Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conscious Food Festival 2010: A Glimpse

A few weekends ago I attended the first ever Conscious Food Festival in Toronto. It was held at Historic Fort York and it was created to highlight local, sustainable, and therefore more conscious food choices. If you've been reading After the Harvest you probably already know that I fully support this mandate, so attending this event was a no-brainer. I do like to focus on the positive though so that is what I will do in my account of this event, keeping in mind I was only there for a few hours. One thing I will mention is that it would have been great to have a programming schedule in advance of the event to know what to expect.

Upon entering the grassy grounds, I was treated to a lovely bite of bruschetta courtesy of Chef Rodney Bowers. Not only was it tasty and perfectly bite-sized, but it was paired expertly with some Stevie Nicks tunes from Chef Rodney's iPod.

I then sampled some wine from Southbrook Vineyards and went on my way to explore. I quickly spotted the lovely Angela from iYellow Wine Club and decided to have a seat on the lawn for her seminar about "green wine". Ange proceeded to lead us through a tasting of Malivoire's 2008 Chardonnay and 2009 Gamay, of which I enjoyed both, especially the Gamay. It was good to learn a few quick facts about Malivoire, and it definitely makes me want to visit to see Martin Malivoire's sustainably built winery and gravity influenced winemaking process.

My sister and I enjoyed many more food and beverage samples that day, as you will see by the photos below.

I loved the energy from the young food enthusiasts manning the Leslieville Cheese booth and the pretty display and equally lovely gazpacho at the Marben booth.

I always enjoy a nice bite of Fifth Town Cheese and what better to wash it down with than some Waupoos Cider?

My sister enjoyed her first Buddha Dog, complimented by a wild leek aioli.

My favourite wine of the day was the Gewurtztraminer from Ravine Vineyard, a winery I have heard is a must-visit in the Niagara area.

In the end this event left my belly full, my taste buds satisfied and even my ears pleased by the harmonic, humourous stylings of Fine Grind, a travelling acapella group that really added to the event!

I have to be honest and say that based on my glimpse, The Conscious Food Festival has a ways to go before it competes with an event like Feast of Fields, but it is their first year and as I said, I was only there for a few hours. I applaud the organizers for their efforts in the conscious food fight!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Soup

It's tomato season! Tomatoes have always been one of my favourite foods dating back to the days when my 5-year old self enjoyed nothing more than a plate of spaghetti or one of Mom's toasted tomato sandwiches. Yesterday I got together with a friend for a long overdue gab session, and my contribution to the meal was soup, so I settled on heirloom tomatoes!

With no recipe in mind, I decided on the following ingredients for a fresh, summery soup, which could probably be served chilled as well:

Heirloom Tomato Soup
(makes 3 large portions/a blender-full)

  • roughly 8-10 heirloom tomatoes
  • one red pepper
  • one shallot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • roughly 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper

I started by cooking the garlic, onion and shallot in some olive oil. Then I added the red pepper and allowed them to cook until slightly softened. Next I added the tomatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper.

While this colourful mixture was simmering on the stove, I chopped up some fresh cilantro and put it in the blender.

Once it was ready I added everything to the blender and got to liquefying! There were a few close calls as the blender was quite full, but I made it out alive!

The result was a tasty, juicy soup that went perfectly with the warm veggie salad my friend prepared. We sopped up the remains of the soup with some lovely rock salt bread from Harvest Loaf Bakery.

What's fun about this soup is it's colour possibilities -- I used quite a few yellow tomatoes so it resulted in a lovely orange hue, however depending on the varieties you use, it could be red, yellow or orange! If Mr. Cilantro hasn't won you over yet, you could always use basil instead.
This soup is also a great choice if you're making food for your vegan or vegetarian friends!

What are you making with your tomatoes these days? Did you grow any tomatoes yourself this summer? Please share in the comments below :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting four very important women in my life for lunch: my Mother, Aunt, Grandmother and Great Aunt. For this slim-and-trim, health-conscious crowd I chose to make a salad with grilled chicken but I couldn't resist serving fresh bread and some delicious cheese for a treat. We washed it all down with a nice Rose wine generously provided by Mommy Dearest. Dessert was a mixture of lemon and mango sorbet topped with fresh local raspberries and wild blueberries. (Like many of my desserts I've eaten lately this one escaped a photo...I was too busy eating it up! Gotta work on that...)

