Another great Invasive Species Cook-Off!

The 5th annual Invasive Species Cook-Off & Potluck, IAE’s annual party and fundraiser, was held at the Benton County Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 27th, 2016. Cook-Off contestants planned their dishes for days, weeks, even months in advance.  Hunters and gatherers headed out at dawn and dusk to collect invasive bullfrogs and clams, while others harvested fresh purslane and dandelions, before coming up with amazing culinary concoctions for the cook-off meal and competition.

This year, nearly 200 people came out to support IAE and its mission of conserving native species and habitats through restoration, research and education.

cook-off-2016-20-pjm IAE Staff greeting pre-registered guests with IAE's Taylor's checkerspot butterfly pint glasses.


Special Edition Taylor's checkerspot pint glass!

Designed by IAE's Jessie Brothers and sponsored by Sky High Brewing.



Local old timey band, "Rusty Hinges".

This year's event was potluck-style, with suggested donation at the door. Participants brought dishes with or without invasive species ingredients, while IAE provided a roasted pig for all to enjoy.  Attendees enjoyed the camaraderie of friends and colleagues, listened to music by local old timey band Rusty Hinges, and sampled libations from Sky High Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB), Klickitat Canyon & Columbia Gorge Winery, Bethel Heights Vineyard, and others.  Kids had a great time with face painting and nutria-shaped piñata smashing!

New in 2016 was a raffle with five great prizes, including trips to Breitenbush Hot Springs, Hallmark Resort Newport, Riverhaus guest house in Peoria, V.I.P. tour & wine tasting at Willamette Valley Vineyards, and live theater at Portland Center Stage. Congratulations to the lucky winners!


Curious kids check out the American bullfrogs that didn't end up on someone's plate.


The piñata is always a hit with the kids! Nutria piñata created by IAE's Anna Ramthun.

A highlight of the evening was the Cook-Off competition, followed by the raffle drawing. One of the more creative dishes was presented by IAE Botanist/Restoration Ecologist, Ian Silvernail, which he called Jerked NuPossLing: ground 'possum and European starling pate', spread across a nutria fillet, rolled and sliced.  The tasty desserts, of course, relied heavily on the ubiquitous Himalayan blackberry. Volunteer judges tasted and evaluated the various dishes based on their presentation, creativity, taste, and conservation benefit, and the winners of the four categories are listed below.


Judges Xan Augerot and Pat Muir, choosing the best Savory Meat dish.



Judges scoring entries from the popular new Beverage category.


Cook-off Winners:

Savory Meat

  • 1st place: Smoked Blackberry Lime Starling Tacos by Matt Paroulek.

  • 2nd place: Cajun Fried Bullfrog Legs by Tom Kaye.

Savory Vegetarian

  • 1st place: Mint and Purslane Pesto by Jessie Brothers.

  • 2nd place: Purslane Salad by Rose Marie McGee.

Dessert / Sweet

  • 1st place: Himalayan Blackberry Muffins by Stephanie Vomocil.

  • 2nd place: Restoration Pie (with blackberries harvested from restoration sites) by Peter Moore.


  • 1st place: Bald Hill Farm Fizz by Rebecca McKay Steinberg.

  • 2nd place: Malus Rubus Dry Cider by Oliver Day.


Mint Purslane Pesto - Jessie Brothers' winning Savory Vegetarian entry.

2016-savory-veg-runner-up-purslane-salad-no-captionPurslane Salad with watermelon, feta cheese and spearmintRose Marie McGee's 2nd place Savory Vegetarian entry.

cook-off-2016-tnk-76Smoked Blackberry Lime Starling Tacos (all gone!) – Matt Paroulek's winning Savory Meat entry.

cook-off-2016-38-pjmBlackberry Muffins - Stephanie Vomocil's winning Dessert/Sweet entry.

The evening was a another resounding success and a great time was had by all. Many thanks to staff and volunteers who made the event happen, our great supporters (Sky High Brewing, Bethel Heights Vineyard, Klickitat Canyon and Columbia Gorge Winery, HUB, Northwest Naturescapes) and the many people who came to enjoy the evening.

If you missed it this year, put it on your calendar for August 2017 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis. Exact date TBA, so stay tuned!

cook-off-2016-15-pjmThank you Sky High Brewing for sponsoring and pouring the wide variety of wines and beers available this year


Thank you to our face painters!

cook-off-2016-56-pjmA very happy crowd, with a spot for everyone to enjoy the merriment!


Jessie and Jeanette, explaining how to win one of the great raffle prizes. 


"Jerked NuPossLing" by Ian Silvernail.


Stuffed Blackberry Leaf Dolmas by Anna Ramthun. 

A terrific video by the folks at The Nature Here TV Show, from the 2016 Cook-Off.