Archive for the ‘Mushroom Festival’ Category

Top 10 Highlights of the 2013 Mushroom Fest

James Beard award-nominated writer, editor, and recipe developer, Joy Manning attended the 28th annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square on behalf of The Mushroom Council. Take a look at her top ten highlights and mark your calendars for next September. 

Flavorful and nutritious, mushrooms are the kind of ingredient that can inspire a party. And for the past 28 years, mushroom growers and the eaters who love them have made the annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, Pa., one of the biggest and best parties in food. Spanning the weekend after Labor Day each year, it extends the summer fun one weekend longer with live music, contests, games, a car show, carnival rides, and—of course—tons of delicious food. I had such a great time during my visit this year that I’ve already earmarked that weekend for mushrooms in 2014. Here my top 10 highlights from this year’s fest. If you were there, too, please leave your own highlights in the comments!

Farm Tour

On the quick bus ride between the festival and the Caputo & Guest Mushrooms farm, our driver asked the crowd on board who had driven more than 100 miles to be at the festival. Hands shot up all around the bus, with some folks coming from as far away as California. That should be no surprise—mushroom lovers are an enthusiastic bunch. Mark Malchione, the farm manager, led the tour of the mushroom house, where we saw every stage of the process, from the logs that are made from grains and sawdust to give the mushrooms nutrients and a place to grow, to tiny newly sprouted spores and fully sprouted shiitakes looking ready to slice into a stir fry. Malchione also provided a great shopping tip: look under the cap when buying shiitakes. They should look fresh, unblemished and creamy white. His definitely did.

Talula’s Table

Many food fanatics around the country are already familiar with Talula’s Table, a Kennett Square market and restaurant that is known as one of the most difficult-to-get reservations in the US. What the chefs there may be less known for is their dexterity with mushrooms. They made a variety of treats inspired by the local bounty, including wonderfully crisp mushroom spring rolls.

Chef Jack Mavraj in the Culinary Tent

There was a full roster of great chefs—include celeb Carla Hall–doing mushroom-centric demonstrations in the Culinary Tent. I watched Kennett Square’s own chef Jack Mavraj shake his skillet for the crowd. He cooked homemade agnolotti, fresh pasta dumplings stuffed with three kinds of mushrooms and braised short ribs. He also made a robust four-mushroom sauce—filled with shiitake, oyster, cremini, and maitake mushrooms—to serve with the pasta and short ribs. I may make a vegetarian version in my own kitchen this fall.

Mushroom Shopping

At a couple stands throughout the festival, tables were set up with tons of different local mushrooms for sale. Obviously, the wares could not have been fresher. They were clearly just picked! Some oyster mushrooms were $8 pound—about half the price I might pay in the supermarket. It was the perfect place for someone like me, who cooks with mushrooms a few times a week, to stock up.

Oyster Mushroom Fritters with Feta, Hot Sauce and Spring Greens

Low in calories and rich in nutrients like selenium and Vitamin D, mushrooms have rightly earned their place in the pantheon of good-for-you foods. That doesn’t mean they aren’t also perfect deep fried and served with cheese, spicy sauce, and a salad. The meaty oyster mushrooms tasted almost like boneless chicken wings, especially when mixed with the cheese and sauce. Would I eat this every day? No. Am I counting down the days until I eat it again at 2014’s mushroom festival? Yes.

Breaded Button Mushrooms

Another delicious choice in fried mushrooms: the classic breaded mushroom. I have always appreciated a pizzeria that sells these kind of fried mushrooms, just plain buttons covered in a basic, crunchy breading. At the festival, this classic got a big upgrade just from the pristine, fresh local mushrooms that were used.

Official Mushroom Festival Soup

Even though it was a warm beautiful day, everyone at the festival seemed to want a bowl of steaming mushroom soup. Something about the mushroom’s deep earthy flavor makes for such a perfect bowl of comfort, and the official soup of the festival was no different.

Painted Mushrooms

Not every mushroom highlight was edible. On display at various shops throughout Kennett Square were beautiful, hand-painted mushrooms. Local artists projected their visions onto concrete mushroom forms three feet high; the results decorated the festival and were sold via silent auction.

