Bristol Renaissance Faire

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m from the suburbs of Chicago, which, of course most importantly, means I’m approximately 40 minutes from the Illinois-Wisconsin bordering town of Bristol, Wisc., home to the (you guessed it) Bristol Renaissance Faire! I used to frequent this annual ‘feast of fooles’ every summer with friends, but somehow I lost touch with the lively Medieval ‘fare’. After a 4(ish)- year hiatus from ‘partying like it’s 1599′, I decided to return, bringing newcomers with me.

Everyone has their own Renaissance Faire To-do list, like say dressing up in Medieval clothing, getting a henna tattoo, riding an elephant…you name it. But my visit is not complete without sampling some of the Faire’s culinary staples: sassafras, and their infamous mushrooms.

The sassafras (no, not the real sassafras) was more delicious than I remembered. As you can see from the sign, it’s a simple mixture of root beer and licorice flavoring. I usually hate licorice, but this drink is pretty darn refreshing when you’re in the midst of high 80-degree heat, a literal steam wave coming from the vat of marinated mushrooms (below), and a crowd full of enthusiasts draped in the era’s heavy-looking garb. In fact, that’s probably the only place I would ever drink it.

But, the ‘air at the faire’ does not just have me enjoying the otherwise-despised licorice. Oh no, enthusiasts also have me salivating over a giant vat filled with mushrooms and….dare I say it, garlic. Ugh, I usually hate garlic. I’ll eat stuff with it if I must, but I never willingly choose something that is intentionally garlicky. But these mushrooms are fan-tastic. Not only do I eat the mushrooms soaked in the garlic, but I soak up the rest of the juice with the bread they give you. Mmm.

Ok, so where were we?
Sassafras? Check. Mushrooms? Check. Mud Show? Check! Actually, that was the first thing we did, and watching the same guy eat mud every year is just as satisfying as I remembered (but with quite more inappropriate sexual references than I remembered.) Just one thing left to do, friends: Vegetable Justice, also known as throwing tomatoes at a guy that gets paid to insult the people throwing tomatoes at him. Oh how much more fun can it get?

Actually, I may have misled you. I’ve never actually thrown tomatoes at the Vegetable Justice guy before. Not until…this year! Woo, I can cross another life goal off the list because my friends successfully talked me (and themselves) into it. The intimidating part is that there is a giant crowd watching you as you pathetically attempt to make it even halfway to the insulter. None of my friends came close to hitting him, but there was still something overtly satisfying about throwing tomatoes.

Anyway, now that I completed my checklist, I took a look around to see what else I wanted to try or do. I happened to notice that the range of culinary offerings was particularly diverse, far from one particular style of cuisine I would have expected.

As you can see here, they had vegetable tempura (cough…Japanese), crepes (cough…French), but the list surely didn’t stop there. They also had turkey legs, corn on the cob, portobella mushroom sandwiches; pretty much anything under the sun. And I find that interesting, since everything else at the faire seems to replicate the actual feel of the era, not only from costume-clad employees, but accent-toting patrons as well. But when it comes down to it, you have to offer food that will fill up your average 21st-century American. I suppose I should have realized this when they offered me “diet” sassafras. Right, like that existed in 1599.

All in all, it was a great time. I tried some delicious English toffee and, I even bought a VHS video of recipes from Tudor Family Dinners for only $1! That’s right…I’m sure they’ll go up on the site soon, so tune in! :o)

-Hillary, sad that Buffalo Grove Fest got rained out
Editor, Recipe4Living

  • Melissa A.

    Did the turkey leg cost more than the admission to the fair? My husband and I joke about the outrageous cost equaling up to two gold coins in the Medieval era.
    I saw the Vegetable Justice when I was there last. I didn’t participate though.
    I love their frozen ice in the fruit cup. It’s so good. I think it’s about the only food we splurged on there whenever we used to go.
    That’s funny about the tempura and crepes. :)

  • Hillary

    Yea, the admission can get a bit pricey. They used to have an Entertainment book coupon, but not anymore! :(

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  • terra

    Crepes being French wouldn’t necessarily rule them out from inclusion in a Ren Faire, as the Renaissance did encompass all of Europe. Food for thought.

  • Hillary

    Good point, thanks! I guess their extensive variety of everything threw me off, but you’re right, the French crepes weren’t the perfect example.

  • anne

    If you google “Bristol ren faire coupons”, a site for wisconson travelers pops up and there is usually a buy 1 get one free coupon for enterance to the faire

  • Just got Back

    Had a great time, up until the 3.50$ bottle of water that I finished in two swigs that is………..Aslo loved the Mud show, where else can you get a show in which two sides compete to give the most money to win….priceless…

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  • sorn

    Does anyone have a recipe for those turkey legs???

  • http://none Dawn

    have any idea on how to make that savory garlic mushrooms they serve at the Ren Faires? I’d love to be able to make it at home and for get togethers.

  • A Rennie

    Greetings to all!
    If you go on the bristol renaissance faire website, they have deals throughout the winter months and even now for discounts… go to and check it out…
    This winter there was a “fab four special” on the internet for only $37.90 for 4 addmissions… which is more than 50% savings on admission…you can also find coupons throughout the internet if you search, and also the Kenosha area Happenings magazine always has discount coupons the week before opening day…
    I am a hard core “rennie” and I don’t think that going to the faire is all that expensive if you factor in the cost and up keep of the grounds, Think about all the employees that work there, the cost of the food and beverages that are provided, the paint, the grounds, the maintainance, the electicity and gas for the refridgerator and stoves behind the scenes that you don’t see, just to mention a few things… there are many, many expenses that go into a 30 acre park… look at it as keeping the faire going…
    you could go to Miller Park and pay 7.50 for a cup of Miller lite… Miller lite at Bristol Faire is 4.00 a cup…
    Have a great summer.
    Hopefully see you all come to Bristol…

  • Roku

    Oh man, tempura is my favorite Japanese food, and that vegetable “tempura” last year was TERRIBLE!! It doesn’t make sense to have real tempura at a renfaire anyway, but dude, false advertising!? XP

  • william ford

    I live in charlotte, nc and last year (2008) there was a vendor there that sold a bread dipping oil- ive tried looking for them all over the net- anyone know who they are?

    I know they have a bbq olive oil bread dipping oil that was great!

    thanks for any help on this

  • jelly

    i didnt like this >:|

  • Dan

    The Bristol was the worst. We paid a lot to get in and the most important thing it seemed was for us to spend money for stuff that was overpriced. The food was bad and for the price I could have gone to a good steak house. The best food places are no longer there and now all the preformers stick there basket under your nose wanting more money. Do they not pay these people? We will not go back!!!!

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