Out of nearly 50 dishes entered in the fourth annual Martha’s Vineyard Local Wild Food Challenge (LWFC), the grand prize winning dish was wild cranberry, Russian olive, and local honey glazed mallard duck breast with confit duck leg, fried wild onion, whipped Jerusalem artichokes, sautéed chicken of the woods and watercress salad, in a crab apple grape dressing and served with roast chicory and hazelnut brew, made by Islander Everett Whiting. For his hard work, he won a catered day cruise to Nantucket on a yacht for eight people, a Krug and Ryan chopping board, and a magnum of Whispering Angel from Vintage M.V. Wine and Spirits.
The LWFC is the brainchild of Billy and Sarah Manson, who now organize six challenges around the world. At the Vineyard LWFC, held at the Rod and Gun Club in Edgartown this past Monday, Oct. 14, adults and children alike enjoyed a gorgeous fall day and were treated to a buffet of food including wild boar chili and truffle macaroni and cheese; live music by Mike Benjamin, Wes Nagy, and Anthony Esposito; and could taste the competitors’ dishes when the judges were finished. This year’s judges were Albert Lattanzi of Lattanzi’s Restaurant in Edgartown, last year’s M.V. challenge winner Dan Athearn, and this year’s Finland challenge winner Simo Saarimaa.
Islander Tyler Gibson won first runner up with a conch and scallop ceviche. Second runner up went to Emily Coulter and Jay Kuss for their dish of crispy frogs legs with switch grass crust; pumpkin, sassafras, and Irish moss mousse; venison sausage; and chestnut and pear stuffing. Lila Fischer of West Tisbury won for Wildest Ingredient with her “Junk Food Gone Wild” creation of burdock roots, fried ants, redroot pigweed seeds, dandelion, Jerusalem artichokes, and wild carrot.
Third runner up went to Nathan Gould, executive chef at the Harbor View Hotel, for his Vineyard goose, chicken on the woods agnolotti, bird’s nest carrots, Russian olives, and forest floor greens.
Pete Gilligan and Kevin Brennan received the prize for Best Effort with braised squirrel, wild burdock and sunchoke puree, Johnny cake with chestnuts and blueberries. Best Use of Local Ingredient went to Nikolas Mastalerz, also of the Harbor View Hotel, with his wild Russian olive tart, sassafras root, acorns and beauty berries.
The Hemingway award, aka Best Story, went to David Joseph for his story about his Bloody Martha beverages made with rum, Quahog broth, autumn olives, and porcelain berries.
Mike Harmon won Best From the Ocean with shellfish en brodo with North Atlantic cusk and watercress pesto. Best From the Land went to Doug Werther with crispy confit rabbit legs, puffball mushrooms, watercress, and local beets. Best on the Wing went to Bobbi McLaughlin and JP Shepard for their pan-seared pigeon breast with acorn stuffing and dogwood vinaigrette, and sumac tea.
A kid’s challenge was held earlier in the day. Of the approximate 15 entries, 11-year-old Madia Bellebuono won the grand prize. She made pan-seared venison; wild sweet dumplings; an elderberry wine reduction; dandelion, fig, and wild greens salad; with bacon and homemade goat cheese.
For more information, visit localwildfoodchallenge.com.