The beautiful bulb on the menu at MDI Garlic Fest

Posted Sept. 06, 2011, at 3:23 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 06, 2011, at 3:51 p.m.

In his master plan, Frank Pendola envisions someday having a kind of garlic grower’s collective, where cultivators of the fragrant bulb get together to share varieties, recipes and techniques. For now, though, he’s happy to offer up the 13th annual Mount Desert Island Garlic Festival, a daylong celebration of all things delicious and garlic-y. Eighteen vendors will offer up a mouth-watering variety of garlic-flavored everything from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Smuggler’s Den Campground in Southwest Harbor. Admission is $5, and the event is chem-free and family-friendly.

After the festival ran into money troubles, the 2010 event was canceled, but Pendola is back in 2011 with a revamped layout and new energy, thanks to its new charity partner, KidsPeace.

“From here on out, this event is synonymous with KidsPeace,” said Pendola, who owns and operates Nostrano Restaurant in Bar Harbor. “They’ve been a great partner in all aspects of organizing this. This is my art and my passion, for me, and they’ve been incredibly supportive in making this even bigger and better.”

New this year is a farmers market with six eastern Maine farms offering up fresh food and, yes, garlic, along with a few pottery and jewelry vendors, and a booth from the Maine Garlic Project, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s garlic research project.

“We really want every aspect of the festival to be all about artisanal foods and local foods,” said Pendola. “We’re all about supporting what’s right in your own community.”

The star of the show at the Garlic Festival is, of course, the food. Seven food vendors are slated to attend, ranging from Cleonice in Ellsworth’s 1,000 Garlic Carnie to Chippers in Hancock’s Garlic Molto Seafood Fry. Nostrano will serve up organic garlic sausage from Bagaduce Farm, and Sonya’s Artisanal Baking will offer one of the more intriguing items on the menu: garlic brownies.

“I think people think it’s going to be raw garlic and chocolate, and that doesn’t sound good to me either, but it’s far from that,” said Pendola. “She simmers the garlic in wine until it’s nice and soft and the flavor has mellowed, and then she adds it to the brownies. They’re unbelievably good.”

Pendola said garlic growers will have seeds available for those interested in growing their own. He suggests planting garlic around Columbus Day, which is Oct. 10 — about a month after the festival itself. Pendola’s own garlic crop will be featured in his dishes at the festival. He specializes in both Italian food, born out of his New York roots, and in barbecue. If there’s one thing he loves, it’s feeding people.

“The whole festival is, in the end, just an excuse for me to cook for a huge group of people. I love it. Can’t get enough of it,” said Pendola. “But if we can raise some money for a great charity along with it, then that’s even better.”