A few weeks ago I had the honour of being a guest at a special dinner hosted by Foodland Ontario and Culinary Tourism Alliance. The menu was created by chefs who are part of Feast On, a program that recognizes businesses committed to showcasing Ontario's unique tastes of place. Why Feast On?, It supports our local economy and Ontario's hardworking farmers and artisans. Why is this important? It builds our local food identity, puts dollars back into our community and limits our enviromnmental impact. A "Feast On" certification proves you are fighting the good fight. It lets people know that by choosing these restaurants, they are supporting our food system as well. What won me over is two key manifesto points that captured me that state "to educate the public about Ontario food and drink and to bring further awareness to its strong agricultural sectors" & "to develop Ontario's culinary identity by celebrating regional tastes and champions local, seasonal ingredients" I am excited to announce that as of January 1st 2017, there are a 122 Feast On certified Restaurants in Ontario. Now that I have educated you on the importance of being Feast On certified and supporting local, I would like to share the spectacular evening of great company, talented chefs taking local Ontario ingredients to an extraordinary level.
It was an elegant setting and each guest had a special seat welcoming them to the family table. A farm-to-table menu presented itself walking us through a local Ontario flavour journey created by Feast On certified talented chefs using Ontario producers and purveyors such as Quinta Quinoa, 100km Foods, Planet Shrimp, Jewels under the Kilt, Sanagan's Meat Locker, Sapsucker Maple Water, Southbrook Vineyards, Thornbury Village, Side Launch Brewery. We had a group of wonderful foodies around the family table sharing their stories as well as the honour of dining with the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs the honourable Jeff Leal.
Along the table awaited us refreshing bottles of Sapsucker to quench our thirst. A Maple Tree Filtered Organic Water that is harvested from mature maple trees called sap. Located in the Beaver Valley a part of the Niagara escarpment at the southern tip of Georgian Bay and founded in 2014 by two families. This maple infused water was absolutely delicious and worth stocking up.
Our first coarse was presented by Chef José Arato from Pimenton, Toronto, Kohlrabi Salad using Ontario ingredients including, goat yogurt, sumac, mint, watercress and mascarpone cheese.
Chef José loves cooking with Ontario pork, but believes rutabaga is an underrated ingredient! He finds inspiration in cooking Mediterranean food with seasonal Ontario ingredients. Pimenton is a catering company focusing on Mediterranean flavours. You can find them at the Evergreen Brick Works Local Food Court!
Paired with 2016 Southbrook Organic Wild Ferment Cider, Southbrook wines is located in Niagara-On-The-Lake. In 2008, after being granted Pro-Cert Organics (then called OC/PRO Canada Organic) certification, Southbrook Vineyards began using certified organic grapes in its wines. The production process was also certified organic. Pro-Cert Organics is Canada’s foremost national certifier of organic food products.
Our second course was presented by Chef Harrison Hennick from Nique Restaurant in Hamilton. Shrimp Escabeche, yes, local Ontario Shrimp with Ontario Shrimp Head Aioli, pickled Ontario vegetables, Ontario Flour Sourdough.
Chef Harrison’s favourite part about working with local food is the direct contact he can have with farmers and suppliers. When asked what his favourite seasonal ingredient is, he replied with “I would hands down have to say corn.”
Nique is not just a restaurant. It’s a family of young passionate individuals eager to provide our customers with a dynamic and welcoming experience. Their approach to food and drink is inherently Canadian. Not because they serve beavertail poutine with maple syrup gravy (they don't serve this), but because their menu is a cultural mosaic. This nod to Canadian culture allows them to be both approachable and adventurous. they believe that by giving people delicious food in a comfortable environment, they can foster a strong community, and a sense of home that will surprise and delight you.
Chef Harrison's dish was paired with 2015 Southbrook Skin Fermented Vidal (an Orange wine)
Now to our third course, presented by Chef Adam Ryan from Localista Food Truck, Toronto. This dish made a grand entrance presented on a rustic board and definitely got all our attention. Sumac Rubbed River's Edge Smoked Goat. Being Greek, I was definitely excited about this dish. It was so tender and fall off the bone and absolutely bursting with flavour. His dish was served with unique flavourful condiments for the perfect bite.
