What happened at the Feast On Rural Retreat in Norfolk County | Ontario Culinary
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What happened at the Feast On Rural Retreat in Norfolk County

If you happened to catch all the fire pit action on our Instagram feed last week, you might be wondering what that was all about. It was the 2018 Feast On Rural Retreat in Norfolk County!

Every year, following the Terroir Symposium, speakers, media and sponsors take to the road to explore the rural parts of our province. This year, we went south to Burning Kiln Winery for an impressive field party celebrating the bounty of Norfolk County, sometimes called Ontario’s Garden — with good reason.

It’s a chance for those involved with annual Symposium to create lasting relationships and get exposed to the people and places that grow our food. This year, celebrated minds like Elena Arzak, Isabel Soares and Fiona Richmond took to the field to chat Ontario food.


So what went down at this exclusive field party?

Guests were welcomed with bubbles courtesy of Burning Kiln Winery and lovely comments from representatives of Ontario’s Southwest, Norfolk County and winemaker, Lydia Tomek, on the shores of Lake Erie.

With a glass in hand, folks were ushered into the vineyard where 20 Feast On Chefs were cooking over open fires, charcoal and spits (not an outlet in sight!) for the hungry crowd. Everything from the 60-day whiskey aged beef to the sprouted buckwheat was grown in Ontario’s South West — and the people behind the products were their to join in the fun.

Nick Benninger (Taco Farm) and Benjamin LeBlanc (Iron Kettle B&B) worked to create a spin on the classic PB & J using Norfolk peanuts, frozen summer blueberries and of course, Ontario apples. It was served with “Boyscout Bannock” cooked on a wooden pole over an open fire.

Ricky Casipe & Olivia Simpson and David Sider (Redstone Winery) got creative with fireside popping corn. The team let the product speak for itself and served popcorn straight up with a variety of spice blends:

  • 12 spice blend, representing 12 years of Terroir and all the regions of Ontario
  • Candied beet and espalette
  • Spicy kimchi

There were some innovative takes on the ingredient as well! The team from Redstone Winery whipped up a sweet potato pie with maple bacon popcorn and coal-roasted apple with popcorn creme anglaise.

Meanwhile, Heather Pond of  The Blue Elephant and Mark Jones, who came all the way from Calabogie Peaks for the occasion, slow roasted a beautiful, monstrous side of beef.

Along with the Van Groningen brothers, this team really hit this one out of the park! Using 60 day whiskey-aged beef from VG Meats (pictured above), we were treated to delicious fajitas with all the trimmings. A lucky few also got to enjoy the bones!

Norfolk County natives Scott McCrae (David’s Restaurant) and Brad Long of Cafe Belong are no strangers to Wooley’s Lamb. They prepared brined and fire-roasted Wooley’s lamb leg brushed with rosemary butter and served it on a bed of maple bean cassoulet.

On the seafood front, Jason Bangerter of  Langdon Hall paired up with Kevin McKenna of South Pond Farms to create a beautiful foraged appetizer with butter poached Ontario shrimp, raised in Aylmer by the folks at Planet Shrimp.

Over at the next fire pit, chefs John Crowley of Erie Beach Hotel and Peter Stewart of Bistro ’67 were schooling the group on that famous Lake Erie Perch.

The freshly caught fish was paired with local sweet potato latkes and braised Norfolk cabbages. The whole dish was topped with a local blueberry reduction and coriander micro greens from Durham College. Taste of place is on point with this dish!]

Norfolk’s celebrated YU Ranch Longhorn Beef was also on offer thanks to the culinary wizardry of Ryan Rivard of The Combine and Daniel & Marie Holloway of Urban Acorn Catering.

The YU Ranch team cooked over a hot pot for the majority of the day to serve up a locally inspired Hungarian favourite: goulash. Made with grass-fed Texas Longhorn Beef and The Combine ‘352’ smoked paprika, this comfort food kept our guests feeling warm and cozy.

No harm, no fowl if you’re not into that famous Norfolk County beef though because chefs Eric Boyar of Six Thirty Nine and Ryan Crawford of Backhouse were there working with King Cole Ducks.

This team rocked the duck two-ways dish! This versatile protein was served with local black oyster mushrooms and Oak Manor grits made with Jensen Cheese’s 5-year old cheddar. It featured delicious rotisserie King Cole duck and confit duck leg. We’re not drooling, you’re drooling.

For dessert, chefs Cynthia Peters of From The Farm Cooking School and Rami Tarabichi of Paintbox Bistro got creative with cold-stored, locally grown sweet potatoes.

Using their fire to its full capacity, this team made roasted sweet potato doughnuts. Some were stuffed with local caramelized apples, others had a cinnamon sugar topping and maple glaze. What a way to finish off the meal!

As if all these amazing, fire-roasted treats weren’t enough, VQA Wines of Ontario were on deck all day to keep the Ontario wine flowing, alongside local craft beers & ciders set up tailgate-style for attendees to enjoy.

Cheers to all those who participated in the Feast On Rural Retreat and cheers to Norfolk County! Discover more about this Ontario destination here.

If you’d like to get involved in this exclusive opportunity, consider getting Feast On Certified or becoming a Preferred Purveyor. Both programs support Ontario’s vastly diverse and rich food system by building direct connections between the people who grow our food and the those who cook it.