Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Conscious Food Festival Recap

This past weekend, at the Conscious Food Festival, breweries, wineries, restaurants and farms presented their sustainable products.

Under the shade of a large white tent, a cook from the Ancaster Mill was assembling and handing out juicy pulled pork, wrapped in a Boston (but really Toronto!) lettuce leaf, with a few croutons inside. Genius. The croutons provided the crunch required and the lettuce, the freshness. The rate at which I consumed this wrap is exactly proportionate to the number of saucy drips on my white dress. (note to self: no white dresses in the vicinity of local food consumption)

Chef Jeff Crump brought the Ancaster Mill back to life with his locally grown, and seasonal menu. With his experience passion and constant drive to learn, it is no surprise he has been named one of the most influential chefs in Canada.  Chef Crump, along with Ancaster Mill’s pastry chef, Bettina Schorman, have recently ( finally!) opened up The Bread Bar in Hamilton, serving up a golden feast of breads from around the world, made with Canadian ingredients ( Red Fife woot!)

I ate my wrap, one handed, tilting forward to avoid more drips, holding in my left hand a small cup of Mill Street Tankhouse Ale. Brewed right in Toronto, the Tankhouse ale cannot get any more local. Their new Lemon Tea Beer is surprisingly fantastic: it tastes like real brewed tea ( not that sickly canned stuff) with a little aftertaste tang of beer.

Next, I sauntered on over to visit the Harrison family, dishing out pork sausages for Cowbell. Handing my ticket to the assertive 8 year old, I was promptly handed a pork sausage in a soft brioche bun. Loading it up with their homemade sauerkraut and homemade mustard (Fact: Canadian mustard seeds are so great that we export to Dijon. Take that, Dijon mustard!). To be honest, my first bite was a bit strange. The flavour was there: fennel and caraway seed and and perfectly acidic sauerkraut, but the texture seemed…different. I was assured that the texture was what it was meant to be. The sausage was made in a ‘traditional’  way, the filling made up of ground pork and intestine. ( I should have asked: who’s tradition?) I decided I did not like this tradition.

Nevertheless, Cowbell is awesome for supporting locally grown and raised products. On Sunday, August 29th , Chef Mark Cutrara will create a five course menu with products from Dingo Farms and paired with wine from Fielding Estates. Along with the pork, Chef Cutrara will also be featuring the farm’s beef and lamb. All of their meat is fed non-GMO grains and silage, dry hay and pasture (depending on the season).

Finishing my last bite, and requiring a non-meat intermezzo, I arrived to Rodney Bowers tent. “Chef Bowers” sounds too serious for Rodney, who is rosy-cheeked and shakin’ it to “Walking on Sunshine” behind crates of yellow cherry tomatoes and purple and red-splashed heirloom tomatoes.  All chefs should adore their products as much as Rodney does.  First teasing me with a yellow cherry tomato- firm and juicy and perfectly ripe- Chef Rodney prepared some bruschetta. After slicing five different types of tomatoes, and ripping up a big handful of basil, Rodney tosses them gently in his left hand, as he pours in olive oil and then a light balsamic with his right. On his wooden cutting board, he piles bruschetta on top of a garlic-rubbed crostini, finishing it with a drizzle of olive oil and a confident pinch of salt. I eat it in three bites. More stains on dress.

By this time, I am gitty, beer-infused and almost full. If I were not allergic, now would be a perfect time for Auld Spot’s oysters: Freshly shucked, plump and juicy. 

Instead, I visited Chef Tawfik Shehata, who although smiling, still intimidates me a bit. His intense eyes and furrowed brow oozes passion. At Vertical, he is no-nonsense and runs a tight ship to ensure that all the food is up to his standards. When using beautiful ingredients, the chef’s job is to highlight them, honor them by creating something beautiful. And that’s what Chef Tawfik does.

In a Poplar paper basket, with a Poplar fork, I tried Chef Tawfik’s Ontario tomatoes, oven-dried and sweet, a bit chewy and not at all bitter. Chef Rodney came over to visit us, and to try a sample himself. After gushing over the tomatoes, Rodney moved aside to let some shy foodies try Tawfik’s food. When the chefs weren’t visiting each other’s tents and exchanging food, they were promoting each other. The sense of community and camaraderie made me warm inside...the beer and humidity also helped.

By the time I left, I had forgotten that this festival was the Conscious Food Festival. It wasn’t “eat this because it is local” it was “ here, try this, I grew it and it’s fucking delicious”.

Sun-blushed and delirious with satisfaction, I strolled to work, stopping to buy some Ontario peaches, for my dessert special: Ontario Peach and Crystallized Ginger Caramel cake

Below is a list of every place mentioned, in the order it was mentioned:

The Ancaster Mill
548 Old Dundas Road
Ancaster, Ontario
905 522 2999

The Bread Bar
258 Locke Street
Hamilton, Ontario
905 648 1828

Mill Street Brewery
55 Mill Street
Toronto, Ontario
416 681-0338

1564 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario
416 849-1095

Dingo Farms
Dennis and Denise Harrison
Bradford, Ontario
905 775-5520

Fielding Estate Winery
4020 Locust Lane
Beamsville, Ontario
905 563-0668

The Auld Spot 
347 Danforth Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario
416 406-4688

633 College Street
Toronto, Ontario
416 645-0285

First Canadian Place
100 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario
416 214-2252


  1. Oh my, your poor dress!
    When I was working at the Olde Stone in Peterborough, the brewmaster was working on a 'local' beer, made with hand picked hops from a town just outside of Madoc, and locally grown (like, an hour away) Red Fife wheat, that we actually ground in the kitchen! Did you know that Red Fife wheat was originally developed in Peterborough? Now you do!

  2. Great post! I’m looking to make some changes in my own eating habits and learning to cook, so I appreciate your insight a lot! Thank you. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I did yours and I thought your readers may appreciate it: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/food-for-thought/

    I’ve started to look for their stuff more regularly and I think I’m going to add your blog to my list as well. Thanks for the post!


  3. I love The Conscious Food Festival Recap , these ones look fabulous. I would give it to my good good friend as a going away gift. She would love it!

    Gourmet Free


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