A Chef's Retreat
by Joanna Sable | June 27, 2016
There are days in your life that are just simply wonderful, days that come right out of a food magazine. This was my day when I was invited by Canola Eat Well to join a group of chefs and farmers for a tour through Southern Ontario farms and foods. We met in Liberty Village and went for a ride to Andrew’s Scenic Acres. This was no ordinary bus ride; it was an education in Canola farming and the product itself. I have always loved the story of Canola and the marketing genius behind it. Keep in mind, Canada Oil got its name because Rapeseed just doesn’t have a great ring to it.
We arrived at Andrew’s Scenic Acres and met Mr. Andrew himself. There was then a discussion about Ontario farmland and how there is now preservation by the government so that cookie cutter housing developments can no longer swallow up every bit of land in their wake. We were soon invited to pick our own rhubarb and with knives in hand, multiple chef participants had a competition to out-pick one another with none of us thinking we would have to create stuff with all of this bounty. Being a group of chefs, we spotted just ahead of the rhubarb an almost finished plot of asparagus and, once again, we went to see who could grab the most of the last remaining stalks. We were being gifted a goodly amount of asparagus so this was pretty amusing.
As we were picking, I spied a lady bringing frozen yogurt, with fresh rhubarb and last year’s frozen strawberries, to a group of school children and I knew this would be my breakfast.
Back onto the bus we went for a quick jaunt to Harvest Goodies and as the bus rounded the corner, Matt Basile appeared with his super smoking and custom bbq rig; this was guaranteed to be a very good time. Next, I spied Marian of Branding & Buzzing placing the finishing touches on the most stunning harvest table set with cloth napkins, wild flowers and wine glasses. This was right out of my dreams on the most perfect sunny, warm day with an added hint of a gentle breeze. Matt and his team were handing out the best-chilled Estrella Damn beers and wicked fresh ceviche and guacamole nachos. We were invited to sit down at the trestle table that I saw was lined with butcher paper. Once again, Matt and his crew were working away, laying out the feast of all feasts.
We dug into smoked carolina ribs, pink smoked lamb, grilled asparagus loaded with oodles of other colourful veggies and, my personal favourite, a shaved asparagus salad. I am going to make this one at home while our beautiful asparagus is in season.
Harvest Goodies is a beautiful farm and they make wonderful jarred gourmet products like Garlic Scape Mustard, Hot Apple Salsa and Maple Berry Vinaigrette.
The day wrapped up with a beautiful fruit wine tasting by Scotch Block Winery and then we were back on the bus, loaded with Canola Oil, asparagus and gourmet goodies.
The next day, I had been leaving for Europe but that did not stop me from pickling my asparagus with dried oregano and chilis. Do give canning a try as it is a ton of fun and super easy. The best part is that, in the dull winter months, you can open a jar of Ontario summer sunshine.