Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Garlic Festival 2011: 'If they don't like the smell they're not good people''

Last weekend I spent an aromatic Saturday at the 5th annual Stratford Garlic Festival, one of the definite highlights on our city's culinary calendar.

Along with learning about garlic and all of its fabled history and wondrous medicinal properties, I had a mission: to search among the festival's 100+ vendors to find the craziest thing anyone there had made using garlic!

Local organic garlic farmer and festival founder Warren Ham of August's Harvest farm (that's not him above but that guy definitely shares his spirit) started the day off by presenting an interesting overview of the history of Allium Sativum, which originated in Kazakhstan and migrated to pretty much every great food culture throughout the world (trivia tidbit: people in Korea on average eat 50 lbs. of garlic per year, compared to 3 lbs. in Canada!). When a member of the audience expressed a desire to enjoy the flavour and health benefits of "the stinking rose" but not its aromatic properties, Farmer Ham set her straight, "If people don't like the smell of garlic, they're not good people."

Well, this festival was full of good people seeking to enjoy garlic in all its forms (including this family above, who were sharing their homemade bruschetta mix). And when I say 'all' its forms, I mean 'all' its forms... there were definitely some creative uses of this poignant ingredient as vendors pushed the envelope of what can be done with garlic. Let my mission begin!

I spent some time helping out Shawn Hartwell of Simple. Fish and Chips who was serving up his always-popular lobster rolls with garlic butter (the same filling I'd overindulged in for the "Me versus the Mammoth Lobster Sandwich" blog post last year) along with the Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup he was serving back at the Soup's On fundraiser in December (he used 20 lbs of garlic to make this batch, and assured people "It'll definitely keep the vampires away... and anyone you don't like").

Paul Finkelstein and this year's students from his Stratford Northwestern high school Culinary Arts program (aka the Screaming Avocado crew) were vending bruschetta and local goat's cheese to raise funds for their upcoming food adventure to Cuba (look for a blog post in November - I'm tagging along on that one!).

But let's move on to the whackier creations. The vendors at Jenny's Peanut Brittle were serving their crackin' Garlic Peanut Brittle (originally created for the Garlic Festival, but so good it's available all the time at Jenn & Larry's Brittle & Shakes on York St.).

For lunch I had the Garlic Fries with Cheese and Pickle being served by a Mennonite couple. I actually loved the tempura-style deep fried battered garlic, which was crispy on the outside but had a melt-in-your-mouth cooked garlic centre. 

This dude definitely won the award for best hat.

Nudge-Nudge Here's The Fudge were selling bars and squares of their sweet-and-savoury Roasted Garlic Fudge.

These gents were in the festive spirit as they handed out Garlic Shooters (minced garlic with soda water and lemon juice). I slammed one back and was instantly cured of all potential ailments for at least a year.

But the winner of this year's Craziest Garlic Creation was actually the trophy being proudly held by my son Fisher (above). It's not Garlic Ice Cream (but that was there too!). It's Garlic-Egg-Salad-In-A-Cone, which was being scooped up by the Egg Farmers!

These Folks Got Some Junk In the Trunk
I had a great day at the Garlic Festival, and went home with a pound of Siberian Garlic - some to eat but I'll save some cloves to grow myself! This year's expanded two day event was bigger and better - and stinkier - than ever!


  1. I bought some garlic from Big Ass Garlic when I was up in Baysville. It has been great. I heard that the Stratford Garlic Festival is one of the best. Certainly happening at a better time than the Perth or Carp Garlic Festivals in August. Nice to let the garlics have that extra monthly to mature and properly cure. Awesome post!

  2. Thanks for the comment OoORF! Nothing better than stocking up on the good stuff - I've been adding garlic to almost everything I've cooked since the festival! I think you're right, the extra time for curing is important - although garlic is harvested in July/Early August that doesn't mean it's ready to be used immediately!