Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Slow Food Picnic Slows Renovation

Scenes from the Slow Food Picnic

Our home renovations were on hold again this weekend as we braved dire forecasts about the tail end of Ike and headed to Toronto to meet some good friends for the second annual Slow Food Picnic at the Brickworks. The event pairs some of Ontario’s best chefs with farmers and food producers as well as wine makers and brewers. Working side by side with the food producers, the chefs find creative ways to show off the sustainable bounty of the land. For those who attend, the event is four hours of non-stop feasting. When we arrived we received wrist bands and wine glasses—ours to keep. Thus armed we had access to over 60 different food and wine stalls, each helmed by the producer of the chief ingredients and a chef or winemaker. We wandered around the open air pavilion beguiled by new tastes, smells, and sights at every turn. We sampled spit-roasted goat, hand-forked waygu burgers, fresh-shuck’d oysters (granted not local, but still Canadian, definitely sustainable, and served in their own biodegradable bowls), cheeses, sorbets, charcuterie, and all types of late summer herbs, fruits, and vegetables--heirloom tomatoes being in particular evidence.

The great information exchange

The picnic is a billed as an eco-gastronomic event, which means that everything, aside from the reusable wine glasses, is biodegradable and compostable, so the serving methods are creative: one enterprising chef served sausage hors d’oeuvres on oyster shell lids, which worked very well, but the trick of slurping black currant sorbet and poached pear from a grape leaf required more practice. We had a blast. We left feeling completely satiated, in love with all of the small local producers and conscientious chefs (whose passion for small-scale, hands-on farming is the only thing standing in the way of factory farms), slightly better informed, and virtuous: the event is a fundraiser after all. Philanthropy via informed gluttony.

Vicki from Vicki’s Veggies teams up with Toronto star chef Jamie Kennedy

Vicki, standing still, and with flowers in her hair!

We were delighted to see Vicki at the Picnic, and especially gratified that she had teamed up with luminary Toronto chef Jamie Kennedy. Just over a week ago we had stopped at Vicki’s farm in Prince Edward county.

Vicki's road-side, self-serve stand of earthly bounty

We had actually planned our route home from Nova Scotia in part so we could stock up on Vicki’s heirloom tomatoes and wonderful produce on the very last day of our trip. Vicki’s farm is almost 3 hours away from our home, but we have visited her twice in two years, both times on the last day of a vacation, just to partake of the fantastic offerings from her farm (and the handmade soaps of a friend of hers, also from the county).

Garlic, and tomatoes and eggplants of every description (from Vicki's 2007 harvest)

Last year Vicki took us back into her fields to show off her amazing varieties of eggplant. This year the season wasn’t so good for eggplants, but Vicki hiked us back into her tomato field to pick us a basket of stuffing tomatoes. If you’ve never seen one, a stuffing tomato is a revelation. All the seeds are compactly located right up near the stem and the rest of the tomato is hollow, like a pepper, and perfect for stuffing.

One of Vicki's chickens crosses the road.

Prince Edward County, on a little peninsula of land jutting into Lake Ontario, two hours east of Toronto, is Ontario’s newest wine region. Although the vineyards are young--only a decade old--and the process onerous: vines must be mulched over winter and dug out in the spring, the early results are very promising, particularly for chardonnays and pinot noirs (great for us since our earliest lessons in wine tasting were in Burgundy and these varietals have remained our favourites). The region is doing well and boasts several flourishing small towns, passionate local producers like Vicki, many excellent small inns, wineries like Norman Hardie’s, who was also at the picnic, and some fantastic restaurants, notably Harvest in Picton, which we’ve been fortunate to dine at twice, and which also had a booth at the Slow Food Picnic. For a Toronto food event, Prince Edward County was very well represented.

We’re looking forward to the third annual slow food picnic next year.


Wanderluster said...

Darn, wish I had known about Vicky and her produce earlier. We were just in Prince Edward County a few months ago for our first visit. Its such a lovely area with an abundance of good food.

S and N said...

Yes it it! I hope you get a chance to visit Vicki's farm the next time you go. Today on cbc radio's noon show, Konrad Ejbich was giving high praise to a wine of the region: Norman Hardie's 2007 Pinot Noir.