The Artichoke Festival at the Heart of Monterey Summer

By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov

As if Monterey Peninsula on California’s Central Coast needed any more popularity—the 61st annual Artichoke Festival returned this year to the Monterey County Fairgrounds after more than a year of sheltering-in-place and foregoing all the joys of popular gatherings.

The Artichoke Festival, a celebration of California’s official state vegetable, started as a harvest festival for the local community back in 1959, but over the years grew to encompass not only the Peninsula artichoke growers, but vendors of other agricultural produce from near and far, prominent chefs, celebrities, and the general public eager to partake in the two-day festivities.

Do you know that Marilyn Monroe was named California’s first honorary Artichoke Queen in 1948? Come to think of it, a giant heritage artichoke bud does resemble a crown, and being an “honorary member” of thistle family, when it matures into flower, the bud opens up in a gorgeous periwinkle bloom fit for a queen!

Historically, artichokes are believed to originate in the Mediterranean, where they started to be used as food by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Since 1922, when first artichoke shoots were planted on the Pacific coast, the iconic vegetable became the quintessential California crop. Currently, almost all American artichokes are grown in California, with nearly two-thirds of them coming from the small town of Castroville on the Monterey Peninsula.

No wonder the region known as the “Artichoke Center of the World” quickly became a popular destination for chefs and foodies. The annual festival continues to serve as a promoter and supporter of the Castroville’s farming community, providing information about the growing, harvesting, preparation, and unique qualities of artichokes and demonstrating the artichoke industry’s influence on the history of Monterey County.

Of course, every artichoke lover is after the tender heart of this deservedly praised plant—delicious and memorable in any variety—steamed, grilled, baked, or boiled, with or without condiments.

This year’s festival included an artichoke eating contest, chefs’ demos, a food court of artichoke preparations, a host of vendors (artichoke soup, anyone?) and an array of activities, like wine tasting, live music, silent auction, car show, art exhibit, quilt challenge, farmers’ market, and children’s playground among other attractions.

While the last weekend’s festival is over now, the glorious summertime is still here, and nowhere as wonderfully cool and inviting as on the Central Coast with its refreshing ocean breeze and morning fog that gives way to warm sunny afternoons on a beach.

Staying in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a picturesque little town with lush greenery, fairy-tale cottages, great restaurants, art galleries, and sandy beaches, you are so close to everything good, and so far away from your everyday cares and troubles!

Hofsas House is an exemplary boutique hotel in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s gorgeous, comfortable, great for couples and families, and dog-friendly.

Historical and unique, the pink-walled family owned and operated hotel, founded in 1947 by Donna Hofsas, features a prominent mural at the entrance, created by Diego Rivera’s student, female artist Maxine Albro, depicting a procession of young people clad in Bavarian-style costumes.

Carrie Theis, the original owner’s granddaughter, continues the tradition of hospitality under the coat of arms that reads in Latin, “Leisure and Dignity,” and that’s exactly what you can expect from staying at this gem of a hotel.

Don’t be surprised that a one-story building turns into a four-story structure at the back, upon a hillside slope—one of Carmel’s characteristic topographical features. You’ll find a heated swimming pool and a plentiful parking here, and wide terraces overlooking the ocean from the top floors of the hotel where you can have your daily continental breakfast included with a room rate.     

Hofsas House hosts multiple cultural events throughout a year, and offers various promotional packages to its guests. This fall, there’s a planned reception for the hotel’s artist in residence, Marie-Clare Treseder Gorham who designed a special Hofsas House-themed fabric incorporating the images of Albro’s mural, on November 4, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Local’s Favorites Wine Fridays featuring wines from Monterey County and benefiting the Peace of Mind Dog Rescue are scheduled on November 18, and then for 2022, on January 21, May 13, and September 16.

Virtual Gingerbread Making, the 10th annual fundraiser for the Carmel Public Library Foundation is planned for December 4. There will be gingerbread making kits, cookies, photos and videos submitted for a prize drawing, and a chance to win a one-night stay.

Hofsas House is located at San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Call for more information, 831-624-2745, or visit