the festival circuit. It is by no means the largest festival (15,000 over the weekend) but it is an extremely well run festival that really focuses on the ingredient theme. If you are wondering why the festival is held in Collinsville here is an old news story from the festival that explains it, and if you are wondering why the heck it's called horseradish then here is part two of the same story.
As I have found, horseradish is a very interesting ingredient which can accompany many dishes. But buyer beware, did you know that there is something called "western" wasabi where some restaurants use horseradish and dyes to pass off as wasabi? This may not be so bad when you consider the many health benefits of horseradish. As always, if you want to know way more about horseradish then this is your place. Or click here to read about my trip to this festival last year.
The cooking contest was difficult for an over-thinker such as myself. I ended up going through two jars of horseradish, 2 pounds of flank steak and 1 1/2 Melons in creating this dish. I had even toyed with the idea of a candied horseradish sticks with a pineapple horseradish cream dipping sauce (here was my test plate).
Thank you to everyone for their support thus far, and know that this was just my 4th festival of the year last year. Hopefully there is as much silliness to come this year as last. Off to throw around some frozen turkeys next week.
UPDATE: Here is the press release from this year's festival's winners.