Mushroom Growers Exhibit

The big shady tent where growers set up tables to represent all the stages of the mushroom growing process was a huge draw. Kids, parents, and grandparents all seemed equally captivated at how the process works. Best of all, the growers themselves were on hand to chat with festivalgoers and patiently answer all the questions everyone had about their work.

Ice Cream Stop at La Michoacana 

As I headed out of the festival, my last stop had to be dessert. The homemade ice cream churned at La Michoacan is a must for any visit to Kennett Square. The shop was into the spirit of the event with plenty of mushroom ice cream bars on hand, and this was clearly a popular choice.

The 27th Annual Mushroom Festival

Ever wonder what it’s like to be surrounded by 100,000 mushroom lovers?  Council Representative, Bart Minor, shares his fun-gi filled experience at the 27th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA.

With more than 100,000 visitors in two days, the Mushroom Festival is the world’s largest fun-gi filled event. This annual gathering is held in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and rightly so as the region grows more than 60% of the United States’ mushrooms!  Every year the Mushroom Festival celebrates and promotes the importance of mushrooms, through entertainment, competition, and education.

Top Chef Contestant, Antonia Lafaso, taught passionate mushroom fans how to prepare a simple mushroom salad topped with a poached egg. Next Great Baker, Dana Herbert, also graced the culinary tent stage, to prepare a savory mushroom & seafood flatbread.

The First Annual Fried Mushroom Eating Contest, sponsored by Buona Foods, drew a large and excited crowd. Twelve contestants were challenged to eat as many fried mushrooms as they could in eight minutes. In the end, fungi lover Jamie McDonald ended up taking home the $1000 prize after downing an astonishing 5.5 pounds of mushrooms.

As expected, there was no lack of food to fulfill a mushroom craving. From Mushroom Pumpkin Ice Cream, to creamy Mushroom Mac n’ Cheese, and even a Seafood Stuffed Portabella Burger, the Mushroom Festival did not disappoint in the culinary area. Vendors also showcased their passion for mushrooms through art, crafts and home goods.

Putting Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on the map, the Mushroom Festival is an event that a true mushroom lover should not miss. Make sure to check out our full event photo album on Facebook.

What is your favorite festival to attend?

Celebrating the Magical Mushroom

Last weekend we had the pleasure of visiting Kennett Square, Pennsylvania to be a part of the 25th annual Mushroom Festival. Kennett has long been known as “The Mushroom Capital of the World,” with more mushroom growing operations concentrated in the Southern Chester County area than any other area in the U.S. The festival has grown from being one block long to now stretching more than half a mile. This year, more than 50,000 visitors attended to celebrate our favorite fungus.

Of course, we attended in an official capacity – making it our business to sample all the mushroom cuisine available. In addition to the variety of mushroom soups available, we tried mushroom risotto, mushroom pizza, mushroom spring rolls, mushroom strudels, and – of course – the legendary mushroom ice cream (which is so creamy and delicious)!

But our main purpose for being at the Mushroom Festival was for the mushroom nutrition presentations. We call mushrooms “Nature’s Hidden Treasure” for a reason – mushrooms are all low in calories, sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and full of essential nutrients.

This year, we invited four of the nation’s top researchers to spread the word on the benefits of including mushrooms in your diet, including:

  • Dr. Shiuan Chen from City of Hope was first to speak about his research on mushrooms and breast cancer. He and his team of scientists were some of the first to study the potential effects of white button mushrooms on cancer and are now applying this research in human clinical trials. We worked to raise additional money for Dr. Chen’s research by creating a Wall of Pink at the festival. With a $1 donation, attendees could sign a pink mushroom and add it to the wall.

  • Dr. Michael Holick, professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University Medical Center, and Dr. Mona Calvo, a nutritional scientist at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shared the latest research on vitamin D. You probably already know that the friendly fungus is the only item in the produce aisle to have vitamin D. Dr. Holick talked about the various reasons vitamin D is so important to our health while Dr. Calvo discussed how her team was one of the first to propose exposing cultivated mushrooms to ultra-violate light after harvesting in order to increase their vitamin D2 content.
  • Finally, Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, closed the day by discussing his research on using mushrooms as an effective substitute for meats. His preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy density-foods, specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after meals.

While the official Mushroom Festival only happens once a year, we all know it’s a mushroom celebration every day here on the Mushroom Channel. Check out more photos from the event on our Facebook album.