Lisa Meyers McClintick, travel writer & photographer

Friday, August 6, 2010

Garlic ice cream, mustard custard or an organic creamery?

You'll be amazed at the number of garlic varieties.
Celebrate all things garlicky and good at Garlic Festival
When it comes to bizarre food festivals, the Midwest is catching up to California. You no longer have to go to Gilroy's famous Garlic Festival to taste garlic ice cream. You can do it right in Minnesota's Hutchinson at the 5th Annual Garlic Festival Saturday, Aug. 14.  I dare you.

I can't say I liked the tiny bits of garlic in my ice cream last year, but the taste was pretty good. I can check it off my life list and say I tried something new.

It looks deceptively innocent.
The best part of this festival is realizing there is a huge world of garlic out there, and these mammoth, homegrown, delicious bulbs are nothing like the garlic you'll get in the grocery store. Armenian garlic's big bulbs turn to savory, mellow, tender chunks you can spread beautifully when roasted. Music, another variety, also has a delicious aroma and a little more kick, as does German red.

Garlic Fest founder Jerry Ford had me so hooked on better garlic two years ago, I bought enough to get us through the winter and had to hit Garlic Fest last summer to restock.
This year's Garlic Fest is Aug. 14
Besides the chance to see, buy and taste a wide variety of garlic--from mild to knock your socks off--they keep the mood playful here. There are plenty of kids' activities, such as kite-making and flying, plus live music and entertainment.


The biggest draw is the Great Scape Cafe using chefs from some of Twin Cities' best restaurants, including Birchwood, Lucia's and the Modern Cafe. They know the value of a superior garlic bulb and will be preparing braised pork with fruit compote and aioli, a tangy cashew wild rice salad, heirloom tomatoes with poached garlic and honey vinaigrette, and more.

As Jerry puts it: "If that doesn't make your mouth water, you must be a vampire."

Admission's $5 for adults, $3 for kids under 12. If you miss this year's event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., it's always the second Saturday in August.

National Mustard Day: Celebrate America's No. 2 condiment
Not up for garlic ice cream? How about mustard custard? Wisconsin's Mustard Museum with its famously hilarious sense of humor has moved to Middleton (by Madison) and hosts its annual National Mustard Day this Saturday (August 7). I'm tickled to see they're adding chocolate pretzel crunch to the custard. I jokingly suggested pretzel bits to founder Barry Levenson about four years ago, but never thought about chocolate. Sounds rather good.

The party runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with entertainment by the Poupon U accordion band and other entertainers. It's almost worth the road trip just to get the Poupon U T-shirts. Take a spin through the museum, though, and you'll never snub this condiment again. The medicinal uses are fascinating, as are the antique mustard pots and other oddities. Be prepared to sample a lot of mustard and crunch a lot of pretzels.

Plenty of artisan Wisconsin cheese and juicy, smoky brats are a given.

It's all good at Pumphouse Creamery

If you're not that adventurous, check out the Discoveries section of the June issue of Midwest Living with the Sundae Best feature.

I was lucky enough to test Pumphouse Creamery in Minneapolis for them. There are 20 handmade, organic flavors with many ingredients grown here in Central Minnesota. These are all dreamy combinations: buckwheat honey; sea salt, caramel and praline pecan; and brandy-soaked cherry with brownie bits. Get them scooped up on their homemade multi-grain cones.

OK, time to wipe the drool off my keyboard.
Right: Owner Barb Zapzalka with her ice cream. Good luck deciding on just one flavor. She smartly offers a multi-scoop sampler for customers and lower-sugar, lower-fat ice cream cups for their pampered pets.

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