Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Honey, what's that smell? Stratford Garlic Festival 2010

On Saturday, September 18th, it was Lisa and my sixth wedding anniversary. I misinformed her that the first anniversary gift is supposed to be paper, the second cotton, the third leather, the fourth fruit and flowers, the fifth wood and the sixth... garlic. OK, it's actually candy. But I changed it, since our anniversary happened to correspond with the day of the fourth annual Stratford Garlic Festival, the long-awaited kickoff of the 2010 Savour Stratford Culinary Week!
It was my first time attending Stratford's pungent annual celebration of this legendary ingredient found in good food from all around the world. I have to say I was seriously impressed! My kind of scene is a place where everyone is having fun with, learning about, and most of all eating all kinds of wonderful and delicious food, and this event included all of the above. 
Warren Ham of August's Harvest farm outside of Stratford (above) is the founder of the event, which this year boasted about 60 vendors and attracted thousands of garlic lovers from all over the place. Farmer Ham's August's Harvest booth was pumping out about a dozen different kinds of garlic all day - the success of his festival as the province's premiere garlic celebration parallels his farm's prestige as one of the most successful cultivators of organic garlic and garlic seed in Ontario.

Garlic is often assumed to be something that keeps people apart. But on Saturday at the Old Stratford Fairgrounds it brought a whole lot of food lovin' folks together. When I asked Warren Ham what it was about garlic that he loved so much, he responded without hesitation, "It just seems to attract a whole lot of weird people." No wonder I felt so at home... or maybe it was because for the first time I knew I didn't have to be concerned about having garlic breath (since everyone else had it too!).

There were garlic braids (see video above). Garlic cheese. Garlic olives. Garlic shrimp. Garlic sausages. And garlic pickled eggs... I got a jar for Lisa in honour of our anniversary.

Which she loved... is it any wonder why I adore her?

Actually, I was also able to fulfill the "candy" sixth anniversary gift after all! There was garlic peanut brittle on offer, as well as garlic fudge!

I bought a mixed bagful of interesting garlic bulbs of various sizes, colours and intensities.
I also grabbed what might  just be a lifetime supple of  garlic seed... I'm going to take the advice I received at garlic gardening expert Sonja  Day's learning session and plant my seeds this fall for next year's summer harvest.

Returning home with my pockets full of magical garlic, I was inspired to make us a special garlic-themed dish for our anniversary (that's on top of the pickled eggs, folks - I know how to treat my lady). A friend of mine sent me a link to a recipe for what might be the most hardcore - but seriously lovely, I'm not kidding! - garlic dish on the planet. Food Blog par extraordinaire Smitten Kitchen's version of a Hungarian classic known as "44-Clove Garlic Soup" produces four bowls of soup. That's 11 cloves of galic per bowl. Instead of roasting 26 cloves of garlic as directed, I took a hint from Bijou's Chef Aaron Linley's upcoming Savour Stratford Festival's  Sunday York Street Tasting Tent dish (created in collaboration with none other than Warren Ham's August's Harvest farm) and made a few bulbs of garlic confit. I simmered the garlic in the fat I collected last week from the Erbcroft Farm duck I'd cooked. Instead of chicken broth, I also made duck broth from the aforementioned duck's bones etc.
All I have to say is you would never expect eating 11 cloves of garlic in a single dish could be so utterly enjoyable! Maybe I can do a cooking demonstration for next year's Garlic Fest!

I hereby encourage everyone to join the movement to change the 6th wedding anniversary from the Candy Anniversary to the Garlic Anniversary... especially when it falls on the same day as the Stratford Garlic Festival!

1 comment:

  1. It was a great festival, wasn't it? We've ended up with more garlic than we know where to plant, but that's okay. We'll squeeeze it in there somewhere.

    (Hint: nice meeting you on the tour the next day!)