It was very enjoyable shopping for this lunch and trying to buy as many local ingredients as possible. I got all of the salad goods and the berries from 100% local vendors at The Parkdale Market, the bread from The French Baker (via Herb and Spice) and the centrepiece flowers from another vendor at The Parkdale Market who assured me these flowers were locally grown.

The cheese was not local although it was quite delicious; we noshed on an old Irish favourite, Dubliner, and a tried-and-true crowd pleaser, St. Andre. The chicken was President's Choice "Free From" Chicken, grilled up perfectly on the George Foreman my Great Aunt was kind enough to send my way. Apparently this chicken is free from antibiotics but not necessarily hormones. If only our laws would change and we could raise our chickens ourselves! If you'd like to read more about backyard chickens, click here.

I also made my new favourite salad dressing: Fresh's Green Dressing. I must admit I did add a bit more honey and some plain yogurt to cut the wasabi for some of the sensitive palates in the group, however it still turned out delicious and I definitely didn't see anything wrong with the original recipe!

The sorbets were from Ciao Bella (via Herb and Spice); I liked their coconut sorbet so much I had to try some other flavours!

This was a lovely summer lunch that was a long time coming and I enjoyed giving back to the women in my family. Who are you cooking for this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fresh Obsessed

You may recall my earlier post about a lunch I had at Fresh in Toronto a while back. On my most recent trip I couldn't resist returning to this healthy haven for a quick bite. I was between food samples at the Conscious Food Festival and beers on the patio with friends so I thought it might be a wise idea to fill my belly with something healthy and refreshing. (More on the Conscious Food Festival to come...)

This time my service was quite prompt so I'd like to dispel the myth I created in my prior post that there is often a long wait. Service was friendly although uninformed about how much of their product is local. I do plan on contacting Fresh to find out the answer to that question so I'll keep you updated!

The Tangled Thai salad was calling my name but I wasn't in the mood for a peanut dressing so I opted for my fave, the Green Dressing. On a hot and humid day there was no question about what to drink: Watermelon Lemonade. To say that this beverage was refreshing or thirst quenching would be an understatement. It redefines thirst quenching.

With no future Toronto trip in sight, I opted to drop some cash on the refresh cookbook, and I am so happy I did! I am sure many of these recipes will enhance not only my kitchen repertoire but also my health! Cheers to that :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Return to Gilead

During my recent trip to Toronto I dropped in on my old crew at my former workplace, Gilead Cafe. With a few inspiring changes here and there, Gilead was still the same as I remembered with friendly staff, fresh local food and scrumptious desserts.

I opted for the Nicoise-style salad with smoked whitefish (smoked in house). To wash it down I chose a refreshing Waupoos Cider from The County Cider Company in Prince Edward County. I even have to admit to stealing a few of JK's famous fries from my friend's plate!

I capped off my lunch with a rich, chocolatey peanut butter cup made by Gilead's own amazing Pastry Chef, Dawn Nita. You can check out Dawn's culinary adventures on her blog, Dawnabelle's. It was so great to be back in my old stomping grounds and I look forward to my next trip back!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Real Scoop of Espresso at Ed's

My little trip to Toronto last week was fun as always and also included some delicious flavours! One such flavour experience was the always tasty and all natural ice cream of Ed's Real Scoop. I was familiar with the Ed's in my old neighbourhood next to the Beaches, but didn't realize that Leslieville also had a store.

This place is probably the closest ice cream shop to a Ben & Jerry's here in Canada (that I know of, anyhow), with its all natural ice cream and gelato, peace and love messages and friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere.

After eyeing all of the amazing choices, I settled in on the Mercury Espresso ice cream. I've always been a fan of coffee flavoured ice cream, and knowing they used coffee beans from the local* Mercury Espresso Bar across the street made it an even easier choice. I enjoyed this delicious dessert on the bench outside the shop with a few fabulous family members and many cute neighbourhood dogs waiting patiently for their owners on a humid summer night.

*The Mercury Espresso House blend is roasted in Montreal

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Community Garden Photos

I recently visited a community garden in my neighbourhood and I was so inspired! I left the garden with a handful of herbs and some veggies and fruit, as well as a new found hope for more change in our food systems. I would love to see a day where everyone is growing at least some of their own food, whether it be on a balcony, in a backyard or on a large plot of land like this one. I'll let the photos I took tell the rest of the story. Enjoy!