My Fest Food Fairy Godmother


Just like some people channel Julia Child when they cook, I like to think of Mary Ann as my guardian angel in the kitchen. Ms. Mary Ann Fahey Darling is my all time favorite festival chef and where else would she be but at Summer Camp in Chillicothe, IL. Her beef bourguignon must be better than Julia’s – I had it for brunch one morning at the festival this summer along with quiche, fluffy biscuits and sausage gravy, cheesy mashed potatoes, and the salad of my dreams with edamame, snap peas, almonds, and an Asian dressing. And those dishes were only half of what was being offered on the buffet at one meal in addition to a whole gourmet vegetarian menu.

Summer Camp Music Festival is a family business based in Peoria and Mary Ann’s catering company is too – the youngest of her 7 kids (she has 16 grandkids and counting) Jimmy, is up at 5am making coffee. She has been doing the artist catering at Summer Camp for over a decade since the festival was founded. Mary Ann also ran several restaurants in her career and has a catering business based out of Cornerstone Connection Cafe in Peoria. Mary Ann is a great lover of music and those lucky enough to hear her sing, say she has the voice of an angel. She has been a music teacher as well as a chef her whole life.

Last year at Summer Camp for our color war, Field Day, we had a pie eating competition that went awry when I realized we forgot to bake the pies. I wanted to call off the event, but a huge crowd had gathered and we had 4 apple pies that were fully cooked, though not baked, and defrosted but still freezing cold. Four fearless competitors ate the crust and apples, hands tied behind their backs, pie filling dripping down their faces, as the Red, Yellow, Blue and Purple teamers cheered them on. It was disgusting but hilarious- no one got sick though there were some ice cream headaches. So from this year forth, it shall be a Pizza Eating Competition! I laughed the hardest that night telling Mary Ann about the pie eating disaster over a cup of coffee and slice of her angel food cake.

So it was only appropriate to send her a great pie recipe when I found it. This brings together some of my favorite things: maple syrup, Bourbon, chocolate, and pecans. It’s basically alcoholic cookie dough. I had been dreaming of Summer Camp and the heavenly food all through the cold Chicago winter and finally it was Memorial Day. When we finally arrived and headed to the kitchen, Jimmy and the crew said Mary Ann had actually baked the pie and brought it to Summer Camp! My dream come true.


It was a Summer Camp yet for the books incredible concerts and fantastic food. Highlights included seeing Bob Weir jam with Primus, Gogol Bordello, Galactic, the Everyone Orchestra with my favorites Van Ghost, and an epic seven hour set by DJ Wyllys till sunrise with his Disco Angels from the Hustler Ensemble – Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressmen. The Pizza Eating competition was a success and one of Mary Ann’s cooks, Shawn, ate like a champ and came in second place!

On Sunday evening I finally got to share the delicious pie with festival founders Ian and Jay Goldberg, Mary Ann, and a few of my best friends. Mary Ann made this recipe even better by substituting rum for bourbon and using her homemade piecrust in all it’s flaky, buttery, perfection.  It was the sweetest ending to my favorite fest of the year and I was so grateful to share it with my Summer Camp family.


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