From the Ground Up – The Best of the 2015 Local Food Fest

Since its inception, taste ? real has quite literally, hit the ground running.  They’ve done an amazing job of fostering meaningful connections between consumers and their food systems and creating local food experiences that highlight the agricultural strengths of Wellington County.  

One such experience is their annual Local Food Fest, which recently took place at the sprawling grounds of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre. We were lucky enough to take in the Festivities first hand this year and you can bet we’ll be marking our calendars for next year’s installment. 

The Local Food Fest celebrates local food and farming through a variety of awesome hands on experiences, demonstrations and of course, delicious food sourced from the region.

Maybe “variety” isn’t a strong enough word – from courtyard tours and tractor rides, to a butter tart eating contest, great live music and a stellar line up of workshops hosted by Minga Skill Building Hub (we’re talking cheese making, craft butchery, beer brewing, bread making, wild foraging, goat milking, animal husbandry and the list goes on…), this event was one for the (all) ages. 

With that level of selection, it was hard to choose just one highlight. And since we’re list-o-maniacs here at OCTA, we culled together our top five. Here goes! 

*Alliteration alert* Sonia the baker and her beautifully branded line up of breads.

1. Sampling the nutty, earthy spent grain bread from Elora Bread Trading Company.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of sampling some of owners’ Calantha Elsby and Sonia Cheng’s breathtaking breads, you need (knead?) to stop reading this sentence and start planning your next trip to Elora.  This small-scale and absolutely adorable artisan bakery focuses on traditional-method sourdough, baked goods and pastries that are made by hand using locally sourced ingredients.  Case in point – their spent grain option makes tasty use of the by-products of StoneHammer Brewery‘s beer brewing process, along with Cedarwood honey and flours from Historic Arva Flour Mill and 1847 Stone Flour Milling, to create a fragrant beer bread.  Sidenote – they also have one of the most beautiful Instagram feeds you’ll set eyes on.  

2. Touring the Julien Project gardens.

Following the signs promising a garden tour, we found ourselves taking in a whole lot more when we wound our way to the Centre’s inner courtyard and learned about the Julien Project.  The community-based charitable organization provides social and therapeutic gardening opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds and abilities, including a Horticultural Therapy Internship Program, school composting programs and urban agriculture demonstrations.  Our favourite part was stopping by each of the different themed gardens, which are planted by school children each spring, tended to by program volunteers and harvested when the children return in the late summer and early fall.  

Did we mention one of planters was labelled "Pizza Garden"?! We're into it.

Did we mention one of planters was labelled “Pizza Garden”?! We’re into it.

You can find more information about the Julien Project and how to support their initiative here

3. Going nuts for the Rhubarb Chipotle Walnuts from Jewels Under the Kilt

Elisabeth Burrow and Mitch Kosir roast their homegrown nuts with care and pride. It shows.  Upon relocating from Toronto to Fergus in 2010, the couple moved to a 90-plus acre property where they gradually planted upwards of a hundred fruit and nut trees. What began as somewhat of a hobby – roasting nuts – for Elisabeth has become a much beloved and ever expanding business.  Their addictive nuts are roasted through a unique process that uses the last tappings from maple trees to both preserve them and add incredible flavour.  We think they’re an awesome compliment for cheese and we’re in good company – their roasted maple nuts were recently paired with the winning wheel at the Canadian Cheese Awards.  

On a quest for Jewels? Shop their online store or find them at select farmers’ markets and retailers. 

4. Sliding over to the Ontario Pork booth for a bite sized burger.

Paired with Bella Roma Foods, a popular Guelph stop for locally sourced meat, bread and other staples, Ontario Pork knocked their sliders out of the park.  The juicy, flavourful patty was one of the first bites we had upon arriving and set the tone for what proved to be a highly delicious afternoon. Fun fact – Ontario Pork is also a member of the Preferred Purveyor Club (part of the Feast ON program) and a proud supporter of Ontario food culture. Pork + Fork. Repeat. 

5. Enjoying another episode of Game of Cones with Mapleton’s Organic ginger ice cream. 

Maybe, just maybe, this is the best ice cream we’ve ever tasted? Smooth, creamy and studded with candied ginger, the family run certified organic dairy crafts their products on-site, using cream and milk from their own herd.  We would have gone back for seconds and thirds if the line wasn’t so imposing. Evidently, we’re not the only ones clamouring for more Mapleton goodness…

Happily for this young gentleman, theres no height requirement to enjoy a double scoop of Mapletons ice cream.

Happily for this young gentleman, there’s no height requirement to enjoy a double scoop of Mapleton’s ice cream.

Lucky for all of us, Mapletons’ line of products (including multiple ice cream flavours, fresh and frozen yogurt and ice cream sandwiches) are available throughout the province. Or go straight to the source – their farm store is replete with its own ice cream parlour. 

Magical afternoon? Check.

Magical afternoon? Check.

The difficulty in even trying to cull together a greatest hits list for the Local Food Fest is indicative of the inclusive nature of both the event and what Taste ? real has been doing so well for so many years.  Which is bringing consumers, producers and community groups together to support and celebrate the regional food movement.  That sense of camaraderie and respect is immediately felt upon arriving and only swells as you begin to wander along the grounds.  This is an event that is the remarkable sum of its parts – and partners.  

About Taste ? Real 

Taste_Real_RGB_Tagline_rs259x92When you see the Taste ? real logo, you know that you are experiencing food grown close to home. We exist to support local businesses and farms and represents a group of people who are �.Passionate about the way local food is grown, prepared, presented and enjoyed, and how real it tastes!  Working together, we are growing one of the most vibrant, local food economies and food tourism destinations in Ontario. Taste ? real puts local food first by making it easy to bring to the table. 

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    2 Responses to From the Ground Up – The Best of the 2015 Local Food Fest

    1. […] experiences. Event of the Year went to the Taste Real Local Food Fest (you can read more about it here). Niagara Culinary Tours took home the Experience of the Year award, while Norfolk County […]

    2. […] “This one’s easy – June’s Local Food Fest, organized by Taste Real.  And I’m not alone, it just took home Culinary Event of the Year at this year’s Ontario Tourism Summit Awards. A beautiful community event that showcases the bounty and the charming grassroots feel of Wellington County. Here’s more on the event.” […]

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