Sunday, July 24, 2011

Herbfest 2011

Today we went to the 16th Annual Herbfest on Old Almonte Road.  We have never gone before, but being it's 16th year must explain why they have this thing down to a science.  It was very well organized and everything ran smoothly.  Even the weather was cooperative.

There was a Chef Cook-Off between Executive Chef Cesare Santaguida of Vittoria Trattoraia, Executive Chef Brian Vallipuram of The Lord Elgin Hotel and Executive Chef Neil Mather of Graffiti's Italian Eatery and Saloon.  The recipes had to include the special herb of the year, Horseradish.  Some of the recipes can be found here .  I got to taste the dish with the salmon and scallops, and understand why Chef Brian won the contest today.  It was marvelous!

Under the same tent, after the chefs were finished, Vanessa  Simmons guided us on the Great Ontario Cheese Discovery.  We were given a plate with 5 artisan cheeses on it, and we worked our way through these, one by one, as she told us about each of them and the proper way to taste cheese. 

Pictured here are the 5 cheeses, starting with the fresh Chevre from Claremell Farms in Manotick. (at the top) I've never been fond of goat cheese, but I rather liked this stuff.
The second (going clockwise) was also a goat cheese, and the third (the greasy looking one) was made of sheep's milk. I can say that I discovered I like goat milk cheese better than sheep milk cheese.
The fourth cheese was made of cows milk, and is called Lakaaster. It's somewhat like cheddar in flavour, but not quite the same. It comes from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster. This was my favourite of the five and I'll be wanting to buy some of that for sure. The 5th one remained on my plate, after just a tiny nibble. It was also a cow's milk cheese, so I did expect to like it.  Apparently I wasn't the only one that didn't care for that one as others sitting near me didn't eat it either. I guess my palette is not sophisticated enough to handle that yet. It's unfortunate that it was the last one, and I'm just glad I had a mint in my purse!
There were also numerous vendor stalls to browse through.  There were plants for sale, and houses for birds, bats, butterflies and bees. You could get your fortune told, or get a massage. There, were, of course, a lot with food related items, and I came home with a package of tortilla soup mix that I just have to add crushed tomatoes and water to. There was even a lady selling mixes for totally gluten free bread.

The most fascinating thing I saw were phone books that had been impregnated with mushroom spores, so you could grow your own mushroom farm. Unfortunately I'm the only one here who likes mushrooms and I was afraid it would produce too many for me to consume alone. I suggested they find some smaller growing medium for people like me.  I would have enjoyed just watching it grow, but I left it there.  The ones in the photo are pink oyster mushrooms. Pretty eh.

Then came the fairies.  Folk dancers worked their way through the rows of vendors stalls.  Occasionally a child would join them.  Too bad others didn't fall into line too. It could have been quite the sight!

Elsewhere there were food stalls and music to be enjoyed.  You could also visit the gardens, the greenhouse, and some other vendors in the Century Barn.  One of the gardens was even a small maze that you could walk through.  There was lots to see, and it was certainly an enjoyable way to spend the day.

While we did a lot of sampling at Herbfest we didn't actually eat until we were on the way home. We stopped at The Old Mill in Ashton.  This was also a new experience for us.  The building is old, as indicated in it's name, but it's nice to see they have found a way to use it.  It was quiet when we first went in, but it got much busier as time went on. The riverbed was pretty dry today, so I may have to go back there again sometime, if I want to enjoy the view.

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