Getting Wild – The Fourth Annual Local Wild Food Challenge On Martha’s Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard Local Wild Food ChallengeSix wild food events with locations around the world. Places like Punkaharju, Finland, Bozel, France, Eastbourne, New Zealand, and here on Martha’s Vineyard.

Just being one of six exotic places (well exotic for me) is cool, but throw in creative cuisine, sometimes unbelievable dishes made with local food by chefs and people who love to cook, and it’s a serious foodie event.

Wild Food Challenge Martha's Vineyard Rod & Gun Club On Sengekontacket PondFor the fourth annual Local Wild Food Challenge Martha’s Vineyard, there were almost 50 entries. You never know what you’re going to experience.

I know I said this last year, but I love that it’s at the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club. I like the feel of the space, and the view of Sengekontacket Pond is a great backdrop, and since the weather was beautiful, people were able to enjoy it.

Bloody Martha’s

Bloody Martha's - Wild Food Challenge Drink Winner Created By David JosephThis year, I was not disappointed. The tasting table had a variety of people’s entries. One that caught my eye was the Bloody Martha drink. Yes, this was a Vineyard inspired Bloody Mary. Talk about creative, this one was a doozie.

A lot of thought went into this concoction. It had Lake Tashmoo Clam Broth (made from clams from Tashmoo), Morning Glory Farm Tomato-Vegetable Juice (MG poblano peppers, MG heirloom tomatoes, home grown rosemary), foraged Russian Olive Puree, foraged Porcelain berries (I have no idea what those are), MV Sea Salt, Kitchen Porch Berber Spice and homegrown rosemary twigs for garnish.

There was also Russian Olive puree and Berber Spice on the rims of each cup for sampling. Oh and there was Gosling Black Rum for the kick.

How about that for a serious cocktail? That’s a dedication to mixology that I have never seen. So many ingredients locally sourced, a true labor of love and creativity. Wow! And it was strong and interesting.

A Bloody Mary unlike any I’ve ever tried. With all that effort, I wasn’t surprised to hear that creator David Joseph won the Hemingway Award “Best Story” for his entry. The effort and different steps definitely earned him that award from the Local Wild Food Challenge. How can he ever top that entry?

Fried Ants

How about this one? Lila Fischer won Wildest Ingredient for her dish which had Burdok roots, fried ants, redroot pigweed seeds, dandelions, Jerusalem artichokes and wild carrots.

Half of these ingredients are foreign to me, but add in fried ants, and all I have to say is that I am not too interested in being a taste tester for this dish. Sadly, I was not able to try this one.

Uncommon Dessert

For the Best Use of Local Ingredient, Nikolas Mastalerz, from the Harbor View Hotel won for his Russian Olive Tart made with Russian Olives, sassafras root, acorns and beauty berries (which grow right outside of the hotel).

Now this is more my speed I hate to say. What a scrumptious way to enjoy a number of ingredients foraged right in the Vineyard woods. FYI Nik, if you need more acorns, I have tons in my yard that are all yours!

And the Winner Is

Everett Whiting, Grand Prize Winner Local Wild Food Challenge Martha's VineyardGrand Prize went to Everett Whiting for his wild cranberry, Russian Olive and local honey glazed mallard duck breast with confit duck leg, fried wild onion, whipped Jerusalem artichokes, sauteed chicken of the woods and watercress salad with crab apple grape dressing.

The owner of Local Smoke really went gourmet with his wild food creation, impressive to say the least. What a creative combination of ingredients. Cheers to you Everett!!

I have to tell you that I bet the judges, Albert Lattanzi, Dan Athearn (last year’s winner), and Simo Saarimaa (winner of this year’s Finland Challenge), had tough time deciding this year’s winner. Also, I wonder if they enjoyed this year’s squirrel entry?

Additional Bites Sampled

So with all the entries , not everyone was award winning, but there were a lot of other tasty creations I sampled. There was a wild sage, seaweed, and cucumber salad that was so light and refreshing — better than any regular old seaweed salad I’ve had.

Also worthy of a mention was the crab apple pumpkin souffle. It was so creamy and tasty, and the homemade whipped cream made it a perfect fall sweet treat.

With so many attendees and not a huge amount of food available from the contestants, Lattanzi’s provides a couple of dishes, so people are sure to have enough to eat.

Back by popular demand was the Wild Boar Chili, which is really tasty. This dish is similar to a Tuscan dish, Ragu Di Cinghiale.

Lattanzi’s also whipped up some Cavatappi with wild mushrooms, artichokes, and white truffle crema. As a huge truffle-anything fan — especially truffle fries — this was a treat. Having something with actual truffles in it, instead of just truffle oil, is amazing. I loved it, mac and cheese for big kids!

Kids Gone Wild

New this year, the kids category, and let me tell you some of the food prepared blew my mind. I felt like I was a part of Master Chef (the current one that has kid chefs on it).

I was able to sample the winning dish. Eleven year old Madia Bellbuono made pan seared venison with elderberry wine reduction, wild sweet dumplings, dandelion, fig and wildgreens salad with bacon and homemade goat cheese.

This dish was just stunning, colorful, and the venison was probably the best that I have ever eaten. And, it was made by an 11-year-old. Clearly I need to up my cooking game because this was beyond impressive. Way to go Madia!

I was able to catch up with Brooke Ward, a 7-year-old, who made tacos with Farm Institute beef with red cabbage, fresh parsley and foraged goldenrod. Who new that pesky goldenrod would be tasty on a taco?

Brooke also had a corn and tomato salad, made with tomatoes just picked that morning. She taught me that making Old El Paso tacos for my family is kind of a cop out. They were delicious Brooke!

The kids had awesome entries, 16 in total, all creative and tasty. An added bonus, each kid who entered got a prize, an Island Grown Schools t-shirt, Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolates, and a Local Wild Food Challenge hat.

What a great way for kids to really enjoy cooking with local ingredients and a great event to support Island Grown Schools.

Why participate in this challenge? Well, I would say for the challenge itself, though there are great prizes to the winners.

Living on Martha’s Vineyard, we’re into our food, and this pushes us to think outside the box, which comes pretty easily for us. There’s the bragging rites which is kind of fun. And I think the event is just fun.

It’s not about gross food, though it may be that for some. It’s about gathering food from your surroundings.  The thrill of foraging for food in the woods or your own back yard. More importantly, it’s makes us understand our environment.

Why go to this event? It’s just plain fun! You’ll run into lots of friends since it’s off-season, and because you don’t know what you might be eating, the element of surprise is great.

I can’t wait for next year’s event. A Special thanks to Bill Manson, his wife Sarah, and his daughter Grace for making Martha’s Vineyard a part of the Local Wild Food Challenge.

Thanks for reading On Point.  For more information and a list of all of the winners, you can check out Local Wild Food Challenge on Facebook.  And speaking of social media, don’t forget to  “Like” us on Facebook, on follow us on TwitterLinked InPinterest and YouTube.

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