Smile Politely

Allerton Park hosting Forest-to-Mansion Dinner

Allerton Park and Retreat Center is hosting a five-course forest-to-mansion dinner on Sunday, May 7th. 

This is the third iteration of this event, and it’s bound to be a charm. Five local chefs with forage for (some) ingredients, and create a course featuring items collected in the Allerton Park forest. Tickets are $95 per person, and can be purchased here

Here are the details:

Join us for the 3rd Annual Forest-to-Mansion Dinner! This year five great chefs will prepare a five course dinner highlighting wild ingredients collected from the forest and fields of Allerton Park. See how the best chefs in our area prepare wild morel mushrooms, wild ginger, American ginseng, stinging nettle, wild wood mint, and more.

$95/person. Make your dinner reservation here

Overnight accommodations in the Mansion are available for $90. Call (217) 333-3287 to reserve your room.

3:00pm – Cash Bar
4:00-7:30pm – Dinner and Cash Bar

Please note, collecting wild materials (including mushrooms) is normally prohibited, and will only be allowed for this special event.


1st Course
Whipped Salmon Rillette, Allerton Wild Ginger & Morel Mushroom Relish, Toast

2nd Course
Wild Allerton Ramp Gnocchi with Smoked Lamb Shoulder and Fried Morels

3rd Course
Pistachio and Allerton Stinging Nettle Flatbreads with Pickled Allerton Ramps, Prairie Fruits Farms Goat Cheese topped with a Truffled Fennel, Radish and Blood Orange Salad

4th Course
Sugar Grove Family Farm Berkshire Grilled Pork Belly & Sassafrass Root Braised Pork Butt – Foraged Morels and Ludwig Cheddar Grits, Dehydrated Wild Ginger, Stinging Nettle Stems, Sassafras Reduction, Pickled Red Bud Flowers

5th Course
Wild Allerton Japanese Knotweed Mousse, Rhubarb-Sassafras Jam, Butter Mochi Cake and Caramelized Skyr

About the Chefs

Alisa DeMarco – 1st Course

Chef Alisa DeMarco led the kitchen at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery for 8 years, where her farm dinners and breakfasts earned her a reputation for outstanding local and seasonal cuisine. Alisa learned the pleasures of eating locally at an early age, helping her mom in the garden, fishing for dinner in the river behind her house, foraging for mushrooms with her grandmother, raising her own laying hens and eating beef raised by the neighbors across the road. Her formal training at the Culinary Institute of America solidified her beliefs in seeking out the best ingredients and forming relationships with local farmers and artisans in order to do so. Alisa lives in Savoy with her husband Jeff and their son Cole. She enjoys gardening, yoga, music and anything and everything involving food and wine.

Drew Starkey – 2nd Course

Drew Starkey is the Chef/ Owner of Bacaro, which is a high end restaurant located in downtown Champaign. Chef Drew, who has been cooking for more than 14 years, is committed and passionate about using fresh local produce and meats provided by area farmers.

Ann Swanson – 3rd Course

Ann Swanson is the founder and Director of Operations at Hendrick House Farms. Hendrick House Farms consists of a three-acre vegetable farm, hydroponic facility and 1,000 sq/ft urban rooftop herb garden. Ann is a trained chef and spent the majority of her career in South Carolina, where she found her passion for farm to table cuisine. She is now committed to providing and educating students, cooks and the community on the importance of fresh, locally grown food.

Adam Shallenberger – 4th Course

Awarded Chef Adam Shallenberger is as local as they come. Raised in central Illinois and graduating from Mahomet Seymour High School, he returned home with his culinary finesse in 2013. A Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta alum, he honed his skill working in kitchens from Savannah, GA to Fort Worth, Texas. At Ellerbe Fine Foods serving as sous chef he helped achieve the Bon Apetit award of one of the Top Ten Best New Restaurants opened in America in 2010. He met his lovely fiancé, Madeleine, in Texas and they have a precious 5 year old son, Miles. Coming “home” and bringing the skills with it, he was the executive chef at 3 established local restaurants. Most recently he opened and was executive chef and General manager to V. Picasso. While there he participated in numerous charity events, winning the Central Illinois Artisans Cup, a fundraiser for The Land Connection. His style can be defined as southern comfort with bold flavors and unique ingredients. His next move has been to transition from the brick and mortar grind to his brand new food truck, FIRED, coming to Champaign this April. Be on the look out for his latest conquest and be surprised by the integrity of locally sourced and creative street food.

Mark “Shades” Hartstein – 5th Course

Mark “Shades” Hartstein projects include “Shady Dawgs,” a mobile hotdog and sausage cart; “Saru Ramen,” an infrequent ramen pop-up; “The Urbana Pickle Project,” a private larder club; and (partnered with Leslie Bettridge) “CuSP: Champaign Urbana Smørrebrød Project,” a Danish sandwich pop-up to raise funds for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. He is currently the chef/owner of Watson’s Shack & Rail. Stay tuned for the next adventure.

Photo from Facebook. 

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