This weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens’ 17th Annual Mango Brunch, part of the 24th Annual Mango Festival, which was created to celebrate the diversity and deliciousness of the beautiful mango fruit that is so unique to tropics. On display they had hundreds of varieties of mangos (who knew there were so many?), all of which had been grown at the Fairchild Garden in Homestead and would be put up for auction later that day. Some of the rarer species of mangos go for hundreds of dollars!
Chefs being recognized for their work at the Mango Brunch
The Mango Brunch challenged chefs to get creative with mangos – there are lots of ways to eat a raw mango, from sprinkled with lime juice and chili pepper, to unripe with white vinegar and salt & pepper, to just a plain sweet mango, but how can you incorporate them into your cooking? With an all-star lineup of chefs, including “Mango Gang” members Chefs Allen Susser and Mark Militello, in the kitchen, we were bound to have an awesome eating experience and see mangos used in ways you’ve never seen before.
The festival featured mangos from Cuba, and the place settings featured a little Cuban flag by the menu to show that off.
Tropical Mango & Salmon Poke
This mango & salmon poke by Chef Chris Bulgarin reminded me of a sweet and refreshing version of ceviche. The mango, fish, citrus, and onions work great together, making this a delicious summer dish that I would love to try to recreate at home!
Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Mango BBQ Sauce & Mango Jalapeño Cornbread
Chef Bulgarin’s second dish was also incredible, pairing mango with jalapeño spice and corn, which was a combination that worked beautifully and appeared in many other dishes at the brunch. The sweetness of the mango pico de gallo and the spice of the jalapeño cornbread balance each other out, and the crispy fried onions on top make every bite delicious.
Toledo Mango and Wild Shrimp Mojo
I was very impressed with how mangos, which are so rich in sweetness and texture, could be used for such light and savory dishes. Although I’m usually not a fan of cooked greens, Chef Allen Susser’s dish balanced their acidity with the sweetness of the mangos – and the texture was perfect!
“Steak & Grits” Florida grits, smoked mango BBQ Topped with mango, cotton candy fruit, and Dewey grown Okinawa spinach salad
The slaw on top of this unique take on steak and grits made by Chef Dewey Losasso reminded me of one of my favorite ways of eating mango: raw, unripe, with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Crunchy and acidic but with a bit of sweetness from the mango, this slaw would go great on top of almost anything, or could even be eaten on its own.
Eggs Benedict with Spicy Mango & Jam Toast
Chef Kris Wessel reinvented a brunch classic with this dish, upgrading eggs Benedict with a spicy mango jam on the toast that added a sweet kick to each bite. This was one of my favorite dishes because it was so delicious but so unexpected! But it did hold up the fact that mango and spice go great together.
Roasted Tomato-Mango Gazpacho with Mojo Mango-Shrimp Panzanella & Florida Citrus
The citrus and mango Chefs Frank and Andrea Randazzo incorporated into this gazpacho made it tangy and delicious, and the shrimp, greens, and panzanella added some great texture. Since a gazpacho is traditionally served cold, this is a perfect summer dish, and the mangos only add to that.
Mango Ricotta Cheesecake with Truffle Honey
I was surprised by Chef Gaetano Ascione’s dessert because I had never tasted truffle in anything but a savory dish. The first few bites were surprising, but the truffle actually went very well with the ricotta and honey. In fact, Ascione announced at the end of brunch that this cheesecake would be available on the menu of his Coconut Grove restaurant Spasso, if you’re curious to try it out for yourself!
After brunch I explored the rest of the Mango Festival and the Botanic Gardens and was disappointed in myself for not coming out here more frequently. Even though the festival is over, I highly encourage everyone to go out and explore Fairchild! There is so much you can learn about our native flora (mangos included) and so much beauty to take in.