Sunday, August 16, 2015

10th Annual Minnesota Garlic Festival

Minnesota Garlic Festival
Cochon King, Thomas Boemer's Festival Masterpiece.
If you are a lover of all things allium sativum the 10th Annual Minnesota Garlic Festival held at the McCleod County Fair Grounds in Hutchinson, MN was the place you wanted to see, taste, hear, and be yesterday. A festival dedicated to all things garlic, garlic-afcionadoas traveled from far and wide to stock pantries for the coming winter months, snatch up garlic seed for the garden, and most definitely, to eat and enjoy all things garlic. 

Festival-goers devoured Wild Rice Burgers, Salumi Baguettes, Pasties, Heirloom Tomato Salads, and other garlic-laden eats from the Great Scape Cafe prepared by an all-star line-up of Minneapolis restaurants while enjoying several traveling bands like Scottish bag-pipers, a lively brass band, and a mysterious group dressed as animals dancing and playing folk music. Local craft beers, cider by Sociable Cider Werks, and wine by Crow River Winery saved people from withering under the hot, humid August day. And if you never thought you'd eat garlic and ice cream in the same bite, you did yesterday at Cranky's Ice Cream Roasted Garlic Ice Cream stand.  

Minnesota Garlic Festival
Paul Backer of Tilia and Mary Jane Miller.
I experienced the festival at the Local Foods Stage where Mary Jane Miller energetically led cooking demos with top Minneapolis chefs from restaurants Vincent, Tilia, Alma, and the Birchwood. These chefs diced, chopped, seared, muddled, and puréed some of their most garlic-creative dishes center stage, as I prepped samples backstage and passed nibbles of  delectable culinary delights to fair-goers. 

Minnesota Garlic Festival
Jill Holter and myself with the Crow River Ketchup.

Central to the festival was availability of the Crow River Chapter SFA ketchup. More tomato-based than vinegar flavored and full of love and local produce, you'll find this description on the SFA website: "Contained in this seemingly simple glass bottle is a unique recipe showcasing the hard-work, ingenuity, and passion for supporting and building the sustainable farming community in Minnesota. In the fall of 2015, we, the Crow River Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association, processed and bottled this ketchup using the tomatoes, garlic, onions and honey from the farms and producers in our region. As you dip your french fry or take a bite of your burger, we hope you will savor not only the rich flavor of this ketchup made from produce grown on farms near you, but also enjoy knowing that every bite supports the farmers, their families and communities who grow for you. "

Minnesota Garlic Festival
Thomas Boemer of restaurants Revival and Corner Table. 
As we all increased our emanating garlic breath we awaited the main event, Cochon's King of Porc Thomas Boemer, roasting a whole hog to be served at the Great Scape Cafe. Garlic lovers intimately gathered around chef who described the process of building the cinder block roaster and detailed the devoted process which started the night before as he slept on a nearby park bench, tending the fire. One curious little girl uttered through the crowd: "Mommy, was that pig alive once?" Yes, darling child, this is where your food comes from. After watching chef man-handle the hog onto his gigantic cutting board and break down the hog with sous chefs astride, the elegantly decorated hog head was ceremoniously moved into the Café while bagpipes loudly alerted all to its arrival (the festival was never short of kitsch). The North Carolina style barbecue was served alongside accompaniments like quick-pickled zingy cucumbers enhanced with what else, more garlic, beet hummus served with farm-fresh radishes, delicate lettuces, and artisan BBQ sauce. 

Minnesota Garlic Festival
Yes, that is a pig snout peeking out at you.

Earlier in the day, I was fortunate enough to sneak away from my duties at the Local Foods Stage for a peek into Boemer's hog roasting haven. As I approached the cinder block square, which looked nothing like the roasters my Uncles used for the annual hog roasting parties at Grandma's farm, coincidentally it was time to check the swine's progress. No big deal, chef decided to break off a piece of crackling which he then handed over to my very excited hand. Into lips and then all: crunchy and buttery and all things very, very delicious.

Between the garlic growing competition, the lively parade and music, delightful food by top-talent chefs, and fun family entertainment, the Garlic Festival is a delicious destination completely devoted to the Stinking Rose that you should certainly put on your radar next year.


  1. 10-6 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds.

  2. Food festivals should be held as they carry great importance in expressing any region's traditional food. I had great experience whenever I went to any Food Festival.


I'd love to hear all about your kitchen adventures! Xo, Becki