Adam’s favourite seasonal ingredient is Ontario Rhubarb, but he feels that sumac is seriously underrated. His favourite thing about working with Ontario food and drink is the relationships he creates in working with local farmers and purveyors.
Localista is a fully equipped food truck that specializes in creating international street food using Ontario grown products. Corporate events, private functions, wedding, launches, they can serve up to 500 people with a menu that is sure to please!
To accompany Chef Adam's masterpiece was Chef Olivia Simpson from Hawthorne Food & Drink, Toronto, fried Ontario quinoa, Ontario vegetables, Ontario quail eggs and Ontario sun choke puree. Another presentation on a rustic board that wowed us all. As an extra special bite, quinoa fritters with Ontario hot peppers.
When Chef Olivia was asked about her favourite seasonal ingredient, she couldn’t pick just one! She loves working with (and eating) Ontario corn, peas and peaches. She is also a fan of salt and believes in how much it can enhance a recipe or flavour. Hawthorne Food & Drink's philosophy is reflective of their care and commitment to community and environment. Local, seasonal choices with a preference to sustainable growth dictate their menu and food preparation. Hawthorne is the enterprise arm of the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. The HWTC is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to training new entrants and current workers for employment in the hospitality industry.
This Chef collaboration was truly a flavourful and delicious explosion. Paired with Southbrook's 2016 Southbrook Estate 101 Cabernet Franc, it made it a dish that kept you wanting more.
Last but not least, Chef Steffen Marin from Heirloom Food Truck took dessert to another level. This Goat's Milk Panna Cotta was so creamy, on a bed of walnut crumble, aerated caramel and beet textures made it deliciously dreamy.
Chef Steffen loves working with Ontario wild ramps and rhubarb, but he also loves garlic, and to quote the chef himself: “Who doesn’t love garlic? The fact we can go foraging it ourselves organically, in the wild, screams fresh for me.” Heirloom Food Truck specializes in farm to truck cooking. They have four local gardens where they plant and harvest ingredients for the menu. They support local farmers and take pride in knowing the face behind each item they source, from heirloom potatoes to delicate edible flowers. Each event menu is customized as they focus on ingredients in season.
Paired with Southbrook Framboise, with a pure essence of Ontario Raspberries made of a wonderful and sweet ending to an unforgettable elegant farm-to-table evening with so much local Ontario talent.
Being a local farm-to-table advocate, this evening was near and dear to me. It was so wonderful to be part of an elegant and delicious evening using Ontario ingredients and spending time with those who share the same love and passion I do. The evening has given me a few take aways to implement to bring more awareness about our local farmers and purveyors in the hopes of getting more chef's restaurants and communities supporting local. I can't thank Foodland Ontario and Culinary Tourism Alliance enough for reserving a seat at their family table for me, it was an absolute honour to be your guest.
Bring Home The World
Ok my Ontario Foodies, I am excited to announce a contest I can't wait to share with you so we can participate together. It's time to support our local Ontario farmers and food producers and bring out the creative chef in You in the kitchen! 👨🍳❤️
In celebration of Agriculture week in Ontario Foodland Ontario is launching an Instagram contest that started October 4th at 6:00 pm, running until October 31st at 11:59 pm. They are encouraging everyone to share a photo/video of a dish they have prepared using seasonal Ontario grown or processed ingredients for a chance to win a $150 gift card to a Feast On™ Restaurant courtesy of Culinary Tourism Alliance.
These are the steps for entering:
Step 1 - Follow Foodland Ontario on Instagram: @foodlandontario
Step 2 - Post a photo or video of a recipe or dish you prepared using diverse Ontario grown or processed foods.
Step 3 - Add #Foodland40 and #loveONTfood to be entered to win.
Enter as many times as your local food-loving heart desires until October 31st.
For full contest rules and regulations- https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/official-contest-rules