You might not expect the dead of Ontario winter to be a boon season for Slow Food Perth County, but this past weekend we were all over the place connecting our community with 'Good, Clean and Fair' food! In the process, we were spreading the word that the winter edition of the Slow Food Sunday Market was moving from its cozy home in the historic cellar at Anything Grows to a new venue - the soon-to-be-site of the Stratford Brewing Company!
To kick things off on Friday night the Slow Food Sunday Market sponsored the culinary showpiece at the high-profile Mayor's Gala - an oyster bar featuring sustainable seafood from one of our most treasured market vendors, Shawn Hartwell of Simple Fish Company (above, thanks to Stratford photographer Irene Miller for the great photo from the event). As many of you know from reading Shawn's recent heartfelt blog post, Simple's restaurant/fish market has had to close its doors due to [can I just say tragic] business woes. But you can't keep a good man down, and Shawn will continue to provide our community with Oceanwise approved fish and seafood this winter via his iconic stand at the Slow Food Sunday Market.
Saturday saw Shawn and others from the Slow Food family (that's Mark Lass on right) serving up a truly gorgeous 'Cream of OMG Mushroom Soup' at the legendary tradition known as Soup's On. This fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Society is one of my all-time favourite annual events on the Stratford culinary calendar. Immediately, the Slow Food Market station was swarmed by a soup-loving mob, who unbelievably plowed through 35 litres of soup in less than an hour!
As the saying goes... this wasn't my first rodeo, folks. I strategically brought along a muffin tin that could accommodate twelve of the most delicious and creative soups on offer at this massive food event! Honestly, is there anything better than attending a soup-making contest in the middle of winter?
Yes - WINNING a soup contest in the middle of winter! That's right, even though we were out of soup for two thirds of the event, Shawn's incredibly decadent creation (featuring locally-grown Shiitake 'shrooms from Weth Mushroom farm in Goderich) took home the coveted "People's Choice" award!
After a bit of a [linguistically apt but spiritually painful] "slow" indoor start following our triumphant outdoor season in downtown's Market Square, the Slow Food Market Committee made it our mission to get the word out about the winter market, especially its new 2012 location. We spent Friday and Saturday telling everyone within earshot at the Mayor's Gala and Soup's On about our move to the former home of Kalbfleish Motors at the corner of Erie & St. Patrick. But we also employed some mass media tactics, including a radio spot for CJCS/107.7 FM recorded by yours truly! [Is it just me or is the used-car-ad-esque background music kinda perfect for a market being held at a former Chrysler lot?]
When Sunday finally arrived the glass showroom provided a spectacularly bright and highly visible venue for the market.
All our hard work ultimately paid off in the best way possible, with a steady stream of traffic consisting of our faithful market patrons alongside many who were attending the winter market for the very first time. The vibe was ecstatic as folks shopped for beautiful food, chatted over coffee, and enjoyed some music courtesy of our market's resident crooner Antony aka "The Singing Farmer" aka "The Manic Organic" John.
Want to be involved in Slow Food Perth County? Start by coming out to our market and experiencing the "Good, Clean and Fair" vibe for yourself. If you want to get even more involved, please attend our Annual General Meeting at the Screaming Avocado Cafe (the alternative cafeteria located around back of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School on Forman Avenue) at 6 pm on Sunday, January 29. It's open to everyone - members and non-members alike - but make sure you bring along a dish for the potluck... and get your ingredients from the market!