Pikes Peak Urban Gardens held its first large-scale Garlic Fest fundraiser this past weekend.
There's been garlic classes and garlic ice cream in years past, but nothing of this size — around 300 people at the Harlan Wolfe Ranch.
I've sat on PPUG's advisory board since around the time the nonprofit formed, so I do this blog post with full disclosure that I'm wearing two hats here: reporter and PPUG member.
Wearing the PPUG hat first, I can share that this fundraiser, the nonprofit's largest behind its Indy Give campaign, raised a little over $2,700 this year, which director Larry Stebbins says will go toward the group's next community garden.
That garden will be at the intersection of Mill Street and Cascade Avenue, breaking ground around October's end and serving up to 35 families in that neighborhood.
PPUG's gardening classes continue into the fall, with "How We Had Our Most Successful Garden in Record Heat and Drought" taking place from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Horace Mann Middle School Auditorium. The cost is $5.
If you're up for an expansive slideshow of the fest, visit PPUG's Facebook page here and scroll down for my posting.
Now, as a reporter, who co-judged the salsa contest and master chef contest of the fest with Craig Coffey from Fox 21, Teresa Farney from the Gazette, chef Jay Gust from TAPAteria and Hethyr Pletsch from Everyday Gourmet, I'll share some foodie details from the day.
For the master chef competition (utilizing Ranch Foods Direct steaks), I'll borrow Pletsch's wonderful description (from her Facebook page) of the plates and outcome:
Chef Kevin Campbell from Full Circle Cuisine won with an amazing plate of seared NY strip steak drizzled with raspberries reduced in butter and topped with garlic and bone marrow and a side of fingerling potatoes cooked in olive oil and topped with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. The other incredible chef, Nate [Dirnberger] from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, also made an unbelievable plate of tomato-raspberry-rhubarb coulis topped with diced, sautéed potatoes, beets and summer squash, NY strip medallion and edible flowers.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's plate is pictured above, and if you watch the slideshow, you'll get a glimpse of Full Circle Cuisine's as well.
What was personally exciting to me was how engaged the crowd was, watching the chefs prepare their dishes. Between the time the secret ingredients were revealed and the clock timed out (around 45 minutes), fest guests were huddled around each chef's station, asking questions and observing the prep work.
No doubt, this was a foodie crowd. And that makes sense, since PPUG's support base (in terms of class attendance, etc.) is a bunch of local people who want to maximize their annual food yields in their own backyards.
To some extent, lots of these folks didn't need the offered video and hands-on tutorial on planting garlic that was offered. But it never hurts to review one's notes and catch up on Stebbins' latest fixation (from cotton bur mulch to bone or blood meal).
Bristol Brewing Co. provided Laughing Lab, Red Rocket and a house root beer, to be paired with a variety of garlic pizzas from Pizzeria Rustica.
UpaDowna provided some kids activities as well as a frisbee golf hole, and it was all set to music powered by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's Mobile Music Project.
Outside of those groups, a number of cottage industry vendors and growers like A Joyful Noise Farm were present to sell homemade or homegrown goodies.
And once again, The Blue Star chefs prepared a batch of garlic ice cream, which some folks topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar from The Olive Tap. In my opinion, this year's batch was more balanced and pleasing to the average eater than last year's more garlic-y concoction, which I still loved for its oddity.
There was also a salsa contest, in which 15 locals entered salsas that had to contain garlic as one ingredient. That was another tough contest for us to judge, with a broad variety of interpretations bearing everything from avocados, peaches and lavender honey to serrano chiles and habañero chiles.
I apologize that amid the activity I was not able to take down the names of the winners, but each is pictured in the slideshow, should they or someone who knows them care to comment to this post with the information.
Tentatively, look for next year's Garlic Fest to move into the new Ivywild community hub, where the attendance will be allowed to grow significantly.
If you are still thinking about planting garlic this year, now's the time, and here's a link on PPUG's website with tips.