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