Monday, September 14, 2009

Feasting in a Field

This weekend I attended Feast of Fields -- a fabulous organic food event that paired farmers and chefs together to create scrumptious culinary delights and to promote conscious food choices. This event was run by Canadian Organic Growers (Ottawa Chapter) and it is in its 5th consecutive year under the COG organization.

After picking up my media kit, I quickly joined the line and grabbed a tray. Feast of Fields really won me over at the get-go. With its vintage grab-bag of dishes and kitschy mugs, this event showed its commitment to the environment.

I quickly squirmed through the throngs of hungry attendees and started filling up my first plate. First things first, I picked up my wine sample from Savvy Company, I settled on Huff Estates Off-Dry Riesling.

Although the wine was good, the sample did not even seem to measure one ounce in volume.
On round one I savoured:

  • extremely tasty white bean mousse in a grilled pastry cone -- white kidney beans, lemon juice, olive oil, basil and garlic -- served by Chef Roger (in his awesome tie-dye chefs coat) from Ballygilbin's Restaurant and Pub

  • comforting grilled beans, eggplant and butternut squash from The Green Door, veggies from Waratah Downs Certified Organic Farm
  • decadent grilled summer tomato crostini -- rich tasting tomatoes topped with microgreens on a large, grilled crostini of tasty bread -- from Domus Cafe, veggies from Butterfly Sky Farms

  • rich and tasty goose terrine topped with pickled beets, beet chips and edible flowers from Mariposa Farms, who do it all from growing and raising to cooking and serving
  • light and healthy grilled vegetable feta and couscous salad (in a cute little boat!) from Thyme and Again Catering, veggies from Ashton Naturals

  • While I enjoyed my first feast of the day, I was treated not only to the jazzy sounds of local Latin/Afro-Cuban jazz band, Mango Upstart; but also to the green view all around: Vincent Massey Park in all its tree-lined glory.

    Round two started with a mug full of Beau's Lug-Tread Lagered Ale, served up from a portable tap by Steve Beauschene himself.

    Beau's All Natural Brewing Company just received official certified organic status. The beer was quite refreshing, and they have the cutest retro branding. The bottle alone is marketing genius in both its design and reusability. To accompany my beer, I snacked on:

    • creamy heirloom potato and leek soup (consumed pre-photo) and arctic char bruschetta from The Red Apron, veggies from Sweet Meadow Farms
    • tasty and refreshing chilled heirloom tomato soup with tomatillo crostini from Joe Simpson (at 15 years of age, the youngest chef there!) and his farmer friend AJ Shewchuk of AJ's Tomatoes. These kids and their commitment to organic food and cooking were almost more refreshing than their chilled soup! My photo of these two didn't come out, but you should have seen their proud faces!
    • bite sized and warming Orca bean veggie quesadillas from The Urban Element, ingredients from Greta's Organic Gardens
    • hearty mushroom chile with cornbread from Wellington GastroPub, mushrooms from Champignons Le Coprin (featured in my earlier post on Ottawa's Farmers' Market)

    • organic chicken and summer corn chowder with wholesome bread from Whalesbone Catering and True Loaf Bread Company
    • anti-asthma chicken stew with turnip and turmeric from The Holistic Cooking Academy who partnered with Glorious Greens (formerly Ray & Gerries)

    Turns out this event was originally started in the late 80s by Chefs Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander. During my time working for JK, I witnessed first hand that his commitment to local food, organics and naturally raised meats has not waned over the years. Feast of Fields is now in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver and I don't foresee the passion for this event dying out anytime soon. My advice to those who attend next year would be to join the ravenous ranks and arrive early, grab your food as soon as you can, and take advantage of the inspiring farmers, chefs and educators there who can inform you about more sustainable food choices and organic-focused restaurants in Ottawa. Many farmer/chef teams had beautiful displays and even more attractive attitudes -- happy to tell you what you were about to eat and introduce you to the man or woman who grew the ingredients or raised the meat. What an immediately gratifying experience it is to see farmers and chefs, side by side, sharing their passion for fresh, organic, local ingredients.

    Feast of Fields is also a great way to get to know the "Who's Who" of the Ottawa food scene, especially if you're a recent import like me.

    I wasn't able to make it to every table but I fully enjoyed what I did get to sample. After my second feast, I had to go back for dessert, so I picked up a chocolate mint cookie from a cute cookie guy in a cute cookie truck, B. Goods Mobile Bakery. To accompany my cookie I got some "After Dinner Soother" tea from Porcupine Creek Farm, where they grow certified organic medicinal herbs. Check out that cookie apron!

    After all my feasting was through, I enjoyed chatting with some of the inspiring folks involved in the event. Emily from Beyond Factory Farming shared her passion for conscious food choices -- her buttons reading "Think,Eat,Act" were eye-catching, but her clear commitment to the cause was what made me want to learn more. Torry from Growing Up Organic indulged me in a long chat about her project, a youth-oriented program focusing on organic farming and food culture. This exciting, healthy project is part of many things Canadian Organic Growers is doing. Torry was there with the aforementioned teen farmer/chef team: Joe and A.J. Just seeing these kids in action made me want to help out with the project. Stay tuned for a possible post on Growing Up Organic in the future.

    I left with new buttons for my bag, a full stomach and a smile on my face. Sure, the food was great but the scene made the most impact. The vibe of the event with farmers and chefs together, young people sharing their excitement and families picnicking was enough to make me plan my return for next year. Summer's almost gone, why don't you go feast in a field yourself? Grab a picnic and get lost in some nature-- you won't regret it.


    1. WOW what a fantastic account of that yummy looking festival - you're so lucky to have experienced that. Gotta find one in my neck of the woods...

    2. Glad you enjoyed it! I believe the Toronto Feast of Fields is held at the Kortwright Centre which isn't too far away...but I will research local food events in KW for you and let you know! At least you have Oktoberfest :)