Monday, 28 April 2014

The Curious Nibbler Goes To The Food Show

Who doesn't love a food show? For me, it brings back great memories of sampling my way through the food building at the Canadian National Exhibition when I was a kid. I'm fairly certain I first tasted oka cheese there. Perhaps I've always been a foodie. The Savour The Flavours Show held this past weekend at Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club was the perfect event for a curious nibbler like me.

Tangle Creek is a lovely setting. I had been there once before for an outdoor wedding a few years ago. It was nice in itself to take a short drive just beyond Barrie's westernmost border into the countryside on a sunny spring day. The show was held inside the clubhouse, which isn't massive, but has a cottagey but modern feel to it, and is situated on a hill with a fantastic bird's eye view of golfers and farmers for miles around.

Techno music pumped from the Smokinstein food truck setting up just outside the front doors. I didn't see any obvious signage proclaiming that a food show was inside, but the food truck and the multitude of vendor vehicles in the parking lot was a dead give-away. Inside, I was greeted by a very friendly young woman at the pass desk. I felt like a genuine V.I.P. when she looked my name up on 'the list' and handed me my swag bag. I could really get used to this!

Mary Macleod's Shortbread booth was my first stop. It's not that I have a big sweet tooth, (I really don't), but anything Scottish related stops me in my tracks every time. Scotland is my birthplace and also the location of a very old inn where I did part of my cook apprenticeship many years ago. So I stopped at Mary's and a well spoken grand daughter, possibly a great grand daughter, gave me a sample of their chocolate shortbread, and explained how their business got started. The verdict: melts in your mouth!

I took a look at various vendors, but some more than others grabbed my attention, so I would stop for a chat. I tarried at SeriTeas because I'm a tea drinker ... or so I thought. Apparently, I don't know as much as I thought I did about brewing teas. No wonder I don't like green tea, (too bitter in my past experience), as it seems the boiled water must cool a few degrees before steeping the leaves. Oh.

Cottage Country Vegan; ah what can I say about Carolyn Allgeier? What a lovely soul, full of knowledge and warmth, passion and dedication. At least that's what I took away from our short interaction at her booth. Being a quasi vegetarian myself, or a vegan with training wheels as she so smartly put it, I was a sponge for those few minutes soaking up the information she offered. Some day, I must sign up for one of her all day culinary classes held in the kitchen of her house on Georgian Bay.

Hello, kilted gentleman! I'm so glad that no one walked into my back as I stopped dead in my tracks at the booth belonging to the aptly named Highlander Brew Co. Very soon, I knew that the kiltie was a Wilson of Glasgow descent, the tartan he was wearing was the Canada tartan, and that Highlander Brew Co. produces several varieties out of their South River, Ontario brewery. I'm going to check the LCBO this summer for these inspired names: Blacksmith Smoked Porter, Scottish Ale and Twisted Spruce. No, I did not buy a sample ticket. Some of us Scots are as notoriously frugal as they say!

Harvest Share Food box caught my eye too. Based out of the Holland Marsh, where I grew up, the Verkaik family has been farming in the south end of the marsh for 80 years. They have branched out from simple market gardening to selling seasonal produce in boxes that customers sign up for in advance. The contents vary as the growing years evolves. We had a great gab about everything from heirloom carrots to mutual Holland Marsh friends and family.

During my childhood playing in those swampy woods, I had only noticed in passing the dark growths of fungus on birch trees and never thought of it again. At Annanda Chaga's informative booth, I received a mini education on the healing properties, long known to aboriginal people, of the chaga mushroom. The black chaga, relative to shiitaki mushrooms, forms over injuries to the tree and forms a 'bandage'. It saves the tree, yet lives from the tree. I sampled a mild tea that is known to detox, de-stress, fight disease and add vitamins.

Suprsingly, especially to me, my most memorable and moving conversation of the day was perhaps with Steve Benson of The Restaurant Store of Barrie. Food service supplies don't exactly jump out and grab me. I work with them every day. But Steve was very warm and friendly, a born salesman of course. He told me about their free knife sharpening service, among other things, and told me that they happily accept donations for the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children at any time too. Steve explained that this charity is near to his heart ever since a fellow motorcycle enthusiastic who was suffering from pancreatic cancer once said to him "Yes, my children already go there." In the end, I left with a supply catalogue and goosebumps on my arms.

When I left the food show, I found that I had eaten a lot less than I had imagined. It wasn't for the lack of yummy samples - there were plenty! Somehow I exited feeling filled up anyway. The tasty tidbits are a great draw of course, but I found that the interesting people were the biggest treat of all.

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