October 2010 Review

October featured a Lot of food related events. Again it was a busy month (I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record), and staying on top of work, emails, and personal stuff was a struggle. I’m glad the month is over, and we’re now in the home stretch as we start to wrap up the year with just 61 days to go. Here’s a recap of some of my memorable and interesting events of the past 31 days.

1. Evergreen and Slow Food Picnic at the Brickworks
This was a fantastic event I’m really happy I went to. You can read my post about this here

2. Soupalicious
Another food event that I had the chance to go to. I’m just finishing up my review for it and should be posting that up shortly.

3. Food Security Coalition Conference in New Orleans
From October 15-18th, I had a chance to attend the 14th annual Community Food Security Coalition’s conference. This year the host city was New Orleans, and I’m really glad that I went. Again a more lengthy blog post is in the works (we’ll see if and when I get a chance to pump it out, though I did write a brief post while I was down there with some initial thoughts here

4. Speaking opportunities
October also gave me the chance to practice my public speaking skills at a couple of different events. The first one was with the Willowdale Green Party and ended up being attended by only a handful of people. Regardless, it was a great chance to hone my presentation skills in an intimate setting, and prepare myself for the next talk with the North York Garden Club. This presentation was almost entirely visual, with lots of pictures showcasing the various gardens that we had setup. It turned out to be a great hit and there were many great comments on the photos we took (the club was doing their own photo contest that evening too!). Who knows – this may end up providing more speaking engagements at other garden clubs across the city.

5. Thanksgiving
As the name implies, a chance to slow down and give thanks for the harvest and for all the wonderful “things” (not material possessions, but things like family and friends, living in a free and democratic country, etc) we have in our lives. It’s something I think we should all do more often – and enjoying some delicious turkey with all the fixings while you’re at it wouldn’t hurt either.

6. Landscape Ontario’s Garden Expo
This was just the show I was looking for and needed to go to! Featuring suppliers, growers, nurseries, and all sorts of other contacts from Southern Ontario, I’ve now got lots of new connections to followup on which will help in my business for next year.

7. Orchestra Concert
Since joining the orchestra in September, we’ve been preparing for our first concert on October 30th. With a large repertoire, few rehearsals, and not much time to prepare, I really didn’t know what to expect going in to our concert. Compounding this was my poor attendance (I made it to less than half of the few rehearsals we did have) and it’s a miracle I/we made it through the entire performance. I’m embarrassed to mention this, but the actual performance had a lot of “firsts” for me.

  • It was my first time I knew there was going to be video to go along with our performance in the first half
  • It was my first time playing with our guest conductor (I didn’t know we had one until he walked out on stage!)
  • It was my first time playing through some of the pieces with the orchestra (thank goodness for youtube and being able to play/follow along with the music to know how my part fit in with the rest of the orchestra!)
  • It was my first time to meet and chat with some of the other members of the orchestra

While most of the audience enjoyed the music (the selection of songs was one very favourable point), I had a chance to listen to a few of the recordings of our performance and have to admit some parts sounded the way it felt – needing a lot more personal and group practice. The orchestra is still relatively new (this is the 3rd year), and it’s still finding its groove, and I’m sure it’ll get even better with time. For our upcoming Christmas concert, we’ve got a much easier repertoire (though still very interesting), and the majority of the pieces were performed at last year’s concert, so it should be a MUCH better performance overall.

8. Garlic tasting event
In addition to planting garlic for a number of my customers in October, I set aside a number of unique varieties to be cooking up and sampling. I invited only a small group of people over due to my limited quantities of garlic, and cooked up the garlic 3 different ways

  1. dry roasted in the oven
  2. stir fried with firm tofu and a dash of olive oil
  3. minced and raw

The original plan was to have 2 sets of 4 different varieties (total of 8 different varieties), however after the first set of 4 varieties, we were all garlic-ed out and couldn’t take any more. When I get a chance, I want to write up a more detailed review including some of our thoughts and notes, but that’s a project for another time.

Odds and Ends
In October, Toronto elected a new mayor – Rob Ford. While I’m not that thrilled about his election, I do still love my city and hope that the next 4 years go smoothly. I had another article published on Food Trotter – this time about the Chinese banquet meal. You can read about it here,

I’m excited for November. It’s looking like it will be that time of year to knock off a bunch of those important but not urgent projects I’ve been putting off for too long. And finally, I’ll leave you with a quotation that I’ve been meditating on recently.

Happy is the man who finds wisdom and understanding for the gain of it is better than gain from silver and profit better than gold.

– Proverbs 3:13,14

The 2010 Picnic at the Brickworks

This afternoon, I had a chance to celebrate the harvest with Slow Food Toronto (http://slowfood.to/)  and Evergreen Canada (www.evergreen.ca/ ) at their 5th (?) annual picnic event. This year’s event / fundraiser was held at the newly renovated and revamped Brickworks near the heart of downtown Toronto and featured over 60 chefs / restaurants / producers from throughout Southern Ontario. This post is sort of like my review of the event and chance to put my thoughts in writing while all the delicious food memories are still fresh on my taste buds.

With 1000+ guests, 80+ volunteers, and 60+ exhibitors, it was an amazing celebration and coming together of people around local food in the province. I saw a number of familiar faces nestled amongst the various organizations / restaurants and for the most part went around enjoying and gorging myself on the variety of dishes being served.

(the lineup for the event stretched waaay back, doors opened at noon)

The way it works is that you’re given a glass at the beginning of the event (don’t lose it as it’s your ticket to enjoying all the tasty beverages on offer) and you go around to the different tables sampling as many dishes as your stomach can handle. Most people, myself included, had to take a couple of breaks from the food in order to 1) make space in your stomach for more, 2) give your taste buds a rest before another onslaught of deliciousness and 3) take in the festive atmosphere and live music of the event. You’re welcome to take as many as you want, though in practicality you wouldn’t want to as it would be almost impossible to try everything if you did go for multiple samples. The portions are quite small in size – some one bite samples, while others were a little larger with multiple opportunities to taste the delicious flavours.

Today’s event was a little on the chilly side and I’m very glad I dressed warm enough with several layers for the weather. Even though it wasn’t super cold, being outside for several hours or rather in unheated areas definitely can get to you. Everyone who came was in a joyful mood, being very patient and cordial in lining up and taking the time to really slow down and enjoy the food (it is a Slow Food event after all!)

The event was grouped by region, with the following regions being represented (see map below for details).

Muskoka, Peterborough / Kawarthas, Simcoe County, Grey / Bruce, Perth, Stratford, Guelph, Wellington, Hamilton, Norfolk County, Niagara, Toronto, Durham, Northumberland, and Prince Edward County.

So without further ado, here’s a visual feast for those of you who want to see what it was like of only some of the things I sampled at the picnic.

I don’t remember what it was, but it was one of the first things I tried and was super tasty. I believe it was from the Hamilton region.

This was from the cheese boutique in the West end of Toronto. The blue cheese they had on a thin triangular shaped cracker was mild, creamy, and delicious.

Belgium-style waffles. Yes, dessert dishes were interchanged with mostly savoury dishes.

I think this was pork with a apple cabbage slaw on top. It was one of the best dishes at the picnic.

Mini blueberry and raspberry crumbles.

Country style Berkshire pork and liver terrine on fennel flat bread. Garnished with Ontario peach chutney and pickled apples. As a side note, I noticed most of the food was presented on long thick slabs of wood – some quite fancy and intricate.

I realized that in order to remember some of the food, I needed to take a picture of the description of the food, and not just the food itself. This was also delicious. I could taste it was made with real butter and had excellent taste, texture, moisture content, and overall deliciousness.

Another dish that escapes my memory of what it was. This was created by the folks at the Culinarium

Red Fife graham cracker with Monteforte Dairy Sheep’s cheese with Bizjack Farm dansom plums. A beautiful showcase of local food in a bite-sized cracker. The balance of tastes, textures, and flavours all in this one cracker was stunning.

Milford Bay Trout with micro greens and I think a vinaigrette dressing. One of the best seafood dishes here, though the sturgeon caviar (not pictured) and sturgeon ceviche (also not pictured) was my favourite.

Squash and baby leek risotto with wild boar. Interesting meats were featured in a number of dishes at this event. I like how it was presented in  hollowed out mini squash.

Organic spelt pizza bites with tandoori chicken, organic mozzarella, and pear salsa.

I don’t remember what this was, only that it was delicious,

The description for this was Timbale of homeplate organics. Beef and carron forms, root vegetables, horseradish carrot slaw. The leaf that this dish was presented on was also edible and quite tasty. I’m going to email the chef and see if I can grow it for next year,

Peanut crusted belly of Tamworth pork with Niagara concord grape compote. Garnishedwith shaved french radish, calendula and seedlings.

These were the majority of the pictures that I took. Some other delicious things that I tasted that I remembered include:

-Oviinbyrd Inn / Moon Bay Shiitake: This place had a scrumptuous shiitake mushroom topped morsel as well as some tasty chocolate (separate from the shiitakes). This was one of the best shiitake dishes I’ve ever tasted.
-Chocosol fried blue corn tortilla filled with chocolate
-The Gladstone hotel’s chicken spring rolls. Tasty with just the right crispiness
-An interesting risotto with another interesting non-mainstream meat (forget what kind it was thouh))
-Fifth Town Artisan Cheese. Tasty, though I liked the sample plate they had better at the conscious food festival event
-Pork belly on a stick. Mmmmm, pork belly
-Hot chocolate from Soma.Very rich, thick, creamy, and was like drinking some of the best chocolate in the world

Other Beverages:
There were lots of wineries and breweries at the event, and unfortunately wasn’t able to try every one. Some of ones that I remember were:

-Pumpkin ale. Made with roasted pumpkin, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. The pumpkin taste was good, coming through in more of a mellow way towards the end of each sip
-Cranberry blueberry wine. A little sweet for my liking, but good nonetheless

2 hours of sampling later, and going around to almost every food table (I think there was only one or two that I missed), my stomach felt like it was about to explode. Ok, not literally, but full to the point where you just want to sit down for a couple hours and just let the food digest. Let’s just say I was one of the happiest people at the picnic at that point bursting with so much beautifully crafted and carefully prepared local food.

For someone who almost never skips a meal, I was too full to even think about eating diner, though I did have a small salad from one of my gardens for my dose of greens to help balance all the rich and delicious meats and proteins I had during the day. This was definitely a fantastic food experience and one that I hope to experience again next year.