September is a month of mixed feelings for me. It marks a sad farewell to summer, but it’s also the time of greatest abundance as fruits and vegetables are harvested. And for serious foodies or even those who just like to sample the season’s bounty, Feast of Fields is another good reason to celebrate September’s arrival.
More than 20 years ago, a group of chefs created Knives & Forks, later renamed Organic Advocates, a non-profit association supporting organic food awareness and sustainability.
Led by such culinary luminaries as Jamie Kennedy, Michael Stadtlander and Daniel Gilbert, they recognized that forging links with farmers and producers is the first step to creating a strong, healthy food chain. So they created the first Feast of the Fields, bringing chefs, farmers and the public together in a glorious open-air venue.
Since that first year, the event has blossomed. Gilbert, chef/owner of Daniel’s of Nobleton, now runs the annual event, a showcase of locally grown and locally produced organic food, along with the people who produce it and the chefs who cook with it.
“It’s all about farming and eating local and doing good things for the environment,” Gilbert enthuses. “We bring city people out to the country to meet the people who produce the food we eat.”
Over the years, he adds, Feast has evolved. In the beginning, while the chefs used produce from the farmers to create the dishes they served, it wasn’t available for sale.
“Our supporters wanted to buy produce as well, so we added a farmer’s and artisan market,” explains Gilbert. “Guests like to come early, so they can buy fresh, organic food to take back to their own kitchens.”
As a bonus this year, Bernardin’s in-house chef, Emerie Brine, will offer tips on preserving nature’s bounty when you get home. It’s an opportunity to learn from an expert.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with celebrity chefs like Brad Long (chef/owner of My Place Pub and host of the Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover); TV’s Chef at Large, Michael Smith; and Wanda Beaver of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, to name just a few. Participating chefs will offer tastings created with locally grown, organic ingredients. And these will be presented on vegetable leaves, slabs of wood and other innovative, eco-friendly serving options.
Recognizing that food and drink go together, Feast offers plenty of drink tastings. Guests can sip wine from some of Niagara and Prince Edward County’s most exciting wineries. And there will be beers to sample from craft breweries like Niagara’s Best Beer, Creemore Springs and Steam Whistle.
It’s certainly a fabulous day out. Imagine a stroll around Cold Creek Conservation Area — this year’s venue — sipping, nibbling and examining the offerings of artisans and farmers. It simply doesn’t get any better.
This year’s “Feast” took place on Sept. 12, from 1 to 5 p.m., at Cold Creek Conservation Area (on 11th Concession, about 3.5 km north of King Road). All guests will receive a complimentary 21st anniversary recipe cookbook with Mary Scattergood’s beautiful cover art. Inside is each chef’s favourite recipe. www.feastoffields.org and or by calling 905-859-3609. With dozens of stations to visit and explore, give yourself ample time to enjoy a wonderful afternoon. What a great way to bid adieu to summer